Gannon University

Posted on October 4, 2010

Building a Community of Mature Students

Located on the shore of Lake Erie, Gannon University is committed to providing a high quality, value-centered education in liberal arts and professional specializations to all 4200 students who attend. The university welcomes and supports nontraditional and Mature Students who often find their efforts to earn a degree complicated by work and family responsibilities. The Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation values the partnership it has enjoyed with Gannon University in providing support through scholarships to these deserving women.

Gannon University Newcombe scholar Jennifer Haywood is busy this semester working obstetrics at Hamot Medical Center in Erie, PA as part of her student nursing clinical placements. When she graduates with a degree in nursing in May 2012, she hopes to translate what she has learned into a well-paying, secure career as a healthcare professional.

Gannon University scholar Jennifer Haywood

Newcombe scholar Jennifer Haywood takes a blood pressure reading on a computerized “manikin” during a nursing class at Gannon’s Patient Simulation Center.

Health Professions have become the premier programs at Gannon. Nearly a third of Gannon undergraduates are now enrolled in programs in nursing, physician assistant, physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory care, or radiologic technology because employment trends in these careers are so strong. In addition to their clinical experience, students prepare themselves for patient care with extensive training in Gannon’s new patient simulation center. The “Sim Center” allows students to practice on computerized mannequin patients before they encounter the real thing. After Jennifer’s Obstetrics rotation, she will take her Adult 1 rotation, in which she will likely follow a cardiac, rehabilitation, or surgical patient, getting her first experience at planning and managing a patient’s care. Prior to this she will have had experience with health assessment and nursing competencies in the Sim Center.

Jennifer’s vision of the future was not always so clear. She had attended college right out of high school, but withdrew before earning a degree. Two years ago she struggled with the decision to finish her education. She was married, had a new baby, and full-time job as a bank teller. But she wanted to fulfill that commitment to her education and to help with the financial security of her family. So, she enrolled full time at Gannon.

Although most of the students in class with Jennifer are 10 years younger than her, some are 10, 20 or 30 years older. By resuming her studies, she has become part of a growing trend at Gannon. Women now make up 59% of the Gannon student body, and 27% of those female students are over the age of 25. While the number of adult women attending GU part-time has fallen by 14% in the past three years, there has been a dramatic 30% increase in the number attending full-time.

Gannon University

Health Professions faculty guide students through simulated patient care scenarios in the main simulation theaters. The virtual IV trainer is one of the many ways that health profession students can repeatedly practice critical skills.

Like many of these adult women students, Jennifer entered Gannon through its Center for Adult Learning, which guided her through the admissions process and the scheduling of her first semester of classes. The Center helps adult students make the transition to the academic environment. It helped Jennifer map a flexible schedule of courses around her personal and family obligations.

Having made the adjustment to full-time student, Jennifer now works as the Commuter Advisor in Gannon’s Returning to Education Adult Program (REAP). In this role she provides the same sort of guidance that she received to other adult students who are pursuing their education. One of her duties involves organizing activities on and off campus that build a sense of community among the adult students, most of them women. She has hosted special food events in the Commuter and REAP lounges, especially popular during finals period. Last year she also arranged for many of the adult women students to participate in a family tubing event at a local ski resort. The friendships created by these social events serve as a support system for the women as they navigate their college experience.

Gannon will be better able to support students like Jennifer thanks to two developments this past August. At the opening of the university’s new Student Success Center, Gannon President Dr. Antoine M. Garibaldi, announced that Gannon had received a $1.1 million Student Support Services grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will allow it to enhance its academic, career, and developmental advising. The venue for the announcement could not have been better, since the Success Center has now consolidated all student support offices in one location, making it more convenient for students, especially commuters and adult students, to schedule and receive support services. Evening hours four days a week also permit adult students to schedule academic support, personal development, and career planning service at times that fit into their busy schedules.

In recognition of growth in the number of adult women students, and inspired by their commitment and sacrifice, Gannon has identified the creation of $8 million in endowed scholarships as one of the major goals of its new fund raising campaign. At least $500,000 of that goal will be for endowed scholarships for mature women. Plans are to leverage matching funds from a lead donor to help individuals endow their own named scholarships for adult women students.

For twelve years, Gannon’s Newcombe scholarships have supported women like Jennifer to fulfill their dreams of an education. Working with the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation and its network of other Newcombe-funded colleges and universities has been a learning experience for Gannon. The exchange of ideas has raised our awareness of this unique group of students and the things that the university can do to ensure their success.

For further information, please visit Gannon University’s website.