By Travis Reynolds
Monday morning comes calling again, and you find yourself trudging to class. As you walk, perhaps you notice a head of graying hair and a book bag on the shoulders of the same man. Perhaps you see a married couple sitting together when you get there, sharing a textbook. Next to them, an ex-Marine waits with upright posture for the professor’s arrival.Perhaps you are one of those people.
If so, Tuesday’s Non-Traditional Student forum was for you.
“Communication is key in all of this,” said Ruthann Chaplin, a senior environmental health sciences major and vice chair of the Student Government Association’s Non-Traditional Student Council.
Chaplin joined a handful of other non-trad council members in the lobby of the Student Services Building to discuss the issues facing students who didn’t come to Eastern straight from high school.
The agenda included issues such as the availability of daycare services and family housing for non-traditional students.
“(The Non-Traditional Student Council) is a new part of the government,” Chaplin said. “A need was voiced for the non-trads to be presented, and we’re in the beginning of it. Daycare is one that we’ve already done a study on.”
One of the council’s orders of the day was its petition. Council members asked students to sign their names to help secure improved building access for the handicapped.
But the primary focus of the forum was to help spread awareness.
“One of the issues we’re facing is lack of participation by non-trad students,” said Calisa Cates, a junior and environmental health sciences major who also serves as the council’s secretary.
“But it’s also a campus-wide issue,” added Chaplin.
The non-traditional council was formed January when Student Body President Doc Fifer recruited senior community health major K.K. Jauco-Trott to serve as chair for the new branch.
“When Doc ran into me, he (pointed at me) and said ‘You’,” Jauco-Trott said, laughing about how she came into the position. “I have absolutely no experience in government whatever. I was walking around like a chicken with my head cut off, just looking for members.”
Over the course of its existence, however, the non-trad council has become organized. A recent example is the council’s submission of an amendment to the student senate with members’ thoughts about daycare.
But more awareness can only help the council’s efforts to support non-traditional students.
“We want to know who they are,” Jauco-Trott said. “I think maybe the reason they’re not participating is that they might be embarrassed as adult students. There’s a discomfiture they have to get past.”
At the forum, one non-traditional student gave examples of university-wide activities other non-trads could get involved in.
Paula Wilder, a graduate student pursuing a master’s of public administration, said she attended the forum to recruit non-traditional students for the CACTUS class.
Citizens’ Assembly for Critical Thinking about the United States (CACTUS) is a new course offered in the spring semester. Instead of the traditional classroom format, CACTUS sessions will meet as assemblies during which students will discuss and debate the electoral process in the United States.
“Basically, we need a packed house for this to be a success,” Wilder said. “We need a good representation of Eastern’s student body, and we would love to have non-trads in the class.”
The course, which will be offered for three credit hours as POL 301, evolved from actual citizens’ assemblies held in Canada and Europe. Those assemblies proved effective in bringing about electoral reform, Wilder said.
“I’m a non-trad student. I didn’t start my undergraduate work until I was 25,” Wilder said. “I was very unclear on the electoral process, and I wish this class had been offered while I was doing (it).”
While forum attendance was not as high as the council hoped, the panel covered attendance and participation as major issues for the non-traditional council.
“I believe that when students participate, there’s better retention,” Chaplin said. “They do better in class.”
“Suddenly, the school matters (when students participate),” Jauco-Trott said. “Because I’ve gotten to meet others through participation, my study habits have improved… I never thought I’d get to go this far.