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MSIS Alum and Current CCI PhD Student Joseph Winberry (’19) Awarded Marva Rudolph Scholarship

When he was growing up, Joseph Winberry (’19) spent a lot of time around his grandparents and their friends in a retirement community – he found himself drawn to older people, and it stuck. It was just a fluke, he said, that he eventually was hired for a job at the Knoxville-Knox County Office on Aging (OOA). But that coincidence brought him full circle to serve a population he had grown up around.

While he was working at the OOA, Winberry began realizing that aging isn’t a one-note experience.

“It really helped me realize the inequities and injustices that older people sometimes experience; it also helped me recognize the complex and intersectional identities of older people,” he said. “When you’re talking about gerontology, too often you’re talking about a white, middle class person – and that’s not representative of everyone’s aging experience.”

He carried that passion with him into the MSIS program and again when he became a PhD student at the College of Communication and Information, where part of his research agenda has focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion in information for older adults. This research – along with earning the SIS Diversity & Inclusion Badge, serving on the Chancellor’s Commission for LGBT People, and being part of the inaugural class of the Office of Community Engagement and Outreach’s Community Engagement Academy – was recognized when Winberry was recently awarded a Dr. Marva Rudolph Scholarship from the University of Tennessee’s Division of Diversity and Engagement.

“I’m a gay person, I come from lower economic standing, and I’m the first person in my family to pursue a Ph.D. The coming together of all those pieces reminds me of the importance of fighting for the rights of everybody. I think if you help everybody, you’re making a difference for others and your needs are also included in there,” he said.

In his application for the scholarship, Winberry noted he would use the funding it provides to expand the scope of his research and also support conference attendance in order to help increase his profile in both the information sciences and gerontology fields. Intersectional aging and how that relates to information is definitely the direction of his dissertation, and he said he looks forward to examining how he can apply his education, his experience, his skills, and even time spent with his Granny and Poppy to the information needs of diverse elders in research and practice.

“We live in a youth obsessed society where growing older is often described with horror and disgust,” Winberry concluded. “But I have never met an older person who prefers the alternative! Older people add so much to society and I appreciate this scholarship and the chance to continue my work supporting the informational and technological needs of these trailblazers.”