Peer Perspective: The Women's Center
- West Chester University
West Chester University, the second-largest institution in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education, is located outside Philadelphia and has roots going back to 1812. Serving a diverse student body of over 13,000 undergraduates, West Chester has welcomed and supported non-traditional women students through a variety of resources, including a Women's Center. The Newcombe Foundation has been pleased to partner with West Chester in providing scholarships for mature women students since 1982.
Kelly Crodian, Peer Educator at The Women's Center of West Chester University and current non-traditional student, writes the following article:
When Dr. Adale Sholock became the Director of the Women's Center at West Chester University in January of 2009, she inherited a rich legacy of service to women students, including the Charlotte W. Newcombe Scholarship Program for Mature Women Students. Among the oldest campus-based resource centers for women, West Chester University's Women's Center was founded in 1974 to serve women students and advocate for their specific needs.
While the Women's Center was founded in large part to assist mature women students, Dr. Sholock noticed that very few non-traditional women students were actively involved in the Center as staff members, volunteers, or program participants."While this lack of campus involvement is more than understandable, it can leave these students feeling isolated not only from the larger campus community, but from each other as well," remarked Dr. Sholock. It is no surprise that responsibilities at work or home limit the amount of time that non-traditional students are able to spend on campus; this is even truer for mature women students who frequently face a disproportionate amount of childcare, eldercare, and home life responsibilities.
"A simple but powerful way to raise awareness about the issues affecting non-traditional students was to appoint several mature women students to positions from which they would have the opportunity for leadership and student involvement," explained Dr. Sholock. Mature women students, for example, were invited to join the newly formed President's Commission on the Status of Women so that they would be able to voice their concerns about the issues that affect them most.
In 2010, Dr. Sholock hired me, Kelly Crodian, to work at the Women's Center. My primary responsibilities are related to advocacy and resource development for non-traditional students, namely mature women. I created and now maintain a webpage for non-traditional students, which includes information about housing, resources for student parents, and resources for technology education. In addition to the webpage, I maintain two active Facebook groups, one for non-traditional students in general, and one especially for WCU Newcombe Scholars.
Personally, I do not have children or elderly parents to support. I don't have a mortgage or even a car. The greatest challenges that I encounter as a non-traditional student are emotional ones. I am ashamed of all of the time I wasted before beginning my college education, and I feel alienated from my traditional-aged peers. There have been many times that I have felt so overwhelmed and discouraged that I have seriously considered leaving school. However, during those moments of extreme confusion and self-doubt, I think of all of the other non-traditional students who are also struggling, and realize that through my position at the Women's Center, I am in the perfect position to help them. My commitment to my work as an advocate for non-traditional students is truly what motivates me to get out of bed in the morning, work through the difficult things in my life, and continue the work that is so important to me.
Dr. Sholock and I have worked hard over the last three years to establish a more expansive support network for Newcombe Scholars. Dr. Sholock explained, "The Newcombe Scholarship has always been a major source of financial support for non-traditional women students at WCU. It just made sense to build a community of Newcombe Scholars by creating shared opportunities to celebrate themselves, network, and acquire the skills that they will need when they re-enter the workforce as college graduates." This year Newcombe Scholars attended a seminar at the Twardowski Career Development Center titled "Career Development and Resume-building for the Non-Traditional Student." In the upcoming year, we've added additional career development seminars on salary benchmarking, wage negotiation, and online networking.
All of these actions are only small steps toward the involved, empowered, and confident community of non-traditional women students that Dr. Sholock and the Women's Center hope to see in the future. By connecting non-traditional students to each other and the resources available to them, and of course, with the continued support of the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, the Women's Center hopes to foster a campus community that truly serves, supports, and promotes the success of all of West Chester University's women students. I am proud of the role that I've been able to serve in improving the climate for other mature women students like myself.
For further information about West Chester's Women's Center, please visit www.wcupa.edu.
Note: Dr. Adale Sholock left WCU in August 2013 to become Director of the Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center at Vanderbilt University. The Interim Director at WCU is Alicia Hahn-Murphy.