After retiring from the U.S. Air Force, John Anglin decided he wanted to become a high school physics teacher.
“When I retired from the military, I struggled with the separation from the military, and I decided I needed a mission,” Anglin said. “And I realized that mission is to teach.”
A combat veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, Anglin is currently enrolled at the University of Central Arkansas.
“I’m significantly older than the other students in the classes I’m taking. I’ve had a full career outside of school. I’m effectively retraining,” Anglin said. “There’s the whole experience of not living on campus. As a nontraditional student, I started out feeling less connected to the daily activities going on and to the resources that were available to me.”
Two examples of UCA’s work to help nontraditional students connect to campus resources are the Nontraditional Student Organization (NTSO), which introduces nontraditional students to other offices and resources available on campus, and Minton Commuter College (MCC@Old Main), which also houses the Student Veterans Resource Center.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, much debate exists regarding what constitutes a nontraditional student, with the prevailing characteristic being those over 24 who are seeking an undergraduate degree.
“With a dwindling number of traditional 18-year-old first-year students coming to college, nontraditional students are a growing demographic,” said Kevin Thomas, associate vice president for Enrollment Management. “Especially in terms of UCA Online.”
Thomas said he gained “a whole new respect for nontraditional students” when his wife, Toni, went back to school. He believes that creating flexibility and removing roadblocks to success are key to making nontraditional students feel welcome and helping them succeed.
“We’re looking toward advising and financial aid offerings that will run into the evening,” he said. “Another thing is to make sure that our services are always available online, which helps everyone, but specifically nontraditional and online students.”
The NTSO also provides lounge space, coffee, snacks and computer use to anyone who visits the space in Bernard Hall.
“The NTSO is a way for students to mingle together and to get involved in career services,” said Kathy Clayborn, interim director of Nontraditional Student Services and executive director of Career Services. “Most nontraditional students, their focus is to come back to continue their education so they can get another or a better job.”
She pointed to a mailing list run by NTSO coordinator and former nontraditional student Crystal Woods as one of the biggest ways students connect with resources, free services and events.
“A lot of our students are on a shoestring budget, and it really helps if we can point out things that are available to them,” Clayborn said.
MCC@Old Main is part of UCA’s Residential Colleges and designed to give commuters the same type of co-curricular educational opportunities and home-away-from-home experiences that on-campus students have.
Located on the second floor of Old Main, MCC@Old Main provides students a lounge area with free coffee, kitchen facilities, meeting space, a lactation suite and storage lockers as well as a quiet study room with computers.
“Just show up,” said Chris Craun, MCC@Old Main academic director, who defines a commuter as a student who has to physically commute to campus. “If you live in an apartment two blocks away, that’s a commute.”
The Student Veterans Resource Center includes priority services for veterans. “We try to create both quiet and social spaces for our students,” Craun said. “We have a core group of about 25 to 30 students who are here every day, with lots of other people coming through. It is a great community.”