by MINA TAKAHASHI
Having served in the Army for eleven years, Fermin Iturbide never got a chance to finish college. Now 32, he wants to return and study to become a lawyer. Over the years, it has become more common for students to take a break from school and return later in life. Last fall, 110 students transferred to Drake University, and 50 started last spring.
While stationed in Des Moines for three years, Iturbide visited Drake a few times. When he decided to go back to college, he immediately thought about Drake.
“I’ve always heard good things about Drake,” Iturbide said. “When I got out of the Army, I was looking at becoming a lawyer and I was between the University of Iowa and Drake. I had friends who said ‘you need to go to Drake.’ So here I am.”
Iturbide had done some college work in the Army, but never finished.
“Coming to Drake, I came with one goal in mind,” Iturbide said. “I’m paying for not getting my bachelor’s degree sooner. Before, I was interested in something else, not finishing my degree. I need a bachelor’s degree to get into law school, and so I’m here to get a degree.”
Besides in class, Iturbide does not find himself interacting with other students because of the age gap.
“I’m not here to make friends,” Iturbide said. “I’m still adjusting, but throughout the semesters, I’ve learned new things from the students here. Students I consider to be kids. Now, I have a better mentality than when I came here. When I came here, I didn’t care about nobody. Just let me do the work, let me get my bachelor’s degree, and let me be out. Now it’s like ‘let’s see what happens.’”
Iturbide has also struggled to fit in the classroom environment.
“I don’t interact too much with other people,” Iturbide said. “The gap of experience is very visible. I might say something, and usually I get these weird looks. It’s all based on experience. I don’t know if they’re taking it as a good thing or like ‘that dude’s just weird.’ Hopefully, I say something based on experience and a student will learn something valuable.”
Jo Arbuckle, associate director of Admissions, said the number of transfer students, which also includes international and non-traditional students, varies each semester.
“The number of transfer students goes in cycles, and it’s related to other decisions and changes that have occurred,” Arbuckle said.
The Admissions Office also works with each transfer student individually, helping them create a personalized schedule.
“Recently, students have been more aware and conscientious about saying ‘I don’t really know what to do or where to start,’” Arbuckle said. “They might take some time off or take a few classes at a community college and that’s okay. We actually work with students individually on their plan, so it’s just one of those opportunities for students who want to save a little money because they are unsure of what they want to do.”
Natalie Bayer, associate professor of History, has had at least one non-traditional student in her classes each semester. She believes non-traditional students bring new perspectives to the classroom.
“Since I teach history, if there are non-traditional students who are slightly older, when I mention 9/11, some students might not remember just because of their age,” Bayer said. “It is very interesting to get the perspective of a person who experienced something that others have not. It’s very obvious to me that in many cases, I rely on non-traditional students to bring a different point of view.”
In addition to life experiences, Bayer also sees a difference in work ethic.
“In many cases, I find non-traditional students to be extremely motivated and task-oriented so they know what they need to do in order to take this trajectory through college,” Bayer said. “It’s a nice, refreshing feature. In terms of pedagogy, of course adult learners are slightly different in how they approach tasks in class.”
One thing Bayer would like to see is more awareness and accomodation for non-traditional students.
“Because of the multitude of roles that they are playing, they might not be able to take classes during the regular times, since many of them are working full-time in addition to being parents or caregivers,” Bayer said. “They might not spend that much time on campus, not be involved in extracurricular activities or sports, so there needs to be more conscious programming in how we make non-traditional students in a cohort, not just individuals who come here and just leave after they take a class.”
Although not involved in any clubs or organizations on campus, Iturbide wishes there were better programs and more recognition for veterans.
“When I came to Drake, there were a few veterans across campus, and they started a program called Drake University Veterans Affairs,” Iturbide said. “It’s a good group but it’s so new that the veterans are still adjusting to it. Their goal is sincere and it’s a good one. It’s to help veterans that are getting out transition to college life. In reality, society could be a lot better with veterans. So we gotta look at the bigger spectrum. Either we can start small here at Drake and then go big, or start big and then go small.”