Posts tagged ‘Non-Traditional Student’

Trusting Yourself

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.


(Image downloaded from via “Google images”)



Recently, a friend lamented that his mother “never trusted her intelligence.”   She had started college, but never completed, and became content in her position as a teacher’s aide, rather than a teacher.  Of course, one is not necessarily better than the other.  However, the reason for her not pursuing her degree – not trusting her intelligence – is an interesting one, and may lie at the heart of why a nontraditional student does not return to college, even though earning a degree might allow the potential student to go to the “next level” of her/his profession.


Each of us is the unique result of our background, family environment, culture, education, religion and experiences.  Because we adapt to our circumstances, we may come to believe that our upbringing and current cultural environment has predetermined our future.  For instance, you may have been raised in a blue-collar environment where the nobility of labor has been emphasized, rather than the pursuit of higher education.  Perhaps, no one in your family has ever earned a bachelor’s degree, so you see it as something that has no application in the “real world.”  You may have even shared with co-workers your curiosity about college, only to be teased and ridiculed.  Yet, there lies in the back of your mind a curiosity, a stirring of interest, in how pursuing a college degree could enhance – and change – your life.


You know you are smart.  People tell you that all the time.  You want to know more, but are not sure where to go or what to do.  It is so much easier to continue with the path of your life that you have laid down – retire with the same company, or perhaps your family’s business.  But, to do so does not mean that you cannot satisfy your curiosity about additional possibilities.  Allow yourself the joy of discovery, including the discovery of where your intelligence can take you.  Trust your intelligence.  Trust yourself.

“She is very determined …” (Success Stories Series)


LLCC Spotlight(Reprinted from Lincoln Land Community College web site, “In the Spotlight, retrieved 9.26.11)

80-year-old student inspires young college students

“It’s never too late to achieve your dreams,” says Marian Johnson

Ask LLCC students, faculty and staff about Marian Johnson and you’re likely to hear comments such as “she is incredible,” “she exudes an extreme amount of joy to everyone she meets,” “she has so many life experiences,” “she is an inspiration to many” or “she is very determined.”

At age 80, Marian was determined to graduate with an associate degree.

Marian led a full life before returning to school. At 27, she stepped in to raise two younger brothers, aged seven and 14, when her mother passed away. After both boys were out on their own, she began taking care of another brother who was injured in World War II. Throughout her life, she also served as a foster parent, helping to raise and mentor 17 children.

Retiring from Illinois Bell in 1982 after 37 years, Marian enrolled at LLCC to work on an associate degree in nursing. However, she was impatient to get back to work and switched to LPN classes offered at the Capital Area Career Center.  She then worked as a private duty nurse, retiring from St. John’s Hospital in 2003 and from Presbyterian Home in 2007.

In 2008, Marian returned to LLCC. She credits Dr. John Roberts, professor of history, with encouraging her to finish her degree. “Wild horses couldn’t keep me away from here. I have received a lot of support from faculty, staff and fellow students,” says Marian.  “LLCC is an extraordinary place no matter what your age. The younger students don’t treat me any differently; they involve me in conversations and discussions. They don’t seem to mind that I’m an ‘old lady.’”

Marian clearly inspires her fellow students. Her 19-year-old peer tutor, Natalie Richardson (shown here at Commencement with Marian) commented, “I think I learned more from her than she learned from me.  She taught me about life, which is so useful. Although she is 80, she’s embracing and pursuing something she’s always wanted to do.”

Marian graduated with her associate degree this May and says, “I’d tell anyone thinking of coming back to college that it’s never too late to achieve your dreams.”

Too many choices?

(Photo copied from under “Google images”)







by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

Recently, I received an e-mail from a Non-Traditional Student (NTS) who said he was at a confusing place right now in both his academic and professional careers.  He had started back to college a couple of years ago after over two decades of entertaining the idea.  He took a few courses, did well, and was energized by the opportunities that were beginning to present themselves to him.  Does he quit the job he has held for over 20 years?  Does he fulfill a lifelong dream of opening a restaurant?  Maybe go into real estate?  How would this all be expressed on a resumé?

Sometimes when we discover that we have options – that we no longer are tethered by our current career choice – we can become overwhelmed with the sudden deluge of choices.  We can go from feeling that we are at a dead-end to facing so many forks in the road that we are frozen with indecision.

This is a “good problem.”  What these forks in the road mean is that you recognize that you have the ability to create your future.

But, what if you feel that you may have taken the “wrong” road?  Here you are, an NTS who is finally getting back to school.  You feel that time is already slipping through the hourglass so you think you cannot afford to make mistakes.  Well, you can take yourself off of the hook here.  There are no mistakes or failures – only results.  There is a story of the great inventor, Thomas Edison, that goes:  “Edison tried over 9,000 times to create the incandescent light bulb.  When asked if he felt like a failure, he replied, ‘No, because I now know over 9,000 ways not to create the light bulb’.”

This is learning.  This is experience.  Live your life without regret for the choices you have made thus far.  Because, without those choices, you would not have the information to make the decisions you need to make today.  So what if you take the road that did not get the results you expected.  Now you know.  Now you can make a more informed decision.

If the dilemma of “too many choices” is new to you – enjoy it!  It means that you have created numerous possibilities for yourself.  Think of it like a restaurant menu.  Your future should have many options.  After all, do you want to keep returning to a restaurant that has only one item on the menu?

Hollywood Screenwriter (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from “Alumni Spotlight” July 2010, Naugatuck Valley Community College web site)






John Fusco, accomplished Hollywood screenwriter, credits Naugatuck Valley Community College [Waterbury, CT] with the start of his successful career. He has written eight major motion pictures, six of which he also produced. You might recognize a few of the titles: Babe, Crossroads, Thunderheart, Young Guns and his latest, The Forbidden Kingdom, featuring Jackie Chan and Jet Li together for the first time. He also wrote the Academy-Award nominated Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. His research experiences on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation led to the controversial Thunderheart in 1992, an acclaimed expose of federal abuses in contemporary Native American communities. Fusco also went on to write the Native-themed ABC mini-series Dreamkeeper and the popular Disney epic Hidalgo.

A Waterbury native who grew up in Prospect, John was a high school dropout working in a factory and playing music in local nightclubs. He turned to Naugatuck Valley Community College, where he met his wife, Richela Renkun, to rebuild his life on his own terms. John’s sister, Kathleen LeBlanc, is an associate professor of human services at the College.

He fondly recalls, “The supportive environment and stimulating faculty encouraged and challenged me to streamline my goals. Although I was out of school for six years, Naugatuck Valley Community College helped prepare me to transfer to the school of my dreams — NYU Tisch School of the Arts.”

While at NYU, John won the prestigious Nissan Focus Award for students which led him to collaborations with DreamWorks and actor Robert DeNiro.

He is the author of the novel Paradise Salvage, currently earning rave reviews in Britain.

The Fuel of Self-Doubt

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.


The other day I had lunch with a colleague.  We reflected on our experiences in our respective doctoral programs – she at Columbia University and me at the University of Utah.  Even though we were enrolled at different times and at different places, we shared one important thing in common – self-doubt.  We both felt that while we were in the programs, that we shouldn’t be there and that we would probably never complete the required exams and dissertation.

Some of the self-doubt came from the lack of support – or “negative support” – from  family members.  Our pursuing our education was resented by some of the people closest to us.  In addition, we compared ourselves to our cohorts and felt like we were out of place.  We subordinated ourselves to the opinions and performances of others.

In the companion book to this blog – also entitled You Can Do College – I recount all the self-doubt I had from the time I entered into the local Community College on through to the last weeks of my Ph.D. program.  The doubt finally evaporated when I earned my last degree and actually held the piece of paper that confirmed my achievement.  (I wonder, though, if the self-doubt would return if I decided to pursue another degree.)

Self-doubt appears to be a part of the process.  We put ourselves into new situations and new environments.  This takes us outside of our comfort zones.  Let’s face it – it just feels weird.  We are immersed into a learning environment where it means that we are no longer the experts in our field.  As Non-Traditional Students, we are generally the oldest in the class and wonder if we will be able to keep up with the concepts, with the technology, and with the other students.  We give ourselves all kinds of reasons to doubt our abilities.

Still, one must persevere.  In spite of all of the doubts, my colleague and I finished every program we began.  There was no coasting through, however.  The road we took was littered with stumbling blocks – time management, family needs, money, work issues and so on.  Some of the other stumbling blocks, though, we put there ourselves – most of which were born out of self-doubt.  Yet, we completed everything we started, making our accomplishments even sweeter.

Is this where you are?  Are you doubting your ability to return to school?  Are others adding to your own insecurities by discrediting your academic ambition?  Does it seem that you will be out of place in a college learning environment?  Enrolling into a program will not make those insecurities go away, but, as you earn good grades, your insecurities and doubt will lessen.

Perhaps self-doubt is the fuel that helps us to push ourselves.  You have probably said to yourself at one time or another, “If I can do this, I can do anything.”  The key word is “do.”  Don’t spend so much time overthinking your enrollment into college that you delay taking action month after month, year after year.  One thing is for certain:  getting a higher education is a no-lose proposition.  You can never be worse off for having attended college.  So, let the doubts be what pushes you – and then you will feel like you can do anything.


From a “Writing Program” to Writing Books (Success Stories Series)

(reprinted from “Featured Alumni” at Pima Community College’s web site, 6.13.2011)

Nancy Turner

Nancy Turner’s name may be familiar to you as a Southern Arizona writer.  With four published novels, Nancy’s career is soaring.  An older student, Nancy says she never dreamed she could become a published writer, but her teachers at Pima [Pima Community College, Tucson AZ] gave her the belief in her ability and the courage to go for it.

Her first novel, These Is My Words, set in and around Tucson in the 19th Century, was published in 1998 while Nancy was earning her AA degree at the College.

She went on to earn a BFA at the University of Arizona while working on her second novel, The Water and The Blood, set in Texas and California during WWII.  Nancy is effusive in her praise of Pima’s writing program and “gives back” by periodically teaching at a writing workshop on writing and researching the historical novel.

The G.I. Bill Means Business for a Marine (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from Wilson Community College, “Alumni Story,” retrieved 5.23.11)

Ricky Wilson

I joined the United States Marine Corps right out of high school in 2000. I have been stationed in South Carolina, California, Arizona, North Carolina, and Iraq. In late July of 2005, I transitioned out of the military with plans on pursuing a college degree. In my military career I had some great experiences, plus it has helped me pay for most of my schooling with the GI Bill. As stated by Ned Dolan in one of my favorite quotes, “Freedom is not free, but the U.S. Marine Corps will pay most of your share”

Being from Savannah, Georgia, I was far away from family and friends. I moved to Wilson from my last duty station at Cherry Point, North Carolina to be with my fiancée in 2005.  I wanted to go to college and my fiancée along with many of my military friends helped encourage me to do so. I chose Wilson Community College [Wilson, NC] because it was close to where I lived, worked, and it offered the program I was interested in. I started at Wilson Community College in the fall of 2005 taking a full-time load and working full-time. I got married in July of 2006, and my wife helped support me all of the way through the military and college.

In November of 2007, I was informed there was a job opening at the College in the purchasing department by a few classmates that said the job description sounded like a perfect fit for me. I applied, received an interview, and started my new job full-time at Wilson Community College as Purchasing Specialist in January of 2008. I graduated from Wilson Community College in May of 2008 with an Associates Degree in Business Administration.  The guidance and direction that I received from all of the instructors is well appreciated and I thank them for that.

Currently, I am taking college transfer courses to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. The degree that I earned from the college has definitely made an impact in my life. It has given me a job that I love, a better work schedule, more money, plus my job now applies to my degree and challenges me everyday. Thanks to Wilson Community College I have a degree that has made me a more knowledgeable and marketable person in society.

Saving a Dream (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from North Shore Community College Alumni Profiles, retrieved 5.22.11)

Bola Fayoda

Liberal Arts Class of 2005

NSCC  [North Shore Community College, Beverly, MA] alum Bola Fayoda came to America with dreams of becoming a doctor. A friend suggested if medicine was truly his calling, Massachusetts was the place to go and North Shore Community College was the place to start. For Bola, it was great advice.

Enrolling in NSCC’s Liberal Arts Program to take advantage of the College’s transfer benefits, Bola Fayoda carried a full course-load while working full-time. In 2005, Bola earned an Associate’s Degree from NSCC, graduating with honors. From there, Bola transferred his credits to Salem State College and entered the Biology program as a junior with added minors in both Chemistry and Philosophy. Two years later, Bola graduated Magna Cum Laude and, in September 2009, Bola Fayoda started medical school. What was once a dream to become a physician is now a career goal within reach.

Bola found inspiration and motivation throughout his stay at NSCC, but singled out NSCC’s TRiO program and Student Support & Advising Centers. “When I arrived in the US, I had no friends…. I want to personally say thank you to the entire staff of TRiO for their sincerity, as well as unending support throughout my educational career at NSCC. In fact, TRiO is responsible for where I am today and, if not for them, I may not have had a chance to become a medical student this soon.”

Bola also remembers his daily stop in the Student Support & Advising Center to see Peter Monaco, NSCC’s Transfer Counselor. “Peter saw me through my struggling days–he saved me in every way a young man trying to latch on to his dream could be saved.” Bola said the support, information and advice he got from those visits paid off for him not only at NSCC, but also in transferring to Salem State College. By spending his first two years at NSCC, Bola was able to cut the cost of getting a Bachelor’s Degree in half. He also strongly advises students to seek out and use the services available to them at NSCC. “As students, we tend to take things for granted and don’t realize support is there to make our lives better.”

Cooking Up a Future (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from Cuyahoga Community College Alumni Spotlight, retrieved 5.16.11)

Alicia Marotta

Alumni of Cuyahoga Community College often credit the College for the professional success they have after graduation. While some say the College helped them determine their futures, others used their experiences at the College as a tool to achieve goals they had already set for themselves. Alicia Marotta is an alumna who took advantage of the affordable education offered at Tri-C [Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland, OH] to help her accomplish a lifelong goal.

“Since I was five years old, I wanted to own my own restaurant near my home. Tri-C helped me achieve that goal,” said Alicia who graduated in 1997 with an Associate of Applied Business Degree in Hospitality Management with a concentration in culinary art. She put her degree to work when she opened her own Italian restaurant, Marotta’s, in Cleveland Heights. Alicia not only created the entire menu but she also oversees all business aspects of the restaurant. “Owning a restaurant is a lot of hours and hard work, but the rewards are excellent. The best part is being my own boss.”

“My experience at Tri-C was the basis of my career,” stated Alicia. “The culinary art courses prepared me to be a chef while the formal education

I received helped me to run my own business. Richard Fulchiron and the faculty of the Hospitality Management program are well versed in culinary arts and they want to see everyone in the program succeed.”

Alicia also knows the importance of scholarship support — she was a recipient of the Tri-C Foundation’s Hospitality Management Scholarship. “Receiving a scholarship was very helpful. I had to work full-time and go to school part-time and the scholarship allowed me to take more courses and graduate faster. Without it, I don’t think I would have been able to continue my education.”

Starting … Stopping … Starting (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from: Community College of Allegheny County, Featured Alumni Profile, retrieved 5.3.11) Read the rest of this entry »