The benefits of being non-traditional

It’s been 14 years since Tricia Case packed a backpack with schoolbooks, had homework, and strolled the sidewalks of a college campus. Even though Case’s fellow students are years younger than she, Case is determined to finish her college education.  As a wife and mother with a full-time job, Case is considered a non-traditional student at Central Michigan University.

“It’s a challenge, but the sense of accomplishment after receiving my degree will make it worth the effort,” Case said.

Case has one more class to take in order to get a degree in Secretarial Science.

After graduating high school, Case went to Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. She chose to go there because it had a secretarial science program and was affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church.

“My biggest regret is that I didn’t apply myself the way I should have,” Case said. “I didn’t see the big picture, wasn’t focused, and walked away without a degree.”

Case moved to Mount Pleasant five years ago with her husband and son. When Case decided to finish her degree at CMU, she contacted Dordt College and was told she could choose to take a math, science, psychology or communication class. Case eagerly chose to take COM 353, small group communication, at CMU.

“I was hesitant and a little self-conscious on the first day of class,” Case said. “I thought students in my class would stare at me and wonder what an older woman was doing there.”

Case was relieved once she started working with her small group and her professor’s energetic and easy-going personality also put Case at ease.

“My group worked very well together,” Case said. “They were welcoming, friendly and didn’t treat me any differently because I am a non-traditional student.”

One thing that has changed the most since she has been to school is technology. She was introduced to Blackboard for the first time this semester, and was amazed at how common it is for students to have their own laptops. The main methods of communication have changed as well.

“Everyone in my group had a cell phone and they texted each other when and where to meet up,” Case said.

The most challenging thing for Case is working full time while taking a class. Case works in the CMU administration office as a receptionist, and goes to class on her lunch break.

“The office is very good at accommodating my class schedule,” Case said.

After school and work, Case goes home to her husband and 12-year-old son and starts her “mom duties”. Her family is very supportive of her decision to go back to school.

“My son finds it amusing that I have homework now too,” Case said. “I’m grateful that my husband and son are willing to make sacrifices for me to attend school.”

The only advantage Case thinks she has over traditional students is having more life experience and a different perspective on school.

“I am able to appreciate school more than before,” Case said. “I understand the purpose of college and am determined to get my degree.”

Case continues to apply for secretary positions. Once she receives a degree in secretarial science, she hopes it will make her a more valuable applicant and job opportunities will open up.