Eric Armstrong and Jeffrey Salmon understand the extra challenges that adult and non-traditional college students face – as well as the extra motivation that drives these students to work hard and succeed. Armstrong is the director and Salmon the assistant director of NIU’s Military and Post-Traditional Student Services (MPTSS), an office that Salmon says “aims to be the one-stop-shop for our military and post-traditional student population.” Armstrong is a veteran, and he and Salmon both returned to school as adults, so they can relate to the unique experiences and needs of post-traditional students.
But what exactly does “post-traditional” mean? While the office and its adjoining lounge space welcome all NIU students, they focus on serving students who live off campus, commute from home, have children, are military students, are online learners or are over the age of 24. “Many students don’t realize that they are post-traditional students and that they have a place here in Military and Post-Traditional Student Services,” says Armstrong.
Armstrong continues: “The number one resource we offer is one single place to come if students have an issue or concern. If you have a problem, either we have a resource or we will make the phone call to help you get the resources you need. We are here to see students from orientation through graduation.” Services offered include roommate networking, off-campus housing searches, veterans’ benefits, academic and career-related programs, and a lounge space with study tables, couches, lockers, computers, a kitchen and a TV area.
Salmon adds, “We want to be the home for students who do not have the residence halls to return to between classes or the residential life staff to assist with their transition to NIU.”
When asked about the unique needs of military and post-traditional students, Armstrong responds: “The age difference with other students can sometimes make these students feel out of place. Adjusting to college life can also be a challenge. For our veterans, they’ve been in something so rigid in the military structure, and then they get somewhere where it is not like that.”
Salmon emphasizes that, “Adult learners are some of the most highly motivated students you’ll find on campus. They are inspirations who balance work, life, family, travel and jobs all while focusing on fulfilling the goal to be college graduates.”
The question for these post-traditional students then becomes, in Armstrong’s words, “How do you fit into the university, and how does the university fit into the structure of your life?”
Both Armstrong and Salmon emphasized that – while navigating the campus and balancing work, school and family obligations can be challenging – students of all ages and backgrounds can benefit from the many resources, activities and communities available at NIU. “You are a Huskie!” Armstrong reminds post-traditional students. “Buy into it and utilize everything that comes along with it. If you don’t know who to turn to or where to find the services you need, just call us and we will help you.