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Nontraditional Students Week Celebrates SUNY Oswego’s Adult Learners

OSWEGO — Nontraditional Students Week, observed Nov. 5 to 9 nationally and at SUNY Oswego, celebrates a wide array of adult learners from Upstate New York and beyond — sometimes far beyond — who enroll at the college in quest of foundations for their dream careers.

Cesar Figueroa is among the SUNY Oswego students who pursue the foundation for their dream careers by starting or returning to college later than "traditional" students. A senior career and technical education major and Spanish minor, he hopes to teach at BOCES and a community college, then return to school for fine arts training before opening his own metal sculpture studio.
Cesar Figueroa is among the SUNY Oswego students who pursue the foundation for their dream careers by starting or returning to college later than “traditional” students. A senior career and technical education major and Spanish minor, he hopes to teach at BOCES and a community college, then return to school for fine arts training before opening his own metal sculpture studio.

“The college actively supports adult learners of all kinds and interests through evening, on-campus — in Oswego and Syracuse — and online courses and programs designed specifically for them,” said Greg Ketcham, assistant dean of extended learning.

The college’s Division of Extended Learning created posters to display the stories of Cesar Figueroa, Bertina “Tina” St. John and Selena Miller, who stepped up to help promote, through their own examples, this recognition of the college’s nontraditional student population.

Their quests serve to highlight SUNY Oswego’s nontraditional student-friendly educational programs, support services both academically and socially, and the advisors and other staff serving, essentially, as concierges for students with life experiences beyond their late teens and early twenties.

Figueroa, of Utica, dreams of moving along a pathway from earning a career and technical education degree at Oswego to teaching at Oneida-Madison BOCES, then to educating others in the welding program he graduated from at Mohawk Valley Community College.

Ultimately, he would like to return to college to study fine arts and open his own metal sculpture studio, creating welding apprentice opportunities for other students.

St. John, of Syracuse, came out of a Navy career as a search-and-rescue medic in 1996, worked as a mortgage and real estate broker, studied at Onondaga Community College and has moved on to work part time as a behaviorist at human services agency Liberty Resources as she completes Oswego’s undergraduate program in human development.

St. John said she’s thrilled to be working and studying to help others, and she’s exploring graduate options that include earning a master’s degree in social work at the college she now considers her “home.” Eventually, she aims to earn a doctorate in public policy and to teach in college.

Miller, of Mexico, began college years ago, then returned to the area, completed an associate’s degree and started a family — she has a daughter, 4 and a son, 2 1/2. She has worked on SUNY Oswego’s campus for six years. Miller started a public justice degree program as a transfer student last spring and, ultimately, wants to teach in elementary school.

Campus involvement

A native of El Salvador,

Figueroa seizes the athletic, social, employment and volunteer opportunities that come his way at the college as he studies full time in technical education, with a minor in Spanish. He played as a member of Scrambled Legs, a title-winning intramural soccer team; served as secretary last semester of the college’s Nontraditional Student Organization; has been a group leader of student workers at Lakeside Dining Hall; shared his experience with other students who take some or all online classes (Figuero takes two to three a semester); and volunteered to spend his 2019 spring break helping out in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

“To be honest, I don’t feel any different (from traditional students), partly because of the way I look,” he said, pointing out that, though he’ll soon be 26, people think he looks younger. “I feel like a typical student — I fit in perfectly.”

For those adult learners who may not blend in with the younger student population as he does, Figueroa has this advice: “There’s always something you can learn from the younger generation, like extra help with your homework. My classmates help me get more involved — you learn about (today’s) social issues and it raises your awareness.”

‘It’s been amazing’

St. John, who resides and works in Syracuse, has taken most courses at the college’s Syracuse campus, located in the Atrium, 2 Clinton Square.

“The (Syracuse campus) is well-prepared for the nontraditional student,” she said. On either of SUNY Oswego’s campuses, St. John said she feels respected and welcome.

“Overall, it’s been amazing,” she said. “When (younger students) find out I’m a veteran and that I have experience and knowledge, they find out they can access that just by talking to me. It’s wonderful that someone in their early 20s actually wants to listen to what I have to say.”

The multidisciplinary approach of SUNY Oswego’s human development program drew her to enroll at the college after earning her associate’s degree in OCC’s alcohol and substance abuse program. Now working as a teacher’s assistant to human development professor Laura Hess Brown, St. John wants to expand her studies to public policy to have even greater impact. “I would love to come back ‘home’ and teach. I’d love to be a professor here or at OCC, just to give back.”

‘Ton of support’

Miller works part time as an office assistant in the School of Education’s curriculum and instruction department, where colleagues encouraged her to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program. Now a senior in public justice, she recently learned she has been accepted into Oswego’s master’s program in early childhood education.

“I do have a ton of support in my department and that has just been tremendous for me,” Miller said.

She’s 14 years past high school graduation and is a working mother, yet Miller said he feels really good about how her fellow students regard her.

“I think I’ve been treated great,” Miller said. “Other students, I think, look up to me.”

Among the support services for students at SUNY Oswego are lactation rooms in 11 buildings across campus. Miller previously helped the college raise awareness of the rooms. Recently, she made an announcement: Her third child is on the way.

The Division of Extended Learning, in keeping with nontraditional students’ busy schedules, plans a grab-and-go lunch event for adult learners from 12 to 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, and a snack break from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8. Both events are in Extended Learning’s offices, 151 Marano Campus Center.

For more information on the many opportunities and support services for adult learners at SUNY Oswego, visit oswego.edu/extended-learning. For information on National Nontraditional Students Week, visit https://www.myantshe.org/NontradStudentWeek.