A few weeks ago, Autumn and Kris had the opportunity to sit down with a few adult students at GVSU to listen and learn more about each of their individual stories and experiences. We also were able to photograph and interview each student!
Non-traditional students make up approximately 18% of Grand Valley's undergraduate class. Deciding to go back to school requires more planning and lifestyle reassessment than for a traditional student, it requires more of a thought about motivations, goals, and expectations.
These four students have completed the program, each leaving with a different set of values and experiences to share. These are their stories.
"I value the friendships I've made along the way"
Isabel received her degree in social work with a minor in psychology. Being a non-traditional student, Isabel recognized some of the hardships that she would face- financial and work responsibilities, family (she has two kids), and more. While reflecting on her time in this program, Isabel said "I will never forget the emotional rollercoaster of it all."
Social work is such a unique profession in the fact that you learn a lot about yourself in the form of what it is that you want to do. "For me, that opened up a lot of doors that I hadn’t previously dealt with. It makes it very surreal because you realize as an individual you realize what your spirit can endure when it is asked to do all of these challenges."
"My kids helped me stay motivated"
Isabel's husband, Jason also received his bachelors degree as well. They relied on one another as a support system to push themselves though. Another support system that Isabel is very thankful for is all of the friendships that she had gained along the way. "I can say with absolute confidence that I will have those friendships [I made at Grand Valley] for years to come."
"My professors helped me find my niche and discover what I was excited about"
Jason received his bachelors in Journalism, which allowed him to take hybrid classes of broadcasting, journalism, even photography.
Jason's journey through college took him a total of ten years. by the time he was admitted into Grand Valley State University he had been in and out of GRCC and GVSU as well as the military. Jason was unsure of what he wanted to do with his future, but with the help of his professors and fellow classmates he began to realize what got him excited about his niche.
"A lot of what I value the most from my Grand Valley experience is mostly moments with my wife. Watching her walk in the hall and randomly meeting my friends, the network of people that are non-traditional as well as traditional, those matter the most to me."
"I am going to miss the cohort and the family that we have created"
At age 19, Anessa began her college experience at the University of Michigan for two years. After getting married and having her first child, she decided that she wanted to be a stay at home mom, taking a break from school for awhile.
Because of life circumstances, Anessa attempted to go back to school, but was unable to finish. She found herself in the pre-med field and then decided that wasn't going to work out. Anessa had a full time job leading a non-profit, but went back to school in the Accelerated Liberal Studies Leadership degree program. "I found the program and thought to myself, 'this is it, this is what I can do, it will work with my schedule,' and coming one night a week seemed feasible. I travel a lot for the non-profit that I work for, I needed that flexibility, also being a mom I needed that flexibility."
Anessa found herself getting her degree in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Leadership.
"I will remember the cohort the most."
As we have learned, the family that this program creates is unlike any other program. Each student has a unique experience and story, but as time passes you start to realize that they are your family, these are the people that will follow you through even after the program.
"I knew that I was going to learn something, but I didn’t realize the practical application that I would actually take from it as well, so I really value what I have learned."
"The program helps you bring out the skills that you didn't realize you already had"
"It took me four years to do my Associates and then another four years to do my Bachelors. Three years at Jackson Community College and my Associates was in History with a minor in Math and then it took me five years at Grand Valley and I started as a math major I was going to teach math, but with work and schedules it seemed a little unattainable. So I went into business and then the cohort came along and I was able to finish."
Cheri received a bachelors of science in Liberal Studies with a focus on leadership.
With the help of two of her classmates, Cheri developed a project called Later Laker. The project focused on the challenges non-traditional students face when they return back to school, not only the home-life balance, but just that fear of walking into that class for the first time.
One thing in particular that she is very proud of is the Later Laker project developing a mentoring program for non-traditional students. This program allows for non-traditional students to get help from somebody their age and from somebody that has been there before and the mentor acts as a guide for the students and is there for them whenever they are needed.
"I have been working full time at Wolverine Worldwide and I am using many of the skills that I used as far as the critical thinking and the problem solving. Which I found out that I already had, it was more about bringing that out, which is what this program is really good at, is making you realize that you already have it. So I use that everyday."
Above all, the Center for Adult and Continuing Studies allows non-traditional students to integrate aspects of what makes them successful in the real world, and bring that into the classroom.
We wish all of these students from this program the best, and thank you for sharing your stories with us!