There are over 1,400 undergraduate students at Stony Brook who are over 25 years of age. They each share a number of life circumstances, including students who are also balancing parenthood.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment for students aged 25 and older has consistently increased from 2000 to 2011.
Commuter Student Services senior advisor and faculty advisor for The Non-Traditional Student/Adult Learners Association Emily Resnick recognizes that the non-traditional student experience is demanding, particularly that of an undergraduate student who is also a parent.
“Certainly it comes with its challenges, but I think it’s also an opportunity to support and inspire their children,” Resnick explained. Students she has spoken to find it an “enriching experience” that many of them share alongside side their children who are in school, whether they are in grade school or college.
Diane DeSimone, 47, is a history major and Judaic studies minor, president of The Non-Traditional Student/Adult Learners Association, an Academic Peer Advisor, Executive Board Events Coordinator of Phi Alpha Theta, on the advisory Committee of the Stony Brook food pantry and a mother of two.
DeSimone explained how she balances being of mother of two children, ages 10 and 15, while going to school and working part-time. She wrote via e-mail, “My kids are very supportive of me as long as they get their share of my attention! They tell me they are very proud of me and want to know about what I study.” She tries to set aside time to spend with each of her children individually.
She described how her husband of almost 25 years is encouraging and helpful. Despite his full-time position as a US Letter Carrier, he does helpful things, such doing all the food shopping.
DeSimone “greatly admires” non-traditional students who are single parents. She wrote, “The other non-trad students have made me appreciate my own circumstances. When I think to complain I realize how much tougher it would be without my husbands support.”
DeSimone sets time for her family, as they are her priority. She admitted that it does not happen without many late nights spent completing papers or homework assignments.
Resnick discussed how having support is key for students such as DeSimone. She said, “…a lot of the students that I’ve talked to that are parents have really developed strong support networks around them…family and friends who are rooting for them, willing to help them along the way if need be.”
Gregory Catzelis, 48, a mathematics major who hopes to teach, does not have children. However, he is the primary care giver to his parents.
He explained, “Tending to aging parents…those are my kids so to speak…” This includes caring for his father who has dementia, which is “very demanding.”
To balance his life in his second semester, but his first as a full-time student, Catzelis had to change his whole career in order to accommodate school and his other responsibilities, along with an hour and fifteen minute commute from Queens.
Catzelis is finding this semester easier to manage after receiving guidance last semester from DeSimone in academic advising and meeting other students through the Non-Traditional Student/Adult Learner’s Association, of which he is the treasurer.
Without his former “crazy hours” at work, he now has time to tutor high school students in math and is looking to participate in other clubs on campus.
Catzelis appreciates that he is meeting individuals from different backgrounds at Stony Brook, whether they are international students or classmates and instructors who help him “tune in to things you might not focus on.”
Catzelis enjoys being in classes with students of varying ages. He describes his teachers as “brilliant, young, passionate people.”
“It’s very contagious,” he said.