Timothy Steen Receives First Non-Traditional Student ScholarshipThanks to generous donations, the first Non-Traditional Student scholarship was endowed and awarded this year.
Timothy Steen is a high achiever, who lives off-campus and has a part-time job. While that may sound pretty typical for a University of Arkansas student, what sets Steen apart is that he’s over age 25, married and left a full-time job to pursue his academic goals. In short, he is considered a non-traditional student.
Statistics show that increasing numbers of adult students, like Steen, are heading to college. The demands of a competitive marketplace have made a college education vital to advancement in many professions. When it comes to the issue of scholarships, many non-traditional and returning students may feel like there’s nothing for them. Interestingly enough, there are numerous scholarships and grants dedicated to helping the non-traditional student achieve his or her educational goals. These scholarships are funded by a variety of sources, including corporations, professional associations and colleges and universities.
At the University of Arkansas, the very first non-traditional student scholarship from Off-Campus Student Services was awarded this year to Steen, who has a 4.0 grade point average.
“I had always planned on completing my degree and after several years, I was finally at the point where I felt ready to balance work and college,” Steen said.
He cited his family’s encouragement and enthusiasm, particularly that of his wife Sara, as motivation for his goal of becoming a Registered Dietician. Steen’s father passed away in 2014.
“I always think about what my dad would say about my going back to college,” he said. “Being a public school superintendent, education was always so important to him—I think he would be very happy.”
Despite his full academic schedule and part-time job, Steen still manages to volunteer weekly at the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Campus Food Pantry. He said he was encouraged to get involved on campus and thought the campus food pantry tied in with his career goal.
“I thought it was a nice fit and I really enjoy helping people,” he said.
Steen, who calls himself a passionate runner, works part-time at the outdoor gear company, Fleet Feet. He enjoys training on the local trails and became a certified running coach in 2015. Before moving to Fayetteville, he had attended Oklahoma State University and worked on his family’s wholesale tree farm in Grove, Oklahoma. He said returning to college was always a dream, albeit an expensive one. He applied for the university’s very first Off-Campus Student Services Non-Traditional Student Scholarship in the fall of 2016 and received it in time for the current semester. When he got word that he was the recipient, he said he was very grateful and felt like a financial burden had been lifted. The funds have helped him immensely with tuition and books.
“I had always planned on completing my degree and after several years, I was finally at the point where I felt ready to balance work and college.”
One of the scholarships’ original donors, Alice Griffin, served on the Off-Campus Student Services advisory board for several years.
“It provided me an opportunity to learn first-hand the numerous challenges our students face while attempting to complete their studies, specifically our non-traditional students,” she said. “They are students, but they also often have competing responsibilities such as family, work, and childcare.”
She said often these roles compete and students are faced with financial challenges that impact their ability to study. Griffin, who is the Director of Curriculum Review and Program Assessment for Academic Affairs at the university, said non-traditional students rarely get access to the scholarship programs that are available to traditional first-year students, so it was an easy decision to make a commitment to the program.
“If the scholarship can help a parent with child care, help with a car repair, or provide support for textbooks, we are able to remove one obstacle from the goal of earning a college degree,” Griffin said. “It is an honor to contribute to such a valuable service to our students.”
Another contribution came from the university’s food service provider Chartwells, which added to the scholarship by donating proceeds from one of its vendors, True Burger.
“I always tell my staff and new hires, if we’re just serving food—we’re not doing our job—we need to be engaged in the education mission on campus,” Andrew Lipson, resident district manager for Chartwells, said.
Getting input from students led to the concept of “giving back” to the university, Lipson said. The projected proceeds from the scholarship partnership are expected to be between $20,000-$25,000 by year’s end. He said proceeds are rotated to other university scholarships each quarter. Off-Campus Student Services administrators started an emergency fund in 2010 as a way to help keep non-traditional students from having to drop out of college. With the help of additional donations and under the direction of Sue Harris, Student Affairs development director, the fund grew into a $25,000 endowment.
“We are very thankful to alumni, staff, friends and partners who have made this scholarship possible,” Harris said. “Without their support, we would not be able to present an award like this to such a deserving student.”
“It provided me an opportunity to learn first-hand the numerous challenges our students face while attempting to complete their studies, specifically our non-traditional students … They are students, but they also often have competing responsibilities such as family, work, and childcare.”
“I saw their passion for helping others and wanted to be a part of giving back while paying it forward to someone who needs the assistance … Giving is an opportunity for us to help in a needed area while hopefully inspiring others to do the same.”
One of those supporters knows full well the challenges of juggling college with home life. Debbie Blume said it took her 21 years to get her degree while working full time and being a parent. She was a non-traditional student who graduated in 2008 with a BSBA in Information Systems.
“My husband is a graduate, and he always encouraged me to persevere,” she said. “The year I graduated, we started an endowed book scholarship for non-traditional students.”
Blume, who currently works for the Arkansas Alumni Association, said she met Sylvia Scott, director of Off-Campus Student Services, and Susan Stiers, associate director, and immediately responded to what their office was doing.
“I saw their passion for helping others and wanted to be a part of giving back while paying it forward to someone who needs the assistance,” Blume said. “Giving is an opportunity for us to help in a needed area while hopefully inspiring others to do the same.”
According to national statistics, Arkansas ranks 48th among states in the college graduation rate. Only 39-percent of students who start college will manage to graduate within six years, as compared to the national average, which is 53-percent. Steen said he thinks the number one issue deterring adult learners is the funding for education.
“Loans are readily available but not everyone is willing to take on that burden,” he said. “Lowering the cost of attending or aiding in associated costs, like books, will go a long way in lowering that barrier.”
Steen said he would encourage other non-traditional students to take the time to consider applying for the scholarship and to look for additional opportunities that might be available within the Northwest Arkansas community. And, he said he is looking forward to the day when he can return the favor to his alma mater.
“Loans are readily available but not everyone is willing to take on that burden. Lowering the cost of attending or aiding in associated costs, like books, will go a long way in lowering that barrier … I am very thankful to have been chosen to receive this assistance, and won’t forget the generosity of those who helped make this award possible.”
“I am very thankful to have been chosen to receive this assistance, and won’t forget the generosity of those who helped make this award possible,” he said. “The endowment of this scholarship took some time to come to fruition but, in a way, it’s like many of our non-traditional students,” Susan Stiers, associate director of Off-Campus Student Services, said.
“It may take them a little longer, due to life circumstances, but the end result is still a reason to celebrate,” she said. “We’re so very happy that this scholarship can now help more adult students reach their goal of a college degree.”
Off-Campus Student Services, a department within the Division of Student Affairs, educates and advocates for off-campus undergraduates and non-traditional students at the University of Arkansas to advance their success at the institution through programming, services, and campus and community resource referrals.
The Division of Student Affairs at the University of Arkasnas is made up of more than 15 different offices and countless professional staff members whose duty is to provide for students’ basic needs, celebrate students successes, and educate students inside and outside of the classroom in hopes they will become, not only active members of the UARK community, but the global community. Student Affaris professionals guides students on their journey to personal, professional, and academic success.
Want to support students like Timothy Steen?
The Non-Traditional Student Scholarship has only just reached the first level in raising funds. For more information about giving to the Non-Traditional Student Scholarship fund directly, contact Sue Harris at 479-575-5007 or by email at email@example.com.