When Beverly Carter decided to retire after 14 years as a senior tax professional, her focus turned back to school. Now she exemplifies what it means to be a Rebel as she receives her first bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies — kicking off what she calls her “retirement career”.
Finding a community of students similar in age to her was difficult, so Carter was inspired to create a more inclusive environment for those who don’t fit into the age bracket of the traditional college student.
She has since helped grow a Facebook group from five people to 450 and served as the President of the Alliance of Non-Traditional Students.
Get to know Beverly Carter as she reflects on the experience of paving her own way as a non-traditional student.
What has been a highlight of your time as a student at UNLV?
The bonding experience I have had with other non-traditional students. There is something very different about returning to college later in life and finding others like yourself, comrades in arms. We can understand each other's pain and triumphs.
There are a couple of professors that have been outstanding in their ability to bring enthusiasm to the classroom and unwavering support in wanting students to succeed — Dr. Mark Padoongpatt, Dr. Valerie Taylor, and Dr. Helen Neill have impacted me greatly.
And the Capstone Cafe put on by students of the Hospitality College! What a dining experience!
What was something you learned about yourself during your undergraduate journey?
I am a bit tougher than I thought I was and that I can be an effective leader without thinking I am just because I truly believe in the cause. I never imagined I would help build a Facebook group from five to 450 and resurrect and grow a dormant student group to be the second largest on campus — but yeah, I did that.
Also, I find myself a much more vocal advocate for education now. Every Uber and Lyft driver I have hears my story. I try to plant seeds wherever I go. If I can, you can.
What does perseverance mean to you?
I never really gave it much thought before but I have heard the word used around me. I entered UNLV with enough credits that I expected to be finished in two years, it has taken me four. I just could not do five classes a semester, I failed a required math class three times. I changed my major and held a job for three of my four years here. I don't drive and the commute was 1.5 hours one way. I have had three major surgeries and health issues.
All this shifted my plans greatly but I was determined to finish so I just did what I had to do because I know the importance of having an education.
I think maybe perseverance is something in yourself you don't see in the midst of the travels but until you've come to the end of your journey.
Do you have any advice for those who are hesitant to go back to school because of their age?
To shut out the negative voices of others because that was my delay. People will tell you you don't need a college education, why do that to yourself at your age? They will look at you like you are crazy. I found people were more discouraging than supportive.
But they are not thinking of what's best for you; they are thinking about how their own insecurities. Tune them out.
And I was a bit concerned about sticking out, feeling like an odd duck, but after a while, I felt confident and in control. Also knowing how to meal prep, freeze, and reheat are essential skills to get you through finals.
What on-campus resources do you recommend for non-traditional students?
UNLV currently has great support systems for students. The Lied Library is amazing; I had no idea a library could offer so much.
Also the Academic Success Center, the Writing Center, and I can't say enough about CAPS (student Counseling and Psychological Services). The stress is real and with the lives of non-traditional students, I cannot recommend them enough.
But there is nothing specific to the unique concerns of the non-traditional student. Joining the registered student group, the Alliance of Non-Traditional Students, gives you a community just like you, older, parents, vets, formerly incarcerated, the not-straight-out-of-high school students. They are the second largest group on campus with a very active Facebook group of 450 members. Join them.
How can traditional students make the classroom more welcoming for non-traditional students?
Reach out, say hello, become a friend. Many students look for mentors outside of the classroom but you have a student sitting next to you that has real-world experiences and shared interests.
Also, be an ally. As many students are conscious of microaggressions and discrimination against marginalized communities — people of color, LGBTQIA, people for which English is not their first language — they should be alert and aware of the same of their fellow NTS students. Be conscious that often the conversation of diversity does not include that older student sitting right next to you.