Ryan Dawes came to Western feeling nervous. As a non-traditional student, he wasn’t sure if he would find common ground with traditional students.
“Making this choice is a lot different when you’re in your 30s than in your 20s,” Dawes explained. “I own a business. I’m a husband and a father.”
But during an event at his Fall 2015 orientation, Dawes heard Jessica Vogan, assistant director of Leadership, Engagement and Development (LEAD), speak about the Westerners in Transition (WIT) program.
WIT is a resource for any non-traditional student, meaning anyone who is married, has children, is over the age of 25 or a veteran. Dawes, who served eight years in the Navy, filled all categories. Dawes sought out Vogan after orientation and soon became acquainted with the program.
As a resource, WIT offers support for non-traditional students through scholarships, grants or simply by letting the students know the program is there.
“My hope is that it makes students feel welcome,” Vogan said, adding that she encourages WIT students to reach out to her if they feel they need support.
WIT has helped Dawes feel both welcome and supported, mainly through reminding him that he is not the only person going after this goal.
It’s an added bonus that Western has been more than welcoming to Dawes, something he wasn’t sure was going to happen. The university has been on Dawes’ radar for a while now. Before moving to Gunnison permanently, the Dawes family would often travel here to visit family.
“It was kind of a no-brainer,” Dawes said of his decision. “[Western is] very veteran friendly and has really cool programs and everyone has been super friendly.”
Through WIT, Dawes and many other students have been able to feel more comfortable as they earn their degree. If any non-traditional students are interested in the WIT program, they should email Jessica Vogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by her office located on the first floor of the University center in the LEAD Office 118.
Story by Roberta Marquette-Strain
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