IU Southeast celebrates Non-Traditional Student Week with Ethiopian coffee ceremony, school donations

4th November 2016

By Steven Krolak

(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—In the Adult Student Center, November is time to wake up and smell the coffee—authentic Ethiopian coffee, that is.

The Center is inviting one and all to a genuine Ethiopian coffee ceremony, on Thurs., Nov. 10 from 3–5 p.m., in University Center, Room 206.

Ethiopia is the historic cradle of coffee, and the ceremony honors traditional Ethiopian brewing and social customs.

The coffee ceremony combines three rounds of brewed coffee with food such as popcorn, peanuts or cooked barley. Over the past five years, the ceremony has become a tradition for the Center, a fun and social celebration of its collaboration with UniKids Inc., a Louisville, Ky.-based nonprofit that provides school supplies to children in developing countries, including Ethiopia.

During the entire week, “leftover” or gently used books, binders, backpacks, highlighters, rulers, pencils and other school supplies will be received from IU Southeast students, faculty and staff and donated to UniKids. The donation station is a table near University Grounds, in University Center. (A donation box is also located in the Adult Student Center year-round.)

The collection and the ceremony form IU Southeast’s celebration of National Non-Traditional Student Week. Sponsored by the Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE), it is a chance for the organization’s member schools—including IU Southeast—to recognize and honor non-traditional student success across the United States and Canada.

“Many of the members of the Non-Traditional Student Union are older and have children, so a mission which supports children is important to them,” said Kimberly Pelle, non-traditional students program coordinator and director of the IU Southeast Adult Student Center. “We’re all on board with supporting education worldwide, so we have a dual connection with UniKids.”

Senait Mareligne with children in Africa

Senait Mareligne (r) with recipients of donated school supplies in Africa. Photo courtesy of UniKids Inc.

The founder and director of UniKids is Senait Mareligne. A native of Ethiopia, Mareligne solicits the donation of new and gently-used school supplies from area institutions, and coordinates the mailing of these items to schools and charitable organizations in countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau and the Philippines, as well as schools in Louisville that have this type of need, such as West End School and the West End Math & Technology Project. Currently UniKids delivers up to 5,000 pounds of supplies to nearly 6,000 students.

IU Southeast’s partnership with UniKids dates back to a chance encounter five years ago. As Pelle recalls, she was attending World Fest in Louisville as part of the Culture Van experience organized by Campus Life. She ran into the mother of a former mentee, who introduced her to Mareligne and her vision for UniKids.

“We became fast friends, and have worked together since,” Pelle said.

As in years past, Mareligne will come to campus and brew the coffee in the traditional Ethiopian way.

“Our coffee ceremony symbolizes togetherness where time slows down as we gather and enjoy each other’s company,” Mareligne said. “We discuss issues far and near during the one to two hours it takes to complete the ceremony.”

The collection and ceremony are innovative ways for the institution to connect with non-traditional students and honor the unique contribution they make to the campus community.

“Non-traditional students enhance the diversity of the student population on campus,” said Pelle. “They have spent more years employed, they are managing households, some have military experience and they are raising children—because of all that, non-traditional students engaging in classroom discussions often view the world through a different lens and provide fresh perspectives for traditional students.”

Pelle, who recently received a Distinguished Service Award (professional/technical), attends the ANTSHE conference each year, and usually invites a student or two to attend the event. She has presented with the students at the conference for the past three years. At the upcoming 2017 conference in Kennesaw, Ga., she will be a speaker at the Ladies Tea@2 event, sharing insights on the women who have motivated her to be a productive leader. Pelle and IU Southeast student Amy Donahue will also present, in both a poster and academic session, on the topic, “Bring the Family Along: Engaging and Connecting Non-traditional Students and Their Families to the University and to Their Higher Educational Journey.”

Pelle’s ability to link the academic with the practical and the social is key to attracting and retaining non-traditional students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of non-traditional students attending college both on campuses and online is growing faster than any other demographic. Consequently, there is a growing demand for programs and services that focus more on this demographic, now more than ever.

For Pelle, that trend intersects with the constantly rising value that adult learners bring to campus.

“Through their interaction with non-traditional students, younger students are exposed to a  different world view, and become engaged in the adult students’ lives as classmates, work study colleagues, study buddies and friends,” Pelle said. “These bonds improve the overall holistic college experience, both inside and outside the classroom.”

According to Pelle, the collection connects non-traditional students with the larger mission of the university, and also provides a way for them to have an impact in the wider world.

“I think non-traditional students, who are so busy with school, work, homework and family responsibilities don’t have enough time for philanthropy or for volunteering, and this gives them a sense of contributing or being involved in the global community,” Pelle said. “Everybody wants to help, even the busy, and this gives our students a chance to show they care.”

ANTSHE is an organization that supports non-traditional students seeking to advance in their professional careers through furthering their college education. ANTSHE strives to attract students members to help them further their transition to receive an education by providing them with a support network, resources, and scholarship opportunities. ANTSHE provides support to academic professionals and institutions that support non-traditional students by providing professional development, publishing, and networking opportunities with an elite community of other academic professionals, and much more.

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