Oct 022003
Authors: Kyle Endres

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

job market.

“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.”




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