By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—Kentuckiana Metroversity honored faculty, staff and students at member institutions with Outstanding Adult Learner awards during a ceremony at Spalding University in Louisville, Ky.
The recipients from IU Southeast were Margot Morgan, assistant professor of political science, Lavenia McDaniel, assistant to academic advisors in the School of Natural Sciences, and Katherine Beachler, a biology major and president of the Non-Traditional Student Union (NTSU).
Kentuckiana Metroversity is a consortium of eight regionally accredited universities and colleges, including IU Southeast, serving over 35,000 students as well as faculty and staff in the Louisville community. Criteria for selection of faculty and staff included an ability to recognize and address the unique needs of adult students, an awareness of adult learning styles and creative approaches in assisting adults in reaching their educational goals, among others.
In her keynote, Diane Reid, senior lecturer in communication studies at IU Southeast, compared life to a scavenger hunt. full of unanswered questions, a landscape familiar to adult learners.
“A non-traditional student’s purpose may not fit a traditional model—they may desire more unique and challenging learning experiences.,” Reid said. “However, because of their many obligations outside the classroom, they also desire a fairly predictable, structured environment to effectively manage their many responsibilities.”
Morgan was recognized for the many ways that adult learners were supported in her classes, and the ways she values their unique contribution.
“In addition to added responsibilities, adult learners also bring with them varieties of life experience that shape their approach to education,” Morgan said. “I see all of these things as strengths to be harnessed rather than as problematic deviations from the norm.”
Integrating this attitude into her teaching means not only accommodating the needs of student parents. It means building the classroom experience in such a way that it capitalizes on the special talents and capacities that adult students bring to the learning environment.
Morgan incorporates hands-on, team-based projects, many of which are based on problem-solving, and regularly “flips” classes so that the students are moderating the session themselves – strategies that leverage the real-life experience of adult students for everyone’s benefit. She also is faculty adviser for the Political Science Club, which opens possibilities for learning outside the structured classroom schedule, another instrument to engage adult learners.
“The contributions that adult learners make to the learning environment I seek to create are myriad, and I am grateful for their support and their expertise as students of the world,” Morgan said.
McDaniel encourages adult students to tap into their hidden potential, helping with requests, sometimes challenging them when they feel overwhelmed, always listening, often referring them to resource centers that can assist them, and following up to make sure students gain a sense of security.
“Adult students bring to the table a growing sense of maturity, awareness and an authentic desire to move forward in obtaining a degree,” she said. “Not just any degree, but one that will assist them in moving towards their desired goal.”
McDaniel is fond of applying mindful meditation techniques in order to facilitate clarity and calm among students looking to make big decisions.
Summing up her role with a quote from Mother Teresa, McDaniel said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
Beachler, a senior and recipient of a 2016 IU Southeast Chancellor’s Medallion scholarship, has triumphed over numerous hurdles and as a student leader, has used her platform to host events for prevention and education on serious issues associated with eating disorders and domestic violence.
“Adult students overcome many challenges and obstacles when returning to school,” she said. “Although I may continue to struggle with the challenges of the past, I have the support of IU Southeast’s amazing community.”
Kentuckiana Metroversity encompasses eight regionally accredited institutions including Bellarmine University, IU Southeast, Ivy Tech Sellersburg, Jefferson Community and Technical College, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Spalding University and the University of Louisville. There are over 35,000 students enrolled in Metroversity schools, some 500 of which take courses at other Metroversity campuses.
Homepage photo: Margot Morgan, assistant professor of political science.