OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego plans to open a new student lounge, run a poster campaign, present a networking event with alumni, and hold a bonfire to help celebrate national Non-Traditional Students Week, Nov. 7 to 11.
Non-traditional undergraduates — about 600 of them — comprise anyone ages 24 and over taking classes at or through SUNY Oswego in other than a linear high-school-to-college fashion.
For this year’s celebration, the college’s Division of Extended Learning plans “a big reveal” of a new lounge for non-traditional students in Hewitt Union, spinning off the success of a lounge created there in 2013 for a distinct group of “non-trads,” military veterans.
The poster campaign — appearing on the main campus and at SUNY Oswego Metro Center in Syracuse — will feature a diverse array of non-traditional students, including Navy veteran Theresa Aguilar of Pulaski, a junior American Studies major and sociology minor who attends SUNY Oswego full time — as does one of her three children in the more traditional way.
Aguilar, who enlisted in the Navy and served 1978-82 on mainland Japan and in Washington, D.C., said she returned to school, first at Jefferson Community College, several years ago when the Veterans Administration offered veterans between the ages of 35 to 60 an opportunity to get retrained or start a new career. She earned an associate’s degree at JCC, started at SUNY Oswego this fall, “and everything I took there transferred in.”
“I’m on campus full time, every day, taking 12 credit hours,” said the substitute teacher, who aims for a full-time position as a K-6 teaching assistant. “For the most part, I have no difficulties fitting in.”
While the generation gap does produce some divergent viewpoints, Aguilar also has had heartwarming experiences, such as “a couple of kids who just wanted to pick my brain,” she said.
Another student featured in the poster campaign, junior history major Don Cleveland, said that after he served for 12 years in the Air Force, he eventually returned to a lifelong goal, a college education.
“It’s one of the reasons I went in (the military) in the first place,” Cleveland said. “I had the opportunity and the funding was there. I went to Cayuga Community College in Fulton and I really enjoyed it. I studied business administration there. I got my associate’s degree, graduated cum laude.”
Cleveland, who serves as event coordinator and past president of the Veterans Club on campus, participates on the Table Tennis Club’s jayvee tournament team. He noted he often feels close kinship with his professors.
“They (faculty) don’t talk to me like I’m a kid, they talk to me like a friend, almost as an equal,” he said. “I really appreciate that. They don’t water it down for me, they don’t give me special treatment, but they give me a really fair shake. It’s made my experience a lot better. I can go to them and talk to them and ask them questions and they’re very approachable.”