Course offers help for returning students

Jeremy Taff

Before she enrolled in a University class this fall, it had been 10 years since Joanne Emerson last studied at a college.
Emerson, a full-time employee at the University’s Office of the Bursar and the working mother of a 3-year-old daughter, enrolled in an extension class that had never before been offered at the University. The class, Returning to Learning: Learn How to Excel as an Adult Learner and Plan for College Success, helped her gain confidence and get back into the swing of college life.
“Being a single mother, I was nervous about returning to the school scene,” Emerson said. “But this course has inspired me to move onward in my college career.”
Holly Hart, who developed and teaches the class, said the course is designed to give students a realistic picture of their goals. The class helps students design an academic game plan for graduation and a way to keep themselves focused throughout the quarter.
Returning students usually have the desire to come back to school, Hart said. But bad first experiences with college, full-time jobs, fears, anxieties and everyday life events prevent them from doing it.
“This class is where you start,” Hart said, “and because it is an extension class and meets only one night a week, it fits into almost anyone’s schedule.”
The course uses self-exploratory projects, interest tests and career assessments to help students realize why they learn the way they do, Hart said.
After taking classes at the University right out of high school, Kelly Mens, 21, decided she was not ready for higher education. Three years later, she changed her mind.
“This was a great first class to come back to,” Mens said. “I was able to try many time-management techniques and choose the one that best fits me.”
Hart, a doctorate student in the College of Education specializing in adult education, said returning students are typically very self-directed and motivated. They often stress the importance of learning applicable ideas. She took all these characteristics of adult students and tailored the class to meet their goals.
Hart emphasized the need for lifelong learning, especially in today’s changing economy. “We have to keep our skills updated, now more than ever,” she said.
There is a changing situation in the workplace. The downsizing of companies, changing economy and the entry of women into the work force have sparked a need for adults to return to school.
Ted Iwaszek, who said he has majored in everything from anthropology to psychology and physics at the University, has returned to college several times since he first moved to St. Paul in 1977.
Iwaszek, 40, said he feels an incentive to find a major and stick with it is the positive effect it could have on his income.
The class will be offered winter quarter through University College Continuing Education and Extension.
Besides the academic growth opportunities this class offers, Hart said it is a chance for adult students to network with other adult students. “In group discussions, we are finding out that we are very much alike.”