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Follow in Their Footsteps: The Story of Ashlee Cordell

Ashlee Cordell with her poster at the 2017 Graduate Research Forum

Ashlee Cordell is a first-year graduate student studying Gerontology at Miami University. She also completed her undergraduate education at Miami, majoring in Biology and Gerontology. Her research is titled, “Design and Pilot Test of Satisfaction Tool in Ohio’s System of Services”.

by Tarah Mason, Student Associate

Do you have a burning desire to work in public policy? Ashlee Cordell certainly did not. That is, not until she was assigned to Dr. Jennifer Kinney’s team during her senior year at Miami. As an undergraduate, Ashlee knew that she wanted to do research. However, the topic she wanted to explore was still a mystery. So she asked to be placed on a team – any team – and found herself working with the State of Ohio to improve services for the elderly.

The face of elderly care is changing as modern society pushes for more in-home care, rather than the traditional institutional care of hospitals and nursing homes. In response, the State of Ohio is working to streamline a process which will make in-home care easier. That is where Ashlee comes in. Now a first-year graduate student, Ashlee is continuing her work with Dr. Kinney’s team and the State. “There is a difference between creating and delivering services,” Ashlee says. Ohio has created the right services, but it is still figuring out how to deliver them.

Ashlee’s research is designed to gauge how satisfied Ohio’s elderly population is with its care. To that end, Ashlee conducted a survey of the elderly population and found that 96% of people were satisfied with their care. On the surface, that 96% makes it sound like Ohio is doing a pretty good job. However, Ashlee was not convinced. The survey had a null variance, meaning that the survey did not accurately capture the elderly’s satisfaction.

As she moves forward, Ashlee is tweaking her survey tools in order to increase variation and get better input from the elderly. Another hurdle for Ashlee to overcome is that older adults are often confused about the services they are receiving and the services they should receive, which affects their ability to accurately respond to the survey. “The sad reality is, most of them, they just don’t know,” Ashlee says. Clearing up this ambiguity is another important step for Ashlee as she continues her research.

And she certainly will continue. Even though Ashlee was not originally interested in public policy, the field has grown on her. Ashlee is shaping programs that will ultimately benefit a great many people (the entirety of Ohio’s senior population, present and future, to be exact). For Ashlee, that work is immeasurably rewarding.

When we asked Ashlee for advice to undergraduates who might someday want to be in her shoes, she had this to say: First, approach your faculty about research. Regardless of what you study, there is research in all departments, and the faculty can help you find it. Second, keep an open mind. Ashlee was not initially interested in public policy, but now it is her passion. So even if a field seems boring at first glance, give it a try. It just might surprise you.