Gannon recognizes nontraditional students

The traditional college student starts out as an 18-year-old recent high school graduate.

They move away from home for the first time and seek to gain the “college experience” before finding a job in their selected field. To the traditional student, college is a period of time where one can discover one’s interests and inclinations.

On the other hand, the nontraditional student is categorized as anyone who doesn’t move directly from high school to college in a linear fashion. A nontraditional student can include anyone from a 28-year-old mother to a 56-year-old widow.

The major issue with nontraditional students is that they can often find it difficult to fit in with the more typical, college-aged students, Heidi Noyes, director of Commuter Life, said.

Noyes said that she has seen first-hand the disconnection a nontraditional student can feel from other students.

“I specifically remember an older student telling me that, ‘out there,’ she felt as if she was just an adult student, but in the REAP lounge, she felt comfortable just being herself,” Noyes said.

Noyes said in order to celebrate the uniqueness that nontraditional students provide to the university, the Gannon University REAP (Returning the Education to Adults Program) is celebrating National Nontraditional Student Week.

The National Nontraditional Student Week is a national celebration that begins Nov. 7, and offers a chance for schools to celebrate nontraditional student success and recognize the support many campus departments provide them.

Noyes discovered the national celebration three years ago and decided to commemorate the nontraditional students at Gannon during this time.

“I just thought that not a lot is geared toward adult learners in colleges, so, hopefully by honoring them and trying to make them feel special, we can increase awareness,” Noyes said.

Deena Varner, an English graduate student, said that she came to Gannon as an adult learner and took both undergraduate and graduate classes. “Although I already had an undergraduate degree, I can see that there are definitely some differences among traditional and nontraditional students,” Varner said.

“I can’t imagine I felt the same pressure as someone who is coming to college for the first time as an adult, but I can muse that they might have a difficult time adjusting.”

The tentative events for the week begin on Monday with coffee and doughnuts to kick off the week. Tuesday will take a break for Advising Day and the week will continue with a stress management session at lunchtime on Wednesday. Thursday, students are encouraged to attend and participate in Mass at 11 a.m. in Mary, Seat of Wisdom chapel. The week comes to a close on Friday with a “thank you” card-making session.

All events of the week aside from Thursday’s Mass will take place in the REAP lounge, located in Room 3241 of the Palumbo Academic Center.

This year’s events differ from last year in the sense that this year, the REAP program decided that attending and participating in Mass would be a great way to touch upon a spiritual involvement.

Also during the week’s events, the Charlotte Newcomb scholarship will be presented to recipients during a formal lunch on Wednesday. The scholarship is designed for women who are 25 years and older.

Past and current recipients are encouraged to attend this luncheon to honor those receiving the scholarship as well as catch up with those who have received it in the past.

“It’s an interesting experience to see the past recipients of the scholarship and learn what they are doing now,” Noyes said. “Many of these women have gone on to do extraordinary things, so it’s a great encouragement and inspiration to current students.

The true intention of the REAP program and National Nontraditional Student week is to help students relate to each other no matter what age they are or how much life experience they have, Noyes said.

“Overall, I just wanted to find a way to make nontraditional students see that they are a vital presence on campus,” Noyes said. “The purpose of the week is to honor them and all that they do for Gannon.”

DIANE CASSARLY

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