Inter-Departmental Communication Central to Improving the Student Experience
The following interview is with David Godoy, winner of the 2014 Mary Cone Barrie Scholarship. Godoy is a student in Salt Lake Community College’s manufacturing engineering program and expects to graduate in May 2016. In this interview, he discusses his experience as a non-traditional student and shares his thoughts on how higher education institutions could evolve to better meet the needs of adult learners.
1. Why did you decide to leave Venezuela and come to the United States to pursue a credential?
Because of the quality of education and the possible prospective of finding a job here.
2. Was it difficult leaving family in Venezuela to come to the United States and pursue your education?
Yes, it’s part of everything. Part of my family was already here, part of them stayed there. I came with my wife and kids. For one part it was difficult but in the other part, I chose to be in Salt Lake City. I belong to the [Church of Latter Day Saints] and in my country and in my city, my church is a minority. But here it’s the whole culture. In that case it was easier; it was a relief to be in a place where my own religion is the general culture of the society.
3. Why did you choose to attend Salt Lake Community College to pursue your credential?
The part of my family that was already here was in Salt Lake City. Also, I found out through other friends that had been there already that I could study ESL [English as a Second Language] without taking the TOEFL [English proficiency] exam at the College.
The College provided me the opportunity to study English as a second language before the major and right after, so I had the opportunity to begin classes in the major.
4. What are some of the biggest challenges you face as an adult in higher ed?
I have found myself not understanding some of the words in the actual classes, for chemistry, for physics. And sometimes I think one of the main challenges is that teachers at the higher level assume what students should already know from high school.
Every country can be different for the secondary study level. That has been one of the main challenges. Teachers assume we have studied in a certain way and within a specific emphasis that I haven’t received [back in Venezuela].
5. Do you find it difficult to balance the demands of such an intensive educational program with the demands of being a father and trying to raise a family?
I’m always busy, but at the same time it’s not a problem for me to find time for my kids [and my wife]. I have to hurry with other things — with work, with homework; there’s a lot of homework in here, much more than back home. Homework is required at the College, which simply doesn’t happen in my country.
6. If there was one major change you could make at your college, what would it be?
Communication between departments [has been a problem]. I have gone to an academic advisor and they tell you to do one thing and then another, but then people in other departments don’t know a thing about your case and you have to begin explaining everything from scratch.
7. Is there anything you’d like to add about some of the challenges you’ve faced as a non-traditional student and what it takes for adults to really be successful in higher ed?
The first thing I would suggest is not to give up. Remember the benefits you’re going to have if you’re planning to stay here or go back home. Whatever it’s going to be, you’re going to have benefits after you have a degree in your hand. You’re going to feel that you did it. You’re going to be able to express that. That will open doors. Try to do one semester at a time, one thing at a time.
This interview has been edited for length.
Author Perspective: Student