Older students describe experience

UND offers support, activities, and scholarship for nontraditional students.

Although most students walking the halls of UND graduated high school in the past four to five years, there are many students at college who have been out of high school for much longer then that.

Some of these older students are happy to be back after a sometimes decade-long hiatus from the classroom

That is the case for Edward Burkardt, who is back at school studying aviation. Burkardt is returning to school after 28 years in the military and having already earned a master’s degree. Despite being away from his family, he is enjoying his time in class.

“We took a chance,” he said. “I stopped working, moved from Minot to here by myself, and I am focusing solely on the studies because I want to do really, really well.”

Unlike most 18-year-old freshmen, Burkardt said his past experiences leading up to his return to the classroom has led him to see his professor and peers in a whole new way.

“There is a lot of power for a professor, and it scares a regular student,” he said. “Because the professors are about my age I don’t see that — I see someone who has information I need. He is going to present it, and you are free to ask questions and interact.”

UND defines nontraditional students as those who aged 25 and older. Most often, these students are transfer, military, veteran or re-entering. The Student Success Center, located on the second floor of the Memorial Union, offers adult reentry coordination services.

Nontraditional students are also encouraged to meet on the third floor of the Union on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon for a program called “Coffee, Cookies and Conversation.”

Although Burkardt said he does not use the resources the nontraditional office offers too often, he always looks forward to the weekly meetings with other nontraditional students.

In addition to Burkardt, nontraditional student Marty Espersen also attends the weekly meetings, and said it is the one thing that has helped him come day after day.

“My very first semester here, I had one class Wednesday mornings,” he said. “I remember before the school year thinking how am I going to justify driving to Grand Forks for one class, and then I got the email about the coffee and cookies.”

Burkardt said he has made some good friends from the group and saids it gives him something to look forward to each week.

“The people I have met through Coffee are my friends,” he said. “There is a connection with people who are 22, but it is much more distant than those relationships with those who attend the coffee.”

Espersen said his past experiences in the civil engineering program have helped him along the way.

“I am able to relate things to my experiences and connect the dots,” he said.

Espersen has spent seven semesters here, and plans to graduate this year from the civil engineering program.

UND is recognizing nontraditional students such as Bukardt and Espersen this week with several events on campus starting today with an open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the third floor of the Union. During the open house there will be an announcement of a $500 scholarship winner, who will be recognized as the Nontraditional Student of the Year.

Mathew McKay is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].