20130904nontrad open house (Tyler Brown)
(Photo by:Tyler Brown) Angeleta Hess, Melissa Weston and Chualyn Isakson eat and talk at the Queen of Hearts open house for the Nontraditional Student Center and Women’s Center.

The Nontraditional Student Center & Hourly Child Care and Women’s Center, both located in the Shepherd Union Building, Suite 322, hosted the Queen of Hearts Open House to kicked off fall semester on Sept. 4. Continuing the Block Party’s theme of Wildcat Wonderland, the centers were decorated with rabbits, Mad Hatters, decks of cards and especially queens. There was an assortment of refreshments, people to talk to and a drawing for prizes.

More than half of the Weber State University community is nontraditional. A nontraditional student is someone 25 years or older, married/divorced/widowed, or a parent. The center focuses on student support, from academic progress and social adjustment into the WSU community to assisting and encouraging students to utilize university departments, faculty and staff, programs, and student organizations.

“We have an open house every fall with the Women’s Center. We’re hoping to spread the word that we have a nontrad center here at Weber,” said Cathy Barrow, secretary for the Nontraditional Student Center. “So many students do not know about us. In fact, we always have students walk in saying, ‘I’ve been here two or three years and I never knew about your services.'”

The Nontraditional Student Center includes a computer lab with nine computers students can use for studies or personal needs (nontraditional students can use up to 40 sheets of paper each week for their printing needs), a small kitchen for those who bring their lunches or need to make something on campus, a study space and a child care facility. Purple Pals is a club the Nontraditional Student Center sponsors for children 17 and younger that offers free activities and costs $8 per semester for membership. The Davis campus also has a center for nontraditional students living in Davis County.

“Above anything else, we are a community,” said WSU senior Jayrod Garrett, a peer adviser for the Nontraditional Student Center. “We are here to support each other through the process of getting through school, having to take care of children, trying just to see that we can all actually find our own brand of success.”

Garrett’s main focus is to help students find what they need and work with their advisers in general studies and in their departments.  Nontraditional students might not be as familiar with the current school process as traditional students are, and that’s where the Nontraditional Student Center comes in, Garrett said.

The Nontraditional Student Center will continue to put on events throughout the year, such as the Family Homecoming Dance on Sept. 27,  Halloween in Nontrad on Oct. 30, and the Best Beard Contest, which will run Nov. 1–21. The winners of the beard contest will be awarded their prizes at the center’s Thanksgiving feast on Nov. 21.

Nontraditional Student Center coordinator Debbie Cragun urges everyone to visit the center and check out the different services and scholarships it offers.

“Nontraditional students are very involved with their education,” she said. “They believe in volunteering, they believe in giving back to the community. Many of them help their peers, and they are the kind of student who will go beyond just the degree. They believe in the holistic approach to their education.”

The Women’s Center played an educational video for students to watch during the open house while they waited for a volunteer to answer their questions. A total of 647 students used the Women’s Center’s services in 2012. In 2012–13 the center performed 1,717 sessions, and 78 percent were with students, 22 percent with non-students; 37 percent of the sessions/interactions were for one-on-one advisement, 46 percent were from students attending one of its programs, events or support groups, and 17 percent were from community collaborations or there for other various reasons.

Living by the motto “Advocate, educate, empower,” the Women’s Center focuses on visitors discovering strategies to handle circumstances such as finding community resources, networking with other women, staying in college and solving problems. It hosts national awareness months for breast cancer, domestic violence, sexual assault and women’s history at WSU. It also holds Survive and Thrive conferences for single parents and Women’s Empowerment events. With the center’s support groups, student engagement opportunities and a student advisory board, women’s advocate/program specialist Dorothy Hill recommends all women get involved.

Also coming up is the 10th Annual Women’s Business Conference on Sept. 24, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Shepherd Union Building. Women can register at WIBWE.com or visit the Women’s Center for more information.

Many of the women who come into the Women’s Center are concerned and feel as though they don’t have any options, Hill said.

“Optimism is one of the key things we offer,” said Women’s Center director Carol E. Merrill.

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