The Cultural Center programming at APSU is evidence to a creative commitment by this institution to meet a diverse student body where they are at and go the extra mile to help a student meet their goals.
Take the Adult, Nontraditional & Transfer Student Center (ANTS), coordinated by Ashley Kautz and a team of student workers and volunteers, for example. ANTS is a support and engagement center open to all students. Like the other three cultural centers, it also operates under a mandated focus to especially serve the ANTS part of our student body.
According to the Fall 2018 census prepared by APSU’s Decision Support and Institutional Support (DSIR), nearly one in four Austin Peay Students coming here full or part-time are over 25 years old and/or have come here from another higher learning institution.
Dr. Andrew Luna, Executive Director of DSIR, explained Austin Peay “serves a very unique population that includes a robust military presence, students from small, rural communities from the surrounding counties, as well as an above-average non-traditional population.”
“These are not the stereotypical candidates who might be expected to enroll in higher ed. Many of our transfer and non-traditional students are Pell Grant eligible, which indicates many are without a lot of extra money or time, often working one or two jobs,” Luna said.
“This above-average population of ANTS students reflects a “distinct aspect of the special role APSU plays among Tennessee State Colleges and Universities”, Luna said.
So it makes sense that non-traditional students might have diverse needs. Kautz explains ”To best fit the needs and interests of as many of our students as possible, we create programs tailored toward a variety of interests.”
Reviewing their jam-packed program schedule, a few things are immediately obvious. Most events feature some manner of free food, albeit pizza and donuts, but free and tasty. Several of the events are informal, allowing a student to drop-in and leave when they will (with a slice and a drink).
They even have an event that is only ten minutes long called Ten at Ten. It happens at 10:00 am on Tuesdays. Like this alliterative offering sounds, attendees get a Top Ten List of things a Transfer student needs to know in 10 minutes,
For the student body members that have children, there are pool parties (sometimes with a movie at the same time), two-hour paddling in the Cumberland with a chance to paint (right brain stuff to help reduce stress) and a few family movie nights.
While the list of engagement opportunities keeps expanding under the leadership of Kautz, the focus on supporting students academically (writing workshops, honor societies), financially (assistance maintaining aid, an abundance of food on the run and always free coffee) socially (Commuter Coffee, Adult Cafe and Ice Cream Socials) is consistent.
In October alone there are 20 events on the calendar, A few of them cross-pollinate with the other Centers too. And there is a week dedicated solely to Transfer Students, from October 21-25.
Perhaps the most notable innovation for the Fall Semester is the Facebook Live events. By archiving these brief information spots on the internet, students can access them on-demand and get connected even if they are primarily going to college online.
Kautz shared that this Spring, ANTS will be expanding their partnerships with other campus departments to launch a series called New Year, Better You.
Two programs already on the calendar for next semester are an Enneagram Series with Counseling Services and a program to help students manage the “Impostor Syndrome”, a feeling like a person has when they are afforded privilege and respect that they may not believe they have earned.
“We are hoping to stay in touch with our students and their needs; we constantly aim to evolve with our student population,” Kautz said. “We’re very excited.” If the diversity and abundance of offerings on the calendar this year are any proof, they are creative too.