CARING FOR SENIORS: Eric and Kristie Sigler started a new fund to encourage more students to work with older adults. Sigler said his experience earning his second degree at KU was amazing, and he is excited to be making a difference as a social worker.
 Mike Yoder
 

A Career Pivot to Help Others

After graduating from KU with a bachelor’s in journalism in 1987, Eric Sigler enjoyed a successful career in sales for more than 30 years. But after compassionately serving as a caretaker for his elderly parents, who are now deceased, he discovered his true passion. “There is an emptiness many people feel after they finish caring for a loved one,” he said. “I was lost.” After a discussion with a social worker provided guidance, he knew at that moment he’d found direction and purpose. He did not choose social work — it chose him.

Returning to the classroom as a master’s degree candidate in the KU School of Social Welfare wasn’t easy at first. Sigler had moments of doubt but said encouragement from a professor and the support of his wife, Kristie, helped him make it through. 

At the school, Sigler found himself among a small group interested in working with older adults. He thought more students would want to focus on the senior community since it is the fastest-growing segment of the population, but he was wrong. That revelation inspired the couple to create the Sigler Family Scholars Fund and work closely with Sarah Jen, assistant professor in the School of Social Welfare, to support a new curriculum. One of the goals is attracting more students aspiring to work with seniors. 

The fund will advance learning and community opportunities for students and expose them to significant shortfalls and innovative practices within aging services. In turn, the Siglers hope students will be encouraged to become leaders in the school and their communities. Eric Sigler was fortunate to work in a hospice setting during his foundation year and with the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center in his clinical year. Both experiences were invaluable to his professional development and his growth as a person.

“We are in a great profession, and we must remind ourselves of the tremendous responsibility we have to our clients and our work,” he said.

JODI BOUYACK