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Non-traditional students left behind


CU Denver was once an oasis away from traditional college trends: dorm housing was nonexistent, “commuter” was used as a positive attribute, and campus facilities held a single purpose—to hold classes, which students would attend and then promptly leave, so that they could get back to their busy lives. The CU Denver of the past has evaporated: renovated buildings and new organizations have sprung up, targeting an incoming generation of students and leaving their old constituents in the dust.

Though the Learn With Purpose campaign was considered supercilious to many, the CU Denver slogan rang true. Students were here to do a single thing, really well: learn. The focus was on academics and career orientation alone. The distractions of more traditional campuses were far removed, and students came to CU Denver seeking that refuge. The absence of preferential treatment of athletes or the removal of Greek Life culture brought in a wave of people, looking to excel in an environment where academics was the complete focus.

Auraria Campus has undergone a facelift—buildings such as the library and North Classroom have received serious construction, and the arrival of the Student Commons Building broke ground. Not only have the facilities grown and shifted—programs on campus have developed and evolved. Students are now encouraged to stay on campus, long after their classes end. However, not all students feel like the target audience of such efforts to change the campus culture.

CU Denver now owns Campus Village at Auraria, and it’s the recommended housing option listed on the university’s website—now known as CU Denver Housing and Dining. What’s now been lynxified with Milo paraphernalia and CU Denver-friendly accommodations was once marketed as an adult-living experience, free from the nuances of a college life experience. It was sold as a grown-up transition, tailored to adult living. Those who lived at CVA as freshmen, now seniors, see the changes of how students are approached and interacted with, and they aren’t apart of it. They’ve been forgotten and left behind, feeling like old news despite paying just as much for tuition.

Suddenly it’s negative for students to go to class and leave immediately for work. There’s an expectation to be involved in clubs and student organizations that used to never exist beyond an OrgSync page. If students don’t immerse themselves in traditional college culture—by enjoying the Tivoli Quad, attending a mid-morning festival, signing up for a focus group—they’re looked down on, ostracized, and not as valued. These students are no longer a target audience for big changes; they’re not even being considered.

Those who pained through the musty green seating blocks in North Classroom and suffered through brief new student orientations focused on schedule-building rather than community building now walk through the new and modern buildings and are left to wonder, “When did this happen, and why wasn’t I a part of this?”

There’s nothing wrong with updated buildings and healthy spaces to learn. Outreach programs under the Office of Student Life and Campus Comminuty or student government that exist to better the lives of CU Denver students are good things. The problem lies in the students who were never approached, never asked, and never ushered into this new era of advancement at CU Denver. This new generation of sparkle and community appeared right before their eyes, though they never saw it coming.

One thought on “Non-traditional students left behind”

  1. Mark Richardson says:

    CU Denver must be a mighty small school if just the Campus Village dorm holds all the students that seem to matter to some people.

    The first university I attended only had 22,000 students and yet it had 26 different dorms plus married student housing on-campus, plus lots of fraternities off campus, plus lots of student apartments just off campus too.

    I am uncertain at this point in my life whether creating an artificial academic playground for young people that shields them from the real world is as beneficial as some make it sound, though my first experience in college, living in the dorm, meeting lots of new people, and partying excessively with them seemed fun at the time, even though it was detrimental to my education.

    I learned a lot of things other than academics though, like on that spring break trip to Daytona Beach more than 40 years ago with my newfound college friends, who would have known that my college experience would have included all we got away with there?

    Of the 4 major universities that I have attended I will say that CU Denver has been the most-rigorous academically. Western Michigan and Cleveland State were party schools, and Metro State was what you made of it, with plenty of opportunity to advance as well as to become distracted and fail.

    Here I am just one class away from a Master’s degree in Urban & Regional Planning at the age of 60, Thesis B.

    Of all the schools that I have attended my experience at the College of Architecture and Planning has been very positive. There are organizations for students to belong to such as APAS as well as Planners Network which help students establish professional contacts, whether at conferences, local planning and policy direction meetings, in the job-shadowing program, or at local professional happy hour events.

    At the age of 60 I am well outside the traditional college experience and yet I feel that CU Denver and College of Architecture and Planning staff have gone well out of their way to make all the students feel a part of the program as well as help them succeed.

    As such I disagree with any opinion that says that commuter, non-traditional, or working students are are their way out at CU Denver, as such students are probably more likely to succeed than some of the dorm students who have difficulty managing their time effectively and limiting their need to socialize as schoolwork must come first if you are going to succeed, both as a student and in the real world.

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