Student organizations for non-traditional undergraduate students, who might be older, have children or work full-time, are lacking on Main Campus.
A majority of the neon green, pink and orange flyers that cover the post at the intersection of Liacouras Walk and Berks Mall urge students to get involved in one of more than 200 student organizations Temple offers.
But while Temple Student Affairs supports and creates events for the “entire student body,” many student organizations at Temple cater to typical undergraduate students, usually between the ages of 18 and 25, making it difficult for non-traditional, older undergraduate students to fit in.
Older students return to school for a number of reasons. Perhaps they are preparing for career changes or need certain courses to hold onto their jobs.
In an interview on NBC’s Today show, University of Maryland, Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski addressed issues facing non-traditional students and what steps UMBC is taking to accommodate these students.
“Adults have more to offer than they may think,” Hrabowski said. “They’ve been solving life’s problems and raising children and getting a job and being knocked down and getting back up. They’ve got resilience.”
When you look at Temple’s classrooms, diversity is at its best. There are people of all races and cultural backgrounds, and now, more than ever, there’s a presence of non-traditional students.
Thirty-four-year-old Shamell Samuel, who recently graduated with a B.A. in accounting, is just one of many non-traditional students. A single mother of a 17-year-old boy, Samuel said she struggled to find time to study while continuing to perform other duties, such as working and managing household responsibilities.
“There is no such thing as campus life for evening students,” Samuel said. “There aren’t any organizations that promote themselves to evening or non-traditional students. Even though I wanted to join various organizations, I was unable to and regret that part of my college experience.”
Maureen Fisher, program coordinator for Student Affairs, said there aren’t any groups “specifically designed for a non-traditional student,” adding that “a lot of graduate school related groups” are currently available for students to join.
“All of our student organizations are open to any student enrolled at Temple,” Fisher said.
Temple’s online and evening classes make it convenient for non-traditional students to pursue their educations, but it does not compare to the experiences traditional students can gain by immersing themselves in Main Campus student life. This can be a challenge for older students, who sometimes feel intimidated by a younger crowd.
A non-traditional student myself, it wasn’t necessarily the younger crowd that intimidated me. It was the need to feel like I was a part of a group that I had more in common with than the same major. It was the opportunity to have the same resources that were available to my younger peers.
As a full-time mother and worker, walking past those posts adorned with bright flyers was discouraging and left me thinking, “Where would I find the time to do any of that?”
Many student organizations focus on a specific industries or career paths. The organizations represent a small chapter of real-world professional associations and provide opportunities for internships, co-ops and permanent placement.
There’s no doubt Temple’s student organizations complement the university’s diverse atmosphere, but implementing more flexible programs that award credit for life and work experience might change the feelings of not-so-average students.
Haniyyah Sharpe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.