Non-traditional students have a place they can call their own on campus

Posted Thursday, February 12, 2004 - 12:00am

College dignitaries, faculty, staff and a crowd of students (non-traditional and traditional) celebrated the opening of the Non-Traditional Student Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house on Jan. 28.

CEU First Lady Ann Thomas, Academic Vice President Cliff Coppersmith, Academic Advisors Darlene Severeid and Shanny Wilson, Non-Traditional Chair Romer Ferrer, Non-Traditional Club President and Vice President Jan Malone and Nancy Simpson, respectively, ASCEU Advisor Bill Osborn and Dean of Continuing Education Jim Huffaker were among those in attendance.

The honor of cutting the ribbon was given to Thomas and Coppersmith. "I spent most of my college years with more than one child. I just want to reiterate my appreciation for the traditional students of community colleges: non-traditional students. Thanks for all you do for [CEU]. You're important to us," Coppersmith stated.

Thomas added, "You have my support. I finished my degree with five children, so I know your struggles."

The quest for a non-traditional student center began with Malone having low expectations. But she was quickly joined in her enthusiasm for a center by Simpson, Severeid, Ferrer and the administration.

"In the beginning, I was only asking for a tiny office ... where nontraditional students could have a place of their own to study, access resources on how to succeed as students and get support for the issues they were dealing with at home and school.

"Once Darlene and Romer took up our cause, they never let up ... We've made a huge beginning," Malone said.

Significantly larger and more inviting than the space Malone originally hoped for, the center is located in CBB 130, near the USU extension offices.

The center will focus on serving students who meet any or a combination of these criteria: age 25 or older, married and having children.

Available center resources and amenities include scholarship information, student success workshops, computers with internet access (no need for a computer lab card), lounge area, refrigerator, microwave and coffee maker.

"We hope to have a telephone line soon, with a message board. Depending on funding, we would also like to eventually have a tutoring lab," Severeid said.

According to Ferrer, the center's major roles will be to facilitate networking and provide students with support.

"The center will be a place where non-traditional students can mingle, do homework between classes and get help with scholarships and academic advising. The main thing the center will provide is support for the students," Ferrer stated.

"Students will be able to have a support group that deals with the same issues we're all going through: finding day care, picking up kids from school, planning meals, and handling the stress of being students and having families.

"It's a place where students can share their burdens, instead of taking them to their families," Malone added. She hopes the center will also benefit the children of non-traditional students as well as CEU.

"Yes, sometimes I do need to bring my children to class ... and there they are in the middle of my labs and lectures.

"It's made an impact on their minds. It won't be 'Will they go to college?' but, 'I'm going to CEU,'" Malone said.

Center creators also realize the importance of the educational relationship between non-traditional and traditional students.

With a desire to facilitate success for all students, Malone, Simpson, Ferrer and Severeid extend an invitation to traditional and non-traditional students to participate in activities and work together.

"The center is primarily for nontraditional students, but we're not going to turn anyone away," Severeid said.

This sentiment was echoed by Simpson, "We would like to bridge the gap between non-traditonal and traditional students. We've all been labeled, but we all have faces. Everyone has something to offer."

The opening of the Non-Traditional Students Center is a nod of administrative support to Simpson and many of her frustrated, nontraditional peers.

"When I first came [to CEU as a student], I felt like everything was geared to traditional students. Generally, I think we were overlooked and our needs weren't being met as students," Simpson said.

Severeid agreed with Simpson's initial assessment during a phone interview. "Prior to Romer taking the non-trad chair, representation of non-trad students was handled by a traditional 18- year-old student because there weren't any non-trad students interested in holding the position.

"Last year, ASCEU tried to fill-in by coordinating a few activities, but they were always poorly attended. Before that, nothing really had been done. With Romer as the [non-traditional] chair, there is a bigger focus on non-traditional students, and I'm very impressed with what he's done," Severeid said.

With the added focus on nontraditional students and their issues, Malone feels that non-traditional students are getting the support they need in order to succeed.

"We've had a great deal of support from the administration and I think, in part, it's due to Ann Thomas. She knows where we're coming from because she's been there too."

Severeid added, "Thanks must go to the people who generously sponsored the center: the CEU Alumni Association, Karen Bliss and student government. "We also want to thank President and Ann Thomas, Cliff Coppersmith, Jim Huffaker and Brad King for their support and arranging for us to have space."

Ferrer continued the accolades by thanking Student Support Services for their assistance in informing non-traditional students of activities and providing them with academic support.

"I have to pinch myself to believe it's real," Malone said. "I'm just so excited. It was moving to see nontraditional students at the ceremony. They all have faces and now [we] have a place where [we] can express [ourselves] and find help when [we] need it," Simpson said.

The Center's operating hours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m., though the center currently does not have assigned personnel. For the time being, it will be staffed by volunteers and a 12-hours-per-week work-study student.

Students seeking additional information regarding the center, available services, or resources may contact Severeid, 613-5311, or non-traditional student chair, Ferrer, 613-5478.

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