Dana Sweatt of Fayetteville is what higher education refers to as a “non-traditional” student, basically meaning it has been more than five years since she graduated from high school.
However, as an undergraduate pre-business major who initially attended Clayton State University’s Clayton State – Fayette instructional site in Peachtree City, she is, in many ways, quite traditional. With an average student body age varying only between 26 and 28 over the past 15 years, Clayton State has long proven to be a destination of choice for “older” students. And now, with hundreds of students taking advantage of the convenience afforded by the Peachtree City site (and Sweatt is an example of this – she lives in Fayetteville but actually lives closer to Peachtree City), that trend is even more evident, especially in light of the current struggles of the American economy and the American public.
Recently, while waiting for an appointment, Sweatt took the time to type out a few things that came to mind with regards to her personal “non-traditional” student experience at Clayton State. She did so, she says, with the hope she can “encourage others in similar situations to come back to school to prepare for the new opportunities on the other side of this economic low.”
“I was in Training and Recruiting management within the same industry for several years. Having experience is great, but when the economy cycles, so do career opportunities. Since education level provides a tremendous resource as the initial gate-keeper for the best jobs in a competitive market, a new economy required a new plan.
“With my daughter off to pre-school, I began seeking out ways to re-enter the professional arena. One of the first rationales for my going back to school was the book Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success. By looking at high profile professional women that had taken time off for family, I realized the importance for more companies to recognize the enormous contributions that committed, family-focused professional women make and that the old stereotype of a corporation’s key contributors must be reshaped for a new advanced economy and work force. I did not want to be on the wrong side of this inevitable evolution, so with this new incentive in hand, I resolved that higher education was paramount. Finishing my education and ultimately achieving an MBA will increase options for me and my family, so I headed to Clayton State University.
“What initially attracted me to Clayton State was the new Peachtree City site. My first semester in PTC provided a comfortable re-entry back into school, a challenging curriculum, quality professors and a helpful staff. Differences were embraced as the norm and Clayton State’s faculty helped with scheduling and advising that best fit my needs. My reservations about going back to school quickly faded.
“For a full time student with a family, creative scheduling is important. The purpose of going to school is to enrich my family in many ways, and that includes spending quality time together. So the next semester I considered classes on the main campus, but not without anxiety as a non-traditional student in my 30s. Fortunately, ClaytonState’s blend of traditional and non-traditional students is exactly like most corporate work environments and is made up of a wide-range of ages, with everyone bringing a variety of energy, excitement and experience to the table. As a result, Clayton State’s diverse age group allowed my `main campus’ apprehension to subside.
“My responsibilities and schedule obligations outside of the classroom are plentiful, but feeling the buzz of the traditional activities on campus is nice. It also keeps me in touch with what my nieces and nephews will soon be experiencing so that I can at least pretend to be familiar with the latest trends. We are all at varying stages in our lives, age is only one difference, and Clayton State does an excellent job at allowing the integration of varying stages to be enjoyable and successful.
“As a non-traditional student, I consider every day in class as a major part of my career. It is my job to do well. School is not free nor does it provide a paycheck and the support and sacrifices that my family is making for me to be here full time is an enormous responsibility that I did not have as a traditional college student. Clayton StateUniversity provides the support, advising, and counseling that assists me in devising a schedule that can help me fulfill those responsibilities.
“The first time my three-year-old asked me if I have building blocks at my school like she has, my initial thought was no. However, after being at Clayton State for a year, I realize that she is correct. The tools I am receiving are indeed building blocks and it is my responsibility to build, which is the precise reason I came to Clayton State University.”
A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.