A WIDE VARIETY OF AGES
Located in the UC Building, room 112, just past the post office is the ANTS, or Adult, Non-Traditional & Transfer Student Center.
A place that according to the APSU website “specializes in creating a space to celebrate adult learners and transfer students while remaining open to all students.”
According to APSU President Alisa White, “Non-traditional students are not alike. They’re not like each other. You have non-traditional because of the fact that they just didn’t come here the year following their senior year of high school, but there’s a wide variety of ages and family situations and work life situations and responsibilities.”
SERVICING DIFFERENT NEEDS FROM
MORE TRADITIONAL STUDENTS
Due to these differences, ANTS have different needs from other, traditional students, and require different kinds of activities and events to remain involved on campus.
“They have different requirements. So, how do you engage them where they may not feel as comfortable going to some of the more traditional welcomes to campus kind of activities? How many from the ANTS Center would participate in the Color Run for instance or MudBowl?” White said. “They might, but a lot of them would do something else. So, the ANTS Center provides opportunities for them to engage in the things that they like to do and recognize that there is a place for them here.”
ENGAGEMENT IS CRITICALLY
IMPORTANT FOR ALL STUDENTS
White also stated her belief in the importance of engagement for all students.
“Engagement is really critical to student success. It is critical to retention, to signing up the next semester for new classes,” White said. “It’s critical, also to graduating and graduating hopefully on time. But studies have shown and our own studies here have shown that students who are involved in at least one thing outside of their studies tend to be retained at a higher level and tend to graduate at a higher rate.”
Engagement is a primary focus for the ANTS Center, advertising numerous events targeting those students who, “feel overlooked,” as stated by Ashley Nelson-Kautz, the Coordinator for the ANTS Center.
INVOLVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES, RESOURCES AND STUDENT-FOCUSED PROGRAM CREATION
“The A.N.T.S. Center does this by creating programs, offering resources, and advocating for students who transfer to APSU or are nontraditional. Each semester the center offers over twenty programs. Some aim to help transfer students transition to Austin Peay and the campus culture- “Slice of Austin Peay” and “Transfer Tuesday,” Nelson-Kautz said. “Others offer an opportunity for our students who have families to become engaged on campus with their loved ones- ‘Take Me out to the Ballgame,’ ‘Family Dive-In Movies’ or ‘Dinner & a Magic Show.’”
ADULT CAFE AND
Nelson-Kautz says one of the most impactful programs implemented by the ANTS Center is Adult Café.
This is a program for students over the age of twenty-four that aims to help them learn about involvement opportunities while creating a social network with other adult students.
While APSU has a larger population of students over the age of twenty-four, it can be difficult for these students to connect with others their age.
Adult Café is led by students who are also adult learners; these student leaders select meeting topics and serve as peer mentors to their group members.
“We have about thirty students in Adult Café this semester who meet twice a month over lunch,” Kautz said.
The ANTS Center also offers numerous events for students with families.
They aim to “make all of [their] programs and events child-friendly,” according to their website.
There are a lot of events that are specifically targeted towards families, from the “Family Dinner & a Magic Show” coming up Oct. 30, to Family Sugar Skull Decorating with Hispanic Cultural Center on Nov. 1, to Disney Song Bingo on Nov. 6, among others.
ANTS CAMP, COMMUTER COFFEE BREAK AND MORE
They also have ANTS Camp, a program offered monthly that provides games and activities for children, while parents can catch up on their studies.
Students with children who are interested in this resource are encouraged to sign up ahead of time by emailing the center or filling out a form found regarding the event in PeayLink.
Other resources and events offered through the ANTS Center include programs such as Commuter Coffee Break, Transfer Tuesday and even a Marriage Workshop.
WITH A NEW NAME ADDITION COMES NEW PROGRAMS AND INITIATIVES
Among the newest additions to the ANTS Center, according to Nelson-Kautz, is “the inclusion of ‘Transfer’ to the center’s title.”
The change was made last winter.
“The addition of Transfer to the center’s scope has also led to us implementing new programs and initiatives. ‘Slice of Austin Peay’ and ‘Transfer Tuesdays’ are two of our newest programs to assist transfer students,” Nelson-Kautz said. “Our chapter of Tau Sigma, a transfer honor society that had gone dormant, has also been reinstated. Ninety transfer students joined as the first group to be inducted in almost 10 years [and] three of the Tau Sigma Executive Board members will also be attending a leadership conference in Orlando this November.”
“It’s great to see transfer students engaged and represented on campus. They help myself and other staff members better understand the challenges our transfer students currently face as they transition to Austin Peay from their previous institution[s].”
NON-TRADITIONAL STUDENTS ARE BECOMING MORE WIDELY COMMON
White also spoke to the impact of not just transfer students but all non-traditional students on campus.
“There are a lot of students,” White said. “who benefit from interacting with people who made a different decision, but now regret the decision they made, or maybe they didn’t make a bad decision, maybe it was the right thing to do for them, but they still came back to get an education.”
She also recalled a former non-traditional student of hers, saying, “I saw her example to the other students and she would say, ‘Stay in. It doesn’t get easy. It doesn’t get easier. It’s not going to get easier than it is.’”
“In fact, the non-traditional student is fast becoming the more common student, not just at Austin Peay but across the United States,” she said.
CHARACTERISTICS AND TRENDS IN POPULATION GROWTH
While definitions of non-traditional vary, researchers generally consider nontraditional students to have the following characteristics: being independent for financial aid purposes, having one or more dependents, being a single caregiver, not having a traditional high school diploma, delaying postsecondary enrollment, attending school part-time, and having full-time employment.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), the number of students 25 years old and over hit a peak in 2010 of 8.9 million, but the overall enrollment for this age group declined from 2010 to 2018.
This is not necessarily representative of growth trends for non-traditional students overall, however, because the population has a wide definition which encompasses students who are not necessarily adult learners.
APSU enrollment profile trends show that in 2017 there were 2,563 Adult Learner Undergraduates (defined as students aged 25 or older) compared to the 7,028 Traditional Undergraduates (defined aged 24 or younger). There were also 916 Transfer Students in 2017.
ANTS CENTER IS A WELCOMING SPACE FOR ALL APSU STUDENTS
While celebrating this population of APSU students, the ANTS Center still maintains itself as a space for all students, offering numerous resources for traditional students as well.
According to their website these resources include “immediate school counseling and advice to students who drop by the center [as well as] a computer lab, quiet study area, lactation space, kitchenette with refrigerator, lounging space for socialization, and free-flowing coffee.”
TEST PREP RESOURCES, UMBRELLAS AND LOOK TO EXPANSION
They also have test prep books that are available for students to check out up to three weeks at a time, which include PRAXIS, MCAT, TEAS, LSAT, GRE, MAT, NCLEX, GMAT and an Umbrella Program which allows students to check out umbrellas when they get caught in the UC while it’s raining.
Nelson-Kautz is also looking to expand the ANTS Center’s resources.
“However, I don’t want to do this without thought on what resources would be most beneficial. This spring I will be hosting three focus groups to best determine what resources are needed by our students,” Nelson-Kautz said. “If anyone would like to participate, dates will be advertised on PeayLink and our website by winter break.”
Nelson-Kautz goes on about her plans for staging out a scholarship fund.
“I am also in the beginning stages of creating a scholarship for our students with children to assist in childcare costs. A major barrier for returning to school is finding childcare; especially for our students with children not yet in elementary school. I am hoping to have a scholarship fund so that community members, alumni, or anyone interested in helping our students with children can donate,” she said.
The Center is open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
All students are welcome.