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JUNE PANEL | Placing Adult Students at the Center

By providing bridges between the academy and the job market, institutions can ensure that their adult students have the connections they need to find a job they will love after graduation. Photo by Andreas Levers.

By accommodating adult student learners, an institution is strengthening the student’s confidence of learning new things, satisfying the student’s career needs, and giving students a real sense of worth. Duquesne University has a unique learning program for adult higher education called the School of Leadership and Professional Advancement (SLAPA). The SLAPA was recommended to me as, by far, the most accommodating adult higher learning program in the city of Pittsburgh. From my own experience, a university shows its desire to see students’ success in their chosen fields when its programs are designed to accommodate its adult student learner’s needs.

One of the most effective ways Duquesne accommodates its adult learners, one that I love, is by requesting students to fill out a SES (Student Evaluation Survey). The SES is a survey for students to evaluate his or her experience in the class as well as evaluate the professor’s performance. It accommodates students in face-to-face classes as well as students online. This survey gives me the notion that my opinions are valued by the university. As my Biology professor encouraged the class to participate, he said, “Your participation in the evaluation of our classes and our instructors is a great service to the University and helps to improve everyone’s educational experience…your feedback is vitally important or identifying areas where we can improve how we teach and how we interact with you, our students. Each voice is necessary.”

Every university needs to express to their class of adult student learners that the student’s opinions matter. As the character Jerry Maguire played by Tom Cruise had said in the 1996 movie, Jerry Maguire, “Help me, help you!” The SES sends the same message to each student.

Another important element would be the kind of classes each adult learner is taking and class materials used for each course. I found these two combinations to be extremely beneficial to how I apply my studies. For example, I am currently taking Biology; the books, the professor’s lecture notes and slides are what help me understand the class topics. I commended my biology professor on choosing our class material because it did not read like an aerospace instruction manual. In addition to the professor’s class material, the students have access to class material online. Through the university’s online resource database, adult student learners have access to Blackboard where they can see any new announcements, homework assignments, or see their grade for that class.

Thirdly, another effective accommodation is the university having connections to the work world. It’s becoming more and more true that it’s not what you do, but of who you know. Getting your foot in the door is easier when someone is holding the door for you.

What I love about Duquesne University are the different connections the school has. I have been introduced to nonprofit finance directors, marketing directors, professional athletes, TV anchors, and executives of different venues, all while I am still attending school. The administration took the interest and time to expose me to successful people in different career fields. If I am not sure about which path to take, there is a career development department set aside for all adult learners. For instance, before a student graduates he or she can stop by the career center to discuss career options before graduating. The university is structured to help individual students feel comfortable and confident in any decisions made concerning his or her career paths. All of this has to do with elements of accommodating the students in adult higher learning.

Finally, the element of accommodating adult higher learning is LOVE. Duquesne University accommodates students that want to learn. This college fits who I am; it fits in my life schedule and many other adult learners. The administration and faulty are helping me grow more confident in my abilities, they encourage me to do my best, they make me think, and they help expand my understanding of life as an adult in higher learning. In part, being in love (or highly liked) with my school motivates me to keep trying. I believe the administrative and faculty members understand this passion to succeed, and they accommodate the passion in all adult higher learners.

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