The first day of school is one that many remember. That first day of kindergarten, the first day of high school and that first day of college. That day where you get lost, cannot find your schedule and are sure everyone is staring at you, that is, until you realize that the other students are the same as you, working hard for their dreams.
For a group of Wittenberg non-traditional students, that first day back in the books might have been daunting, but their commitment to succeed is unmatched and their determination to get that degree is unwavering.
They range in age from their 20’s to their late 70’s, and a lot of different situations have brought them here, but one group of non-traditional students, like many others on the campus, love Witt and the experiences it is bringing, including positive interactions with traditional students and professors alike.
In an effort to acquaint the Witt community with these students, this is a two-part series profiling a few of the non-traditional students on the campus, including their hopes and dreams and what they think about being back in school with the hope that it will inspire their younger counterparts and help everyone to realize we are in this together.
Kyle Arnold is a 26-year-old student who is also a member of the U.S. Army and has an Associate’s Degree in Intelligence Operations.
“I am a member of the United States Army and have been serving now for almost six years,” Arnold said. “It is because of the military that I have the opportunity to go to school and I am very grateful. My long term goal with the service is to serve my 20 years so that I can retire.”
He is an exercise science major and is loving his first semester as a Witt student and his classes. He is finding it hard to pick a favorite subject.
“It’s a toss-up between U.S. History and Intro to Exercise Science,” Arnold said. “History has always fascinated me and my passion lies in the field of exercise science. I hope to pursue an exercise science degree so that I can help keep soldiers in shape.”
Being a non-traditional student does have challenges.
“The most difficult part is trying to balance everything going on outside of school while trying to be successful in all my classes,” Arnold said. “Balancing a full time work schedule, military training, being a homeowner and going to school all at the same time has been the biggest challenge. But my dedication to the pursuit of a degree makes me much more determined to… push myself.”
Being older and returning to school has benefits.
“I believe that there are many benefits of being a non-traditional student,” Arnold said. “I can say that I have truly found my passion in exercise science and it has taken time for me to reach this point. My life experiences have helped me find my calling. As I’ve gotten older, I have found learning to be much more enjoyable as well.”
Traditional Wittenberg students have been welcoming, Arnold said.
“Some traditional students are shocked that I am not the same age as them because I look quite young, but all of them have been very friendly and treat me just like everyone else,” Arnold said. “I enjoy the traditional students because I love human interaction.”
Arnold does have suggestions for making the non-traditional experience better for Witt students.
“I would like to see some kind of social for non-traditional students that allows us to meet so that we can discuss ways of improving our experience while at Witt,” Arnold said.
Kyle offered some advice for traditional students.
“Education is very important and should be a priority in your life,” Arnold said.
Once he earns his degree at Wittenberg, Kyle plans to pursue a graduate degree at The Ohio State University. But for now, he is looking forward to graduation day at Wittenberg.
“I have dreamed about receiving a Bachelor’s degree since I was 14, so it will be the proudest moment of my life,” Arnold said.
Irene Bilal-Engle is another non-traditional student who is frequently seen around campus. At the age of 76, she knows a few things about following a dream. She is a history and psychology major with a minor in archeology who has been pursuing her dream for six years.
Bibal-Eagle has overcome a lot to be a Witt student, including what she describes as “financial, racial and personal challenges.” But that has not slowed her down.
Bibal-Eagle loves a lot of things about Witt, including her classes.
“I like history the best, although I did enjoy philosophy with Bailey,” she said, with her favorite class being “Hip-Hop with Bailey.”
Not only have professors been helpful, but Bibal-Eagle said the traditional students have been welcoming.
“Most of them are very helpful and encouraging,” Bibal-Eagle said.
While she loves the Witt community, she would like to see changes to the non-traditional or, School of Community Education program.
“Witt can plan more activities that are geared toward SCE students,” Bibal-Eagle said. “I really enjoy the classes, environment and professors at the college, but the SCE students need more consideration.”
She would also like to see non-traditional students be able to use the exercise facilities. However, she said, having reduced tuition for non-traditional students has made it possible for her to achieve her goals.
Bibal-Eagle shared some advice for traditional students: “Do your work.”
With hours of sitting at a computer and reading textbooks behind her and more ahead of her, they are words she heeds.
When she finally gets her diploma, Biba;-Eagle plans to “frame it and put it on my wall” and she says, her “plans are to volunteer to help underprivileged children.”
Bibal-Eagle expects to receive her degree in December of 2018 and is determined to walk with the rest of the students in May of 2019.
“I spent a lot of time (earning the degree) and I’m going to walk,” Bibal-Eagle said.