WSU’s hospitality school launches Institute for Senior Living

By Sue McMurray, Carson College of Business

Carson College logoPULLMAN, Wash. – The Washington State University School of Hospitality Business Management recently established an Institute for Senior Living.

The institute will educate the next generation of senior living specialists and leaders needed to deal with the estimated 75 million baby boomers who are winding down their careers and heading into the next phase of their lives.

“Gone are the days of the stereotypical old folks’ home bingo and pinochle crowd. Seniors are living longer, healthier lives and thus need communities that can keep up,” said Scott Eckstein, clinical assistant professor of hospitality business management at WSU Everett. “The industry desperately needs a highly skilled workforce, innovation and collaboration.”

Vision to improve senior living practices

The institute will focus on three major initiatives designed to help build the future senior living workforce: academic programs, industry partnerships and research. To that end, academic programs to prepare students for careers in senior living are a top priority.

Additionally, it will strive to develop industry partnerships and communicate research that improves senior living practices.

Research currently focuses on the impacts of farm-to-table practices in senior living communities and management training programs to create the next generation of senior living leaders. The institute will expand the research initiative to examine the effectiveness, acceptance and return on investment of senior technology to improve seniors’ overall quality of life.

Benefits to industry

Hospitality students studying senior living practices interview a resident at Bishop Place Senior Living.
Hospitality students studying senior living practices interview a resident at Bishop Place Senior Living.

The WSU Senior Living Management program was originally developed in partnerships with Aegis Living, Merrill Gardens, Emeritus (now Brookdale), and Leisure Care. Additional industry partners, including NIC and Argentum, have helped shape and expand the senior living management curriculum from a single introductory course offered as an elective under the hospitality business management major, to courses offered across the state and a new, online senior living certificate option. Further collaboration will help the institute eventually offer a new senior living major for undergraduate students.

“Industry partnerships serve two purposes,” said Eckstein. “They ensure content being taught in the classroom reflects the actual needs and trends in the industry, and help students build professional skills through work experiences in the senior living space.”

“WSU’s senior living program has a running start on addressing the deficit of trained professionals needed to manage the exploding demand for seniors housing,” said Jerry Meyer, president and chief operating officer (emeritus) for Aegis Living. “By offering a major in senior living, along with other programs to create a highly skill workforce, the institute will be a real gift to the industry.”

“WSU is one of the leaders in recognizing the career opportunities and the many paths available to new leaders looking to establish their careers,” said Bill Pettit, president of R.D. Merrill Company and founder of Merrill Gardens. “The Institute for Senior Living is ideally positioned to offer future industry professionals a combination of hospitality training, business curriculum and leadership skill sets they will need to improve seniors’ quality of life and care as we move forward with new services and technology.”

“The institute will allow us to adapt our offerings to keep up with senior living trends, including how we educate and train the next generation of senior living specialists and leaders,” said Nancy Swanger, associate dean and director of the WSU School of Hospitality Business Management.

A fundraising campaign is underway to name the institute in honor of the late Granger Cobb, one of the early pioneers on the project and industry legend.


  • Scott Eckstein, clinical assistant professor of hospitality, WSU Carson College of Business, 424-262-1288,
  • Sarah Druffel, director of strategic marketing, WSU Carson College of Business, 509-335-4345,

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