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Barbara Jarrett

Barbara Jarrett Boise

Life experience has lent a lot to Barbara Jarrett’s education. Now the Boise woman has combined her interests, career and education at the University of Idaho Boise Center and is ready to receive her doctoral degree in adult/organizational learning and leadership.

A stewardess in her youth and currently a social worker, Jarrett has looked at how older women learn and how it affects their traveling patterns with her dissertation, “Independent Senior Women Who Travel Internationally: A Collective Case Study."

“Travel is just a part of who I am,” says Jarrett. “It piqued my interest how people decide to travel. As a senior, I am interested in what type of learning occurs within me.”

During her research, Jarrett learned that senior women can have “brain overload,” where too many details or facts shut down the brain. When older women learn something new, they relate it to other knowledge.

“It’s really important that they’re in a safe learning environment, they feel comfortable to ask questions and they’re not afraid their ideas will be rejected or considered not important,” says Jarrett, adding seniors’ hearing and vision are not as acute, nor is their ability to sit still for longer periods of time.

Jarrett was working at the Center on Disability and Human Development at the University's Boise center when she started her master’s and doctoral degrees. While she could have gone to another university, Jarrett says the availability of the Boise center, the professors and the ease of the system helped solidify her decision.

“I worked around professors and was in that learning environment, so I signed up for classes for my own edification,” says Jarrett.

Jarrett spent five years holding down a job while she earned both of her degrees. While not directly related to her field of social work, Jarrett says she can apply much of her doctoral research to her current profession.

“The good news is knowledge is something you can always use; it’s something you always have with you,” says Jarrett. “Going to school and working was very difficult at times, but it was fun and an exceptional experience.”

She is currently a social worker at St. Luke’s Hospital where she helps patients who have no family to take care of them. Martha Yopp, her major professor, says Jarrett’s “a guardian angel” to her patients.

Jarrett also took six trips as part of her research: she visited Egypt, Jordan, Israel, India, Morocco, Turkey, Panama, Columbia and Costa Rica, and interviewed women over 55 who were travelling alone or with companions, who were most often female.

“If you are going to write a dissertation, you might as well make it fun,” says Jarrett. “The personal experience did add a lot to the research.”

And, according to Yopp, Jarrett was not staying in four-star hotels, but rather off the beaten track to get the “real” experience.

“She goes into a country to get to know the real culture, customs and people who live there,” says Yopp. “She really explores the places she travels to, gets the real essence of what it’s like.”

In addition to really getting to know the country, Jarrett also used interviews from the women 55 and older in her research, which brought her dissertation to life, according to Yopp.