Christine Fruhauf honored for outstanding teaching in the field of gerontology

Christine Fruhauf in the Behavioral Sciences Building at CSU

Christine Fruhauf’s dedication to teaching, research, and engagement in the field of gerontology at Colorado State University has earned several accolades and now, she is being honored at the national level.  

Fruhauf, a professor in the Department of Human Development at CSU, has been recognized with the Distinguished Faculty Award from the Gerontological Society of America’s Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education for her exceptional teaching. The award is focused on her commitment to gerontology and geriatrics education. Fruhauf was nominated by her faculty colleagues Gloria Luong, Allison Bielak, Manfred Diehl, and Nate Riggs, as well as doctoral student James Miller.  

“Her teaching is motivational and impactful,” wrote her nominators. “She inspires her gerontology students to think deeply about course concepts and their application to real-world settings. Not only are her peer evaluations of her teaching glowing, but her students rave about how effective she is in the classroom. Her passion for teaching and for the topic of gerontology is contagious for her students. 

Along with being a professor in Human Development and Family Studies, Fruhauf is also the director of HDFS Extension, program coordinator for the gerontology interdisciplinary minor, and director of the department’s Prevention Research Center – Healthy Aging Division. Her engagement and research focus on working with grandparents who raise grandchildren, such as the GRANDcares project. She is a fellow of both the Gerontological Society of America and the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education, which bestowed this honor.

Igniting the spark

Fruhauf’s desire to work with and research the aging process of older adults began when she was only 16. She started working in a long-term care facility in Cleveland, Ohio, which was part of the Benjamin Rose Institute, a highly respected organization focused on aging-related research and services. 

“It was there, working as a physical therapy aide and then an activities coordinator that I discovered I enjoyed working with older adults,” said Fruhauf. “I found that in talking with the patients and residents, we often shared family stories, and the adults were often concerned about burdening their family members with caregiving roles.” 

Fruhauf and her mentor stand together in caps and gowns
Fruhauf, right, and her mentor, Sharon Jerrott, at graduation in 2003.

This experience motivated Fruhauf to pursue higher education, earning a bachelor’s degree in human ecology from The Ohio State University, a master’s in family and consumer sciences and graduate certificate in gerontology from the University of Akron, and a Ph.D. in human development from Virginia Tech. 

Fruhauf’s involvement in the AGHE began in 2002 when she presented her work as a graduate student. This experience ignited a spark in her and throughout the years, her commitment and dedication to gerontological education has been evidenced by her energetic involvement in AGHE and at CSU. 

“It was during my doctoral training at Virginia Tech that I developed a passion for both research and teaching about aging issues,” said Fruhauf. “As a doctoral student I presented a student paper at the annual meeting and educational leadership conference of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education about co-teaching an undergraduate adult development and aging course with my mentor, Dr. Shannon Jarrott.”  

Fruhauf’s 2002 presentation foreshadowed the next two decades of her career. 

“Little did I know as a graduate student that the AGHE presentation and my graduate studies would lead me on a rewarding career path resulting in receiving the 2022 AGHE Distinguished Faculty Award,” she said.

A lasting influence

Continually expanding her range as a teacher, Fruhauf has worked to incorporate her research seamlessly into her classroom. In this way, her teaching informs her research, and her research, service, outreach, and engagement feed back into her teaching to make it better and better over time. 

Four faculty standing together in a group with a screen behind them.
From left to right, Human Development and Family Studies faculty Gloria Luong, Stephen Aichele, Christine Fruhauf, and Allison Bielak at the GSA awards ceremony.

Fruhauf has developed, designed, and implemented training materials related to service-learning, including a structured intergenerational project with measurement scales to examine the contact, comfort, and attitudes of service-learning students compared to non-service-learning students enrolled in an introductory adult development and aging course. Her research was published in AGHE’s official journal, Gerontology & Geriatrics Education. 

Part of her research in this area, Fruhauf also conducted a project that linked gerontology students in an engaged service-learning activity by visiting a senior center in Hong Kong to teach older adults English. 

Her teaching is guided by the Chinese proverb that teachers open the door, but you must walk through it yourself, showing that she believes her role is to guide students in a supportive manner, but that they must also be proactive and responsible for their learning to create effective learning experiences. 

Fruhauf’s enthusiasm for gerontology has translated into a growing gerontology interdisciplinary minor at CSU, which prepares students to support the growing aging population, creating a ripple of impact for years to come.  

“It truly is an honor to be recognized for this award. I am grateful for my colleagues and the graduate student who nominated me,” she said. “I hope this teaching recognition will inspire others in the field to think about the way we often teach and think about aging, which is from a deficit model, rather than a strengths-based approach to understanding human aging and working in the field of gerontology.” 

Fruhauf was elected to service as vice-chair of the AGHE and will begin this appointment on January 1, 2023. 

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.