If you’re sitting in your classroom, lab, or pretty much anywhere on campus, chances are you’re sitting among traditional students. You’re with students around your age, who are living on their own for the first time and with whom you share many common interests. 

Now take a look around you. Do you see anyone who could be classified as a non-traditional student (non-trad)? My guess is not, but if so, you’re catching a glimpse of a unique type of student who accounts for one of 100 non-traditional students on campus. 

A non-trad can be any of the following students: above the age of 24, married/divorced, a parent or a guardian, a veteran or returning or entering college after a significant time away from formal education.

The story of the nontraditional student is one of tenacity and perseverance. At KSC, non-trad ages range between 22 and 60. They are parents, spouses, grandparents, business owners, KSC employees, veterans, ER workers, town employees and even a lawyer! Some non-trads have returned to school for reasons such as learning a new language to live abroad, changing career paths or job loss due to the pandemic. The non-traditional student life is never boring!

I, myself, am a non-trad and I am lucky to have found other students with whom I share a commonality. Yet, I didn’t always have such connections and as nature dictates; I needed to find my flock. 

Realizing my need for connection on campus, I sought out Beth Zinn from the ASPIRE program. I confided in Beth, my desire for inclusivity. As luck would have it, Beth had already been talking with Olivia Van Cott, who is also a non-trad, about creating an organization designated to the needs and ideals of the non-traditional student. Consequently, WISE OWLS (WO) was formed. 

Van Cott said she decided to organize WISE OWLS out of a desire to find connections at KSC. described what inspired her to organize WISE OWLS. “Although the community as a whole is very welcoming, I found it isolating at times. The things that keep me busy or are required of me in daily life are different from that of an average student,” Van Cott said. 

Zinn shared how she became involved with WISE OWLS, “I met Olivia Van Cott at our first gathering for non-traditional students in Fall 2021. I offered to serve as the advisor to the club and help her get it started. We met over breaks and have created a Constitution for WISE OWLS [the name of the club] which Olivia will present to the Student Government in Fall 2022 for ratification.”

 Van Cott spearheads WISE OWLS’ effort to become a recognized organization rather than an interest group. She has dedicated herself to seeing this vision take flight. Van Cott has been instrumental in developing the group’s by-laws and constitution, which are critical for any officially recognized organization. 

  WISE OWLS came to fruition from the personal experiences of non-traditional students on campus. While most WO’s have felt embraced and included, others have felt lonely. Making friends is already difficult. Throw age, demographics, time constraints and familial responsibility into the mix and it’s seemingly impossible!

 Yet, community and connectedness are prevailing within KSC and WISE OWLS is committed to providing a safe space for all OWLS. We encourage students to connect with us and be on the lookout for more developments. Have a wonderful summer, fellow Owls. 

 

Alisa Arroyo can be contacted at 

Alisa.Arroyo@keene.edu

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