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Summit targets adult students, those who assist them

February 18, 2009

An event designed to build support systems for Arizona’s adult college students, and adults who may want to return to college but aren’t aware of the resources available to help them, is set for April 3, at Arizona State University’s West campus. Community college and university faculty and staff members, along with business and community organization representatives, will join with adult students for the Experience Education Summit.

There is no admission charge for the event; the registration deadline is March 15. Registration information is available at ASU’s West campus is located at 4701 W. Thunderbird Road in Phoenix.

“Arizona is eighth in the nation in terms of the percentage of adults aged 25 to 50 who have completed some college coursework, but we are 38th in bachelor’s degree recipients,” says Experience Education Summit organizer Bonnie Wentzel, an ASU graduate student in communication studies. “Extending a helping hand to those who have started but not completed a bachelor’s degree could quickly make a significant impact on the education level of Arizona’s population.”

The daylong Summit is designed to elicit dialogue among a variety of stakeholders across a range of disciplines, Wentzel says. “Our goal is to produce concrete results in the form of new community alliances to support adult students,” she says.

The day’s speakers include Karen Poole, associate director of the Maricopa Community Colleges’ Center for Workforce Development, and lunchtime keynote speaker Carol Kasworm, professor and head of the Department of Adult and Higher Education at North Carolina State University and a nationally recognized expert on adult undergraduates in higher education. Kasworm’s appearance is made possible by the Maricopa Community Colleges.

Experts from colleges and the community will lead morning panel discussions that examine advocacy, resources and support for adult students. A team of ASU communication studies students will present facts, figures and a film focusing on the multiple-role adult student.

Breakout sessions in the afternoon will focus on topics including financing one’s education, professor-student relations, career options, balancing family and school, and mentoring the adult student.

“This event can help community groups and colleges learn about ways we can help each other support adult students, who tend to excel in college because they are bright, hard-working and well-organized,” says Vincent Waldron, an ASU professor of communication studies who is Wentzel’s thesis advisor. “For example, we want to spread the word about the Osher Reentry Scholarships that are available to ASU students.”

A grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation to ASU provides scholarships for adult students returning to school after a gap in their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Unlike many other scholarships, Osher Reentry Scholarships are available to part-time as well as full-time students.

“As Dr. Waldron and I discussed the need to make people aware of the Osher Scholarships, we talked about the fact that we probably aren’t aware of other available resources for adult students, and that discussion led to the idea of hosting the Experience Education Summit,” Wentzel says.

Numerous schools and organizations have become involved in presenting the Summit. Sponsors include ASU’s communication studies program and alumni chapter, the ASU New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, the Maricopa Community Colleges, and the Arizona Association of University Women.

Summit partners are the Arizona Commission on Post Secondary Education, the Maricopa Community College Center for Workforce Development, Helping Hands for Single Moms, the Arizona Students Association, and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at ASU.