Phyllis Cummins, Ph.D. leads efforts in adult learning and age-inclusive education

Phyllis CumminsOver the past several years, Senior Research Scholar, Phyllis Cummins, Ph.D. has been a Principal Investigator on several grants funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). One of the grants focused on adults aged 40 and older enrolled at Ohio’s community colleges where she sought to identify barriers they faced and strategies to overcome them. Cummins made multiple presentations to key stakeholders and authored several articles published in peer-reviewed journals to increase the awareness of barriers older students face. Such barriers include lacking technical skills, or having demands in their lives such as caring for other family members, among others.

In addition to her grant work, Cummins has participated in the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s (ODHE) Adult Learner Working Group since early 2019 and presented at its conference in December 2020. The Adult Learner Working Group has the responsibility of recommending strategic frameworks to advance improvement of adult learner enrollment and completion. Cummins worked closely with several senior ODHE administrators while working on the IES grants.

Cummins hopes her research, combined with her involvement in the ODHE working group, will lead to educators in Ohio being better able to facilitate the success of older students. Her work aligns with state, national, and global age-inclusivity initiatives to promote opportunity, understanding and respect across the life course.

“Technological advances in recent decades have made it increasingly important for adults to upgrade their skills multiple times during their working careers. Adults need to be made aware of educational opportunities in their community, and colleges and universities need to be knowledgeable about strategies to facilitate the success of older students,” Cummins said.

Along with the Adult Learner Working Group, Cummins has been involved in the Ohio Professional Development Consortium. This consortium is comprised of representatives from Miami, ODHE, Ohio State University and the Ohio Association of Community Colleges. Their work includes creating a platform that will make faculty professional development resources available to public colleges and universities throughout Ohio–including virtual workshops related to diversity, equity and inclusion, including age diversity in the classroom.

Alongside Scripps Executive Director, Suzanne Kunkel and Scripps Director of Academic Program Support, Pamela Mayberry, Cummins is actively involved in Miami’s efforts to become an Age-Friendly University, another opportunity to advance age-inclusivity in higher education.

Ohio has a goal that 60-65% of adults ages 25-64 have a credential recognized in the workplace by 2025 — up from about 46% currently. Cummins said it would be impossible for Ohio to achieve this goal without focusing on adults in the 40+ age group. That’s why her work is so essential.

“We are getting there. Change doesn’t happen overnight but through hard work and dedication, I firmly believe the work we are doing at Scripps is making a difference,” Cummins said.