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Posted by Sarah Roche on August 1, 2011
One of the projects I am working on during my internship with the Continuing Education and Outreach Office is compiling a list of Binghamton University recognized groups and organizations that are open to non-traditional student participation.
I often hear from websites, students and faculty that non-traditional students don’t participate in school organizations. I agree, to an extent. We are a busy group with a number of priorities pulling us in different directions, but non-traditional students are such a large and diverse group that there must be some of us who are interested in the many different groups and organizations offered by Binghamton University. For those of us who are returning to school in order to change careers, participating in campus groups can add to our resumes and experience as well as allow us to make contacts that will aid us during our career transition.
So why aren’t non-traditional students participating in groups? I can only answer for myself, but my first excuse is time. I don’t have much of it. But then, if I can make time to watch the Thursday night sitcom block on NBC, I can make time for a group that I think would be especially beneficial or enjoyable. With the technological advantages of Skype and online group meeting software, I am sure I could work out attending most meetings even if I couldn’t physically be there. Although a lack of time is a valid concern, it isn’t an insurmountable obstacle.
If I’m honest with myself, the reason I don’t participate in groups and organizations is because I am worried about the social aspect. Am I going to walk into a General Interest Meeting and be mistaken for the advisor? Is the dynamic going to change if I join? Will it be clear that I am out of place? Usually I can relate and bond with the other students in the classroom, but what if our age differences and life differences are magnified in a group setting. I already feel like the odd man out when I am in classes with people significantly younger than I am. I work hard to stop myself from feeling that way, but the idea of joining campus organizations magnifies that until I find some excuse (usually time constraints) to not attend a group general interest meeting that could potentially benefit me and my resume.
I don’t think I am the only person that feels this way. I think it would be beneficial to know which groups are open to non-traditional student participation before I attend a meeting and leave feeling deflated and old. So, that is one of my projects as I intern this semester. With the help of the Continuing Education and Outreach office I created a survey to send out to the head of each group to ask some basic questions about non-traditional student participation. I look forward to sharing the results with you.
What about you? Do you participate in campus organizations? Do you have the same concerns about campus groups? Have you found any groups that are particularly open to non-traditional participation? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I would love to get your take on the situation.