Missouri State University
Amy Qualls

Amy Qualls

  • Service Reassessment Specialist for SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging
  • Springfield, Missouri
  • BS, psychology and gerontology, 2013
  • MS, nonprofit and civic leadership, 2017, Drury University

How she made her degree 'work for her'

Amy Qualls thought she had taken the wrong career path, until this happened. 

Finding her calling in a different field

The desire to help others is a motivation for many students to pursue degrees and careers in the helping professions.

As Amy Qualls’ roommates at MSU worked toward degrees in education in order to positively impact the lives of others, she was called in a different direction.

Qualls did her research and found a need to provide programs and funding for at-risk older adults. This was a need, she noted, “I did not see many others aspiring to meet.”

Switching her major from graphic design and marketing, Amy graduated with a double major in gerontology and psychology in May of 2013 and works at SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging.

Never one to slow down, she furthered her education by completing a master's degree at Drury University in nonprofit and civic leadership in August 2017.

'We write our own stories'

While completing her undergraduate work in gerontology, Amy grew concerned about whether a career in gerontology was right for her. Many of her classmates were interested in working at residential care facilities or nursing homes, but she did not feel like that was the right fit for her.

“I became more and more anxious about my career path, so I made an appointment with my professor, Dr. Carol Gosselink," Qualls said. "I went into her office in a cloud of anxiety and stress; babbling about how I had wasted my college career working toward a career I didn’t want.

"After venting for about five minutes, Dr. G let me in on a secret: we write our own stories. She assured me that as a smart, driven young women I could make my degree work for me, and not the other way around."

Gosselink directed Qualls to the Southside Senior Center, where Qualls could interact with seniors one-on-one, but also learn the ins and outs of event planning, inventory, budgeting, building community partnerships and more.

"I was able to experience the business and the emotional side of gerontology. With Dr. G, I don’t think that I would be where I am today: working for SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging.”

Fortunately, Dr. Gosselink was able to help Qualls understand the diversity of career paths available with a degree in gerontology so she could find a career that worked for her.

"I love working with people, and helping them reach their full potential."

A day at her job

Qualls' current role with SeniorAge allows her the opportunity to showcase and utilize the variety of interests and skills she has developed through school and the workplace.

Importantly, she says, “I have the opportunity to make a positive impact on Southwest Missouri seniors and their supporters every day.”

Qualls wears many hats at SeniorAge. As the Home and Community Based Service Coordinator, she leads a team of 15 co-workers who assess seniors' care needs in hopes to keep them safe and stable at home as long as possible.

"With this position, I’m not only training and managing a group of passionate people, but I am able to go into the field and visit seniors in their home and assess them myself," she said. "These are often the seniors that cannot make it to a senior center. They are homebound, and at times they are forgotten.

Qualls also runs SeniorAge's social media, providing seniors and their caregivers in 17 counties with information, education and necessary resources "without them having to travel to our office."

As an advocacy liaison for SeniorAge's advocacy group, Silver Haired Legislature, Qualls assists "our senior advocate by finding them the crucial information they need in order to communicate the need of Southwest Missouri seniors to our state senators and representatives."

What she's learned, where she wants to go

Qualls was motivated to return to school for her master's degree in nonprofit and civic leadership after realizing that fulfilling the mission of a nonprofit organization, such as SeniorAge, required a better understanding of, “How to build a board, raise funds, build relationships, advocate effectively or manage a budget… Sadly, you need the mission and the money to truly impact the lives of those struggling.”

In five years, Qualls sees herself working at a nonprofit organization, "unafraid of asking the hard questions."