School of Continuing Studies celebrates, builds community

Lark Turner

In an effort to recognize students who juggle a full-time job, a family and schoolwork, the School of Continuing Studies held a week-long celebration from Nov. 2 to Nov. 6 to celebrate its nontraditional students and build community at the school.

SCS offers night classes at Northwestern’s downtown campus, making it convenient for students with jobs and families who live near downtown.

The week began with an athletics event featuring Willie the Wildcat and ended with a happy hour at a local bar.

“It’s to bring awareness to nontraditional students here on our campus, and to the School of Continuing Studies as well,” Director of Student Services Denise Ledsinger said.

SCS allows students to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as certificates. The average age of students enrolled is about 24, Ledsinger said. Another division of the school, the Osher Lifelong Learning Program, caters to retirees between the ages of 50 and 90.

“(Students) may have to step out (of college) for whatever reason,” Ledsinger said. “(SCS) allows them to complete their degree. Being an evening program, we’re more conducive to older students.”

The week also featured a study break at Crowe Cafe on Tuesday, the only event on the Evanston campus, a meet-and-greet with drinks Wednesday, an online resume workshop Thursday and a town hall meeting Friday.

SCS Senior Karen Komaravalli, vice president of the Student Advisory Board, said the week was a joint effort by the administration and SAB.

“We’re trying to make our students feel like they’re part of the Northwestern community,” she said.

Komaravalli, a 23-year-old who dropped out of school when she could not afford tuition, now has a full-time job and is taking night classes toward her political science major. Komaravalli said the SCS programs fit her lifestyle.

“I was a working professional, and (going back to school) was always in the back of my head,” she said. “It’s a world-class education that I could do on my own schedule.”

But Komaravalli added that she feels a gap with her undergraduate counterparts in Evanston – something the SAB hopes to address.

“It’s a constant struggle,” she said, “but I think we’re working to solve it.”

SCS third-year student Nanette Perez, who chose SCS because of its proximity to her workplace, said the disconnect with other NU undergraduates does not bother her.

“I’m not actively looking to be part of the Northwestern community,” Perez said.

Though she prioritizes her work commitments, Perez said she appreciates SAB’s increased efforts this year to reach out to students.

Komaravalli said the more individual nature of SCS may cause students to forget to interact with their peers. The week gave students an opportunity to do so.

“They’re actually a part of a bigger community in Northwestern and they really need to use that to their advantage,” she said.

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