OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego will celebrate Non-Traditional Students Week, Nov. 2 to 6, shining a light on veterans, parents, full-time workers, career changers, distance education learners — anyone taking classes at or through the college in other than linear high school-to-college fashion.
The college has at least 1,200 students ages 24 and over who take the road less traveled to reach their higher-education goals.
SUNY Oswego’s Division of Extended Learning and others around the college will celebrate those adult learners with meet-and-greets, a family planetarium show and a meeting of the reinvigorated Non-Traditional Student Organization.
“We will also feature students, with pictures and bios, on posters and digital signage around campus,” said Sarah Wehrle, academic planning coordinator and testing coordinator for the Division of Extended Learning. “We are trying to promote Non-Traditional Students Week around campus and let students know they are not alone. We want to support non-trads in any way we can.”
Brian Vanella of Scriba, new president of the Non-Traditional Student Organization, entered the workforce with Novelis nine years ago. A production planner and scheduler with the company’s supply chain group, he now takes a course or two at a time online as a junior business administration major. “It’s going to be a great week to get us organized out there, to let people know there are options for people to go back to school and have support,” he said.
The Division of Extended Learning points out that nationally, adults beyond traditional graduation age comprise 52 percent of all students in higher education. The office offers assistance in many forms, including advice for those interested in returning to school, academic advisement, testing services, professional development and help coordinating the college’s flexible scheduling options. Instructional designers work closely with faculty to structure online and hybrid courses, an art and a science that incorporates research and technologies to produce a high-quality, often innovative, educational experience.
Kristen Flint, an instructional designer for Extended Learning who is helping organize Non-Traditional Students Week, said that not only the general public but the greater SUNY Oswego community can benefit from awareness of the needs, life skills and enthusiasm of the 1,200 students ages 24 and over — including about 560 undergraduates — enrolled at Oswego and others traveling a non-traditional path.
“We’re not only saying that non-trads matter, but spreading the word about support services and the Non-Traditional Student Organization,” she said.
The student organization revived last year thanks to the determination of Sara Medrano Schrader, now a senior wellness management major and health science minor who lives in the Finger Lakes region and works with Cornell Cooperative Extension.
“I’m proud of it,” she said of the organizational effort. “At first you think you are the only one in school who is non-traditional. But you find out there are others.”
One of them is senior broadcasting and mass communication major Robert Lee, an Army veteran who was deployed to Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan as an infantry instructor and supervisor.
On campus full time this semester, Lee said younger students on a traditional path treat him well.
“I can see in some of their eyes that they appreciate my knowledge and wisdom from being out in the real world,” Lee said. “I offer a different perspective in class.”
Lee said that in addition to the Non-Traditional Student Organization, he’s active with the SUNY Oswego Veterans’ Club, works at WTOP-TV, has written several articles for The Oswegonian and is working on his own show for WNYO-FM.
He recently covered the rally to keep the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant running.
A faculty member had advised him to become active in student media.
“I took that advice and jumped in with both feet,” said Lee, who has come full circle since attending the former Campus School at Oswego from first to fifth grades.
Angela Livingston had a career in nursing after obtaining a general education diploma in Alabama at age 16 and going on to nursing school.
Now, as a senior psychology major with minors in public justice and health science, she is in class with students the ages of her older children.
“As an older student, it had been years since I took my last set of classes,” Livingston said. “SUNY Oswego had the best education for the money. They have so many more services” for non-traditional students, she added.
A member of the psychology and public justice honor societies, she is weighing post-graduation options to continue on for another degree, working in counseling with veterans or perhaps engage in probation or parole work. She urges those thinking about going back not to let such things as paperwork keep them from going for it.
“There are so many people here to help,” Livingston said.
For more information, visit oswego.edu/extendedlearning or call 315-312-2270.