Andy Hermes attended CSU in the 1980s, served five years in the
Marines and owned his own business.
Yet he chose to sell his business and come back to CSU to finish
his degree, despite being older than much of the CSU undergraduate
“There’s a lot of big adjustments, you know, you feel like
you’re the only one. You feel like people stare at you when you
walk into the classroom,” said Hermes, a senior computer science
Hermes is the vice president of the Nontraditional Students
Club, a student organization that primarily provides support for
students coming back to school after an extended break. The
university defines a nontraditional student as someone who is 23
years old or older.
“It’s just to help us not feel so out of place,” Hermes said.
“We’re mainly a support group for nontraditional-aged students but
we actually welcome anyone into the club.”
Hermes said the NTS Club currently has 15 paying members who
meet to talk and relate with people their own age. He said many of
them, including himself, came back to school after facing a tough
“There are a few that are getting their master’s and doctorate’s
in the field, some are going in a totally different direction,”
Hermes said. “I think a lot of people that are in the NTS Club are
here because the economy turned so badly.”
Bree Rydlun, a graduate assistant for Off-Campus Student
Services/Resources for Adult Learners, said nontraditional students
sometimes have a difficult adjustment coming back to school,
especially if they have been in the workforce for a while.
“People who’ve been working for a significant period of time are
having to change their lifestyle,” said Rydlun, who is also the NTS
Club’s secretary. “It can be stressful because it’s a big
What also is difficult is that nontraditional students are
usually paying for their own education, whereas undergraduates are
sometimes more likely to have financial help from their parents,
Rydlun and Hermes said.
The club also provides non-traditional students refuge from a
campus that is often geared toward traditional students’ needs.
“It’s not something that’s easy to define, but a college campus,
a four-year college campus in particular, is more oriented to
younger students,” said NTS Club President Deb Petersen, a
second-level graduate student in accounting. “My first year I felt
that people probably thought I was a professor, and I felt
incongruent with the majority of the people on campus.”
CSU’s undergraduate population consists of about 17 percent
nontraditional students, which just goes to show nontraditional
students that they are not isolated at CSU, said Jeannie Ortega,
director of the student services office and adviser for the NTS
“Nontraditionals, they’re just zipping in and zipping out of
campus because of all they’re juggling,” Ortega said. “They are
juggling so much, and one of the first things I see getting crossed
of their list is just socializing, connecting with other people,
because they have so much going on in their lives.”
In an effort to give non-traditional students a chance to relate
to people with similar life paths, the club holds frequent
get-togethers where students have the chance to interact. These
meetings include a weekly Monday morning “Java Jump Start” and
Friday afternoon gatherings at local restaurants and bars.
“I mean it’s great, it’s great to be around young people and
around that energy, you know. It’s fun. They’re a blast,” Hermes
said. “But it’s also good to, you know, sit down with people who’ve
had some of the same life experiences as you and just, you know,
hash things out.”
Hermes hopes that people who feel out of place at CSU come to
the club so they realize there are more people in their
“After people come to our club who feel like a fish out of
water…they look at it from a different perspective,” he said.
“It’s not a badge of shame. It’s more of a badge of honor.”