When thinking of college students, many of us envision the traditional model: 18 to 22 years old, taking classes full-time, and still financially dependent on their parents. While local students may continue living at home, many students live on campus or in housing geared towards college-aged individuals. However, a good handful of undergraduates are considered nontraditional students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nontraditional students meet one of the following seven characteristics: delayed enrollment into post-secondary education; attends college part-time; works full-time; is financially independent for financial aid purposes; has dependents other than a spouse; is a single parent; or does not have a high school diploma.
In this issue’s Student Spotlight, we are featuring two nontraditional students that work in Michener Library.
Brigitte Oster began her education at UNC, stepped away, became a mom, and has now returned as a Sociology major with plans to attend graduate school. She dreams of becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist. Brigitte and her husband are both Greeley natives, and she is a first-generation college student. You can find her working at the main desk for Access Services in Michener Library.
Terry Adams also began a bachelor’s degree, had to step away, and has returned to school in recent years. She now has an Associate of Liberal Arts degree from Aims Community College in Greeley, with a designation in Sociology. She completed the Aims2UNC program and is now finishing her bachelor’s degree at UNC, studying Human Services with a minor in Sociology. She plans to complete an internship next semester, working with vulnerable populations at Aims. After graduation she hopes to work locally for the county or state, or perhaps with a nonprofit. Terry is relatively new to the Greeley area, although her mom and aunt graduated from UNC. She works at Collection Services in Michener Library, helping library users at various service desks.
Brigitte Oster began her education at UNC, stepped away, became a mom, and has now returned as a Sociology major with plans to attend graduate school. She dreams of becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist.
Brigitte was nervous about returning to school after being a stay-at-home mom. After doing remote learning during the 2020-2021 school year, she thought that working on campus was a good way to get back into the workforce. She is happy to be working at Michener Library, a place where she feels welcome.
“I feel like all of the staff members have been super great with me. Nobody’s made me feel dumb for not knowing something”—which has happened to Brigitte in other jobs.
The job is also a great fit for Brigitte. “I’ve always been a bookworm. I was that kid who got in trouble for reading in class and having a book on the playground,” she said. One of the challenges of the job, she said jokingly, is seeing all the new books come in and not having time to read them all. “I’ve been told so many times, ‘Well, that’s the perfect job for you!”
Being new to UNC, Terry wanted to get a work-study job to get involved in campus life. When she mentioned this to colleagues at another job, several of them advised her to check with the library. Cat, one of the student supervisors, was proactive in reaching out, interviewing her, and helping her get started.
“The library has a great reputation!” said Terry, who enjoyed the hiring and training experience. Working in the library has also been very beneficial to her as a new student. “In the library, you’re going to find out a lot about campus,” she said. In addition to being an information hub of the various ongoings of UNC, Michener Library also helps Terry succeed in class. During the first week, Terry learned that she now had a complex research project on her to-do list. “I’ve got to get ahold of a librarian, because look at all the research that’s going to come my way!” she thought to herself. Terry, who wants to work with vulnerable populations, may use the skills that she is learning as a work-study in her future career, such as finding demographic or socioeconomic data for any community programs she may plan.
On a normal day, both Terry and Brigitte assist library users with printing and inform them about the various services the library offers. They help their fellow students navigate the website, locate books, and retrieve journal articles. For more in-depth questions, Terry and Brigitte refer patrons to librarians.
Despite their busy schedules, both Brigitte and Terry still make time to read for enjoyment. Both praised Michener Library’s Current Reading area. Brigitte did not know about it prior to working in the building, but it is now one of her favorite parts of Michener. “I actually point people to it a lot, when they come in and they’re asking for something to read that’s not just course material,” said Brigitte. “A lot of people really enjoy that we have that.”
In addition to the current reading area, there are many other aspects of the library that both Brigitte and Terry would like students to know more about. Brigitte toured the UNC campus before enrolling; although the tour guides pointed out the library, they did not provide much detail. “I had no idea [about] all of the services we offer,” said Brigitte before she started working at the library. At first, she only came in to check out books, which she returned in the outdoor book drop. Now she frequently requests materials through Prospector and Interlibrary Loan, and helps other students use these services too. “I think one of the big ones--Prospector and ILL--I had no idea about that until I started working here...If a book I needed wasn’t here, I didn’t think that I could get it...that’s a big one for me.” Now, “I myself have done several Prospector requests for myself and for other students that have come in needing things and had no idea that we could do it.”
Terry, who wants to work with vulnerable populations, may use the skills that she is learning as a work-study in her future career, such as finding demographic or socioeconomic data for any community programs she may plan.
As new library employees, Brigitte and Terry learned about the variety of items available for students to reserve or check out, many of which they had not been aware of before. These range from electronics like cameras and disc drives to state parks passes to library study rooms. They now try to share this knowledge with fellow students whenever they can. Students can also check out laptops, which was helpful during the pandemic closure. Terry is a fan of the board game collection, “especially for when it starts snowing and you’re stuck in your dorm room.”
Terry also praised the Late Night Study program, which is especially helpful for nontraditional students (or those with nontraditional work hours). She stated that, for students, “What you find out [about the library] is going to make your life so much easier.”
The skills and knowledge these two students gain as library employees not only provide academic assistance, but they will also transfer to their careers in the future. At the same time, the library benefits by having great employees who are eager to share their knowledge of the library with others.
Brigitte and Terry wrapped up the discussion by offering encouragement to other potential nontraditional students. “All those folks who keep saying, ‘I should go back to school, I should go finish my degree’—if they only knew how easy it was!” said Terry. While acknowledging the challenges, Terry continued, “I wouldn’t have changed it for the world—it's an amazing experience.”
Brigitte kept her parting words to future nontraditional students short and sweet: “Just do it!”