Recognizing the balance

Nov 062005
Authors: Amanda Schank

For more information on National Non-Traditional Student Week, check out the (OSS/RALO) online at, or visit the office at the Info Too desk in the Lory Student Center.

Kenny Johlke supports a family, maintains a job, holds a pretense of a social life, and, at 31, attempts to tackle all the responsibilities of a senior hoping to major in equine science.

"Get up early and stay up late is basically what it entails," Johlke said.

The demands of Johlke's life tip the scale, throwing any deception of balance out the window. While unimaginable for many students, it is reality for the approximate 7,000 non-traditional students at CSU.

The Resources for Adult Learners Office hosts the National Non-traditional Student

Week today through Saturday. The week will feature a variety of lectures, workshops and social events to promote awareness and recognition of the accomplishments of non-traditional students.

"Non-traditional students are a viable community here on campus – they're vibrant; they're here; they exist – and this is one way to validate their presence as being a population that's important to the university," said Jeannie Ortega, director of Off-Campus Student Services/Resources for Adult Learners Office (OSS/RALO). "(This week) gives the university an opportunity to get a taste of what an amazing population this is to work with, how much they can contribute to campus and how much they endure and overcome.

"They are an inspiration to me both personally and professionally, and hopefully, their stories will inspire others – whether they're traditional-aged or not, whether they're a student or not."

CSU's definition of a non-traditional student is someone 23 years of age or older who manages multiple responsibilities while attending school for the purpose of earning a degree. The obligations of a non-traditional student generally include juggling a family, one or more jobs and a personal life in addition to the academic responsibilities of a student.

While the university has certain characteristics that label a non-traditional student, Jan Rastall, adult learner coordinator of OSS/RALO, views the classification as self-selective and welcomes any students who may feel their responsibilities and goals don't coincide with those of a traditional student to the office.

"(Non-traditional students) represent lifelong learners, and we are living in a lifelong learning society," Rastall said. "Everyone's going to be back in school or in some type of learning environment at some point in their life, so I value the fact there are non-traditional students here showing traditional students that you can learn no matter what your age and at any time in your life.

"It's a great role model for younger students."

National Non-Traditional Student Week, designated by the Association of Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education, occurs during the first week of November each year. This is CSU's first year participating in the national event, however it is not its first year recognizing non-traditional students.

For approximately 10 years, the RALO traditionally coordinated a weeklong event in the spring similar to the national week. Ortega said the office hopes to use the "momentum built in participating in a national event" to bring a higher level of recognition to campus than activities in the past have yielded.

"These students work so hard to earn their degrees when they have so many responsibilities they're juggling, so it's our way of celebrating those accomplishments as well as raising awareness for who they are," Rastall said.

The office is working in coordination with other campus organizations including the Non-traditional Student Club, the University Counseling Center, the Office of Women's Programs and Studies, Morgan Library and the Career Center, in an effort to bring a multitude of activities for the campus community to partake in.

Workshops focused on time and financial management, technology issues and researching tips, among other things, will be held throughout the week. Panel discussions, social brunches and a world unity fair are also included in the week's activities.

In addition, the office chose William Bridges as keynote speaker, whom Ortega refers to as the "guru of transitional theory" whose "suggestions and ideas are applicable to all of us." The lecture, which takes place Tuesday at 7 p.m., focuses on how to make the experience of transition a time to renew energy and a positive experience.

CSU currently has 3,652 undergraduate students and almost 3,500 graduate students under the 23-year-old age benchmark, Along with the additional demographic group they create, non-traditional students serve a significant purpose on campus as ambassadors of real-life experience.

"Most non-traditional students are older and have been down a different road than a person that just came out of high school, so that extra bit of experience leads to an extra educational value for all the students – different viewpoints and more diversity," said Scot Hayworth, junior electrical engineering major and non-traditional student. "Everybody has to be very conscience of everybody's background and use that to add to their own experience."

In addition to Non-Traditional Student Week, the RALO holds monthly outings and a multitude of workshops and learning programs throughout the year aimed at helping non-traditional students earn a degree. It also sponsors a Pinnacle Honor Society, recognizing the academic achievements of non-traditional students.

"(Non-traditional students) bring such rich experiences with them to campus in their classroom environments, and they just add a whole new dimension to the educational experience for the traditional-aged students," Ortega said. "This is a way to validate that they are here and that they have so much to contribute to this campus."


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