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Campus & Community

Life After the Retirement Party

Emeritus/Emerita Organization Nurtures Campus Connections, Opportunities for Retired Faculty Members

By Maggie Haslam

Frank Alt meeting

Photo by John T. Consoli

Frank Alt, interim chair of the University of Maryland Emeritus/Emerita Association (UMEEA) and an associate professor emeritus in the Robert H. Smith School of Business, runs a meeting with staff and students at the school.

Over more than 25 years at the University of Maryland, Professor Deborah Rosenfelt taught countless classes in women’s studies, wrote three books and scores of essays on diversity, shared her expertise on gender and race with a world audience, and spearheaded the campuswide Curricular Transformation Project. So, when she retired in 2017 and joined the ranks of emerita and emeritus faculty, it was bittersweet.

“In a way, I was relieved. It was like someone turned the volume down,” she said. “But at the same time, I didn’t feel as useful as I did as a professor. I missed my connection to campus.”

Research shows that having engaged, meaningful connections within a larger community is the key to successful aging. So in 2017, the Office of Faculty Affairs launched an organization to engage faculty members as they enter this next stage of their professional lives. The University of Maryland Emeritus/Emerita Association (UMEEA) connects retired faculty members—who currently number over 800—with the university community through support, programming and new avenues to share their expertise.

UMEEA hosts six to eight events throughout the year, ranging from wellness and cultural events to informational sessions navigating new technology (like UMD’s multifactor authorization process) and critical policy changes (such as the state’s proposed changes to prescription drug coverage). One event, called “Preparing for an Intellectually Active Retirement,” brought in a panel of emeritus and emerita faculty members to share what possibilities are available after retirement and to talk about strategies for easing the transition.

Tomorrow, the group will host its first spring semester event, “Insights into the Dynamics of Aging: Current Research at UMD,” where UMD researchers will share their latest findings on hearing loss, exercise and memory, and innovative technologies that support the aging process.

While many of UMEEA’s events are tailored to address topics related to age, the organization’s greater mission is to support emeritus and emerita professors interested in funneling their energy and expertise into new roles and opportunities within the UMD community, such as working on a special project, social initiatives, and academic pursuits. A hallmark of their engagement on campus is offering guidance to the next generation of retiring faculty members with a twice-yearly panel discussion and networking event.   

“Most retired faculty want to continue to be a part of UMD, but don’t know how,” said Frank Alt, associate professor emeritus at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. “We provide a vehicle to discover ways to do that, whether it’s just connecting with other faculty through our regular events or taking on something larger, like a program initiative or student mentorships.”

Alt has returned to the Smith School to direct a new academic program and serves as UMEEA’s interim chair. While some may consider that a loose definition of retirement, it suits Alt’s desire to keep a toe in the academic waters. “I love what I’m doing and it keeps me busy,” he said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity and delighted to be a part of it.”

UMEEA is actively recruiting new members and plans to hold an election for a new steering committee this spring. The organization also launched a UMD foundation account to fund new programming and opportunities. Rosenfelt hopes the organization will continue to expand its mission, including offering a collective voice on important matters for retirees at the university and beyond.

“We come from all across the university and bring such diverse experiences,” she said. “I think we can continue to have a big impact here.”

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.