» By MORGAN SMITH – msmith156@my.apsu.edu

Around 42 percent of APSU students are classified as nontraditional students, and there is now an honor’s society that caters specifically to them.

The new Non-Traditional Student Society’s slogan is “STARS — Students Together Achieving and Reaching Success.” Success is their main goal, and it goes beyond the student.

It’s about the student, their families, their children and everyone they impact.

The group is in the process of its first membership drive.

To define nontraditional students in simple terms, according to NTSS president June Knight, they include parents, active duty military and those who didn’t attend college directly after high school.

These students struggle with creating a balance between work, school and home responsibilities, a struggle most traditional students won’t have to worry about until after graduation.

The idea for the NTSS came about after hearing the cries of nontraditional students for an honor society specifically for them at the Student Life & Leadership’s Nontraditional Student Luncheons.

After hearing the grievances of the students, Knight met with Beverly Boggs, the associate provost for enrollment management and academic support.

Boggs, who was a nontraditional student in college as well, was eager to help in creating the society and now serves as the club adviser.

“Anyone who has served in the military then tried to go to college, or a wife deciding to go for her dreams, or a single mother or father deciding they’ve had enough of life without a college degree … not only has their families to take care of, but they work and juggle many other responsibilities,” Knight, said. “On top of the additional responsibilities, nontraditional students also face the fact that they may not be as technically savvy as the younger generation who is raised on the computer and technology. So, not only do they have to hurry up and catch up with the changing times, they have to re-shift their focus to their own personal success. It’s not easy for a mother, father, wife or husband to focus on themselves and their future because their top priority is their families.”

The hope, according to Knight, is the society can aid in helping non traditional students realize the best chances for their families and their children is for them to be all they can and fight for their dreams.

Erika Lopez-Smith, a newly enrolled nontraditional student, agrees with the ideas presented by Knight.

“I am worried that returning to school might not come as easy as it was 13 years ago. I fear the stress of wearing many hats such as a mother, a wife, an employee, and now, a student. My ultimate fear is failing at one of my duties and not succeeding at my personal standard rate. I do not want my child to watch me and see school as a stress or added weight, but as a choice I made to better myself, and my hard work will pay off,” Lopez-Smith said.

According to Knight, the thought of college is often exciting for traditional students and something they’ve waited on for a long time, but for nontraditional students, the transition is stressful and something they often feel they’ve waited too long to do. Nontraditional students often feel left out of the campus experience or unwelcome to join in on activities that are geared toward traditional students.

“The nontraditional students feel disenfranchised from the university from the moment they walk in the door from the Summer Welcomes and Orientations. These events are targeted towards traditional students and the nontraditional students leave feeling they are not welcomed here, or at least that they are not as important,” Knight said.

The NTSS attended a forum in which they were able to voice their concerns to the administration, including President Timothy Hall, Provost Tristan Denley and Vice President of Student Affairs Sherryl Byrd.

The NTSS members were assured the administration is aware of the issues that concern them and have plans in place for their Summer Welcome to include the nontraditional students.

In order to include nontraditional students and give them a voice, the NTSS is in the process of creating a website for its members.
“It will contain everything the nontraditional student needs to ensure success at APSU,” Knight said.

The website will include tutoring videos for Microsoft Office and a calendar of events for social events and links to all areas of APSU.

It will also give the students events and activities that work with their hectic schedules and include their families, they will begin hosting Family Nights on the second Tuesday of each month.

“What if our children opted not to attend college? How would we cope? It made me question my own education and my shortcomings. I decided that I should walk a path that I would love for my child to follow,” Lopez-Smith said.

Any nontraditional student interested in learning more about the society is welcome to contact Knight at knightj@apsu.edu or 221-6308. TAS