Old Dogs, New Tricks

A blog for non-traditional students

Technological Hiccups

Okay, so I’m a complete bonehead because I forgot how long it takes to print a .PDF in the McMicken computer lab – I’m waiting for two of them (13 and 14 pages respectively) to print right now.  I am so embarrassed at the backlog of other people waiting at the printer.  I guess it’s a sign of old age that I forgot something so annoying, right?  *sigh*

But thinking about this technological faux pas, I realized that I hadn’t posted about the interesting observation/suggestion one of my traditional classmates made about the lack of comments on my blog.  She suggested that maybe the reason no one has anything to say here is because they don’t know how – making that oh-so-common generalization that we non-traditionals are completely hopeless with anything more complicated than a TV remote.  I’m mildly offended, but not surprised – it takes people a while to figure out that I actually have a fairly decent grasp on computer stuff.  Of course, it helps that the first computer I ever learned to use was an Apple IIe back in 1984 – and I’ve kept up as best I could ever since.

This land of unfair assumptions became clearer to me last night when I was roaming around the Internet on a Google search for non-traditional student forums (I’ve got to find someone to talk to, after all).  I came across a discussion between a graduate assistant, TA or whatever you call them, and a group of non-traditionals.  The TA made these sweeping generalizations that non-traditionals all want to talk about their experiences during the Vietnam War or ramble on about the good old days of Hendrix and Jim Morrison.  Um, I was born right after the US officially pulled out of Vietnam and as for the Jims, well I wasn’t alive in their heyday, but I appreciate ’60s rock as much as the next Gen-Xer. 

In response, of course, one of my nearer peers (a 38 year old I think) asserted that non-traditional students are much harder workers and less disruptive in classes.  Eh, I hate to burst his bubble, but I procrastinate with the best of them and let’s just say that I’m as easily swayed by my younger peers to gossip and whisper during a lecture as anyone.  Admittedly, since I’ve already messed this up once, I do feel obligated to put forth a better effort than I did the first time around, but considering that I only managed to pass Bowling my second quarter of my original college career, just what better looks like remains to be seen.

Alright, I had to cancel my print after the third time the guy who mans the desk here came over and asked me how much more I had left to print.  I’m off to my next exciting task – finding a book in Blegen Library – provided I can find Blegen Library.  In the three years I’ve been down here, I don’t think I’ve ever even walked past that building, lol.

By the way, check out my two new links – I found a website for an organization for non-trads in college and a blog hosted by another non-trad, this one from Western Kentucky University.  And if for some reason you really can’t figure out how to comment here, you can send me a messenger pigeon – I’m on campus Monday through Thursday normally, most of the time in McMicken.  I’ll keep an eye out for parcel-laden birds.  🙂

*** Danielle

February 20, 2009 Posted by | Generation Gap, Technology | 3 Comments

Don’t Waste Your Time Breathing Exhaust Fumes!

Not everyone has a long commute to school, but a lot of non-traditionals are commuters and given that we are already under a time crunch having all those extra responsibilities, it seems like a shame to waste the drive time twiddling our thumbs.  So I poked around on the web and found a few ideas about how to be more productive while you’re sitting in gridlock.  Some of them I’m sure you’ve thought of, or maybe even do, but there were some interesting twists on the tried-and-true activities that I thought might help.

  1. Learn new skills or a new language by listening to audio CDs/tapes.  Considering the amount of time you spend in your car – for me, it’s over an hour each day of class, which this quarter comes out to about five hours a week!
  2. If you can’t bear to add another educational experience, look into books on tape/CD instead.  I know that I don’t have nearly enough time to do any pleasure reading and that when I do have a moment to spare, there’s nothing I want less to do than read another book.
  3. Grab a bite to eat!  So, I’ll confess that healthy food is low on my list of priorities, but even if it is important to you, there are all sorts of options to consider.  Just grabbing a piece of fruit on the way out the door in the morning can ease time crunches, or if you need to grab dinner plenty of fast-food chains offer healthier options, like chicken wraps, that aren’t too messy to eat on the go.  Just skip Taco Bell unless you’re feeling really daring – inevitably, the day they put extra filling in your tacos and burritos is the day you’re going to eat on your way to an important conference or presentation – blop!
  4. Of course, there’s always the old stand-by: radio.  If you find disc jockeys annoying or run into that mysterious blanket of commercials that manages to cover all the stations you like, try our local NPR – 91.7 FM – or talk radio – 700 AM, 1160 AM, 1230 AM, 550AM – stations.  Or instead, you could just scan through the stations, and try a genre you wouldn’t usually listen to – there are plenty of options in Cincinnati.
  5. Get a voice recorder and use it to plan your day.  Reciting your to-do lists or capturing that great idea you get staring at a billboard can be a lifesaver.  Or, if you are a closet karaoke singer, just use the recorder as a microphone while you croon your way through the drive home.
  6. Because fiddling with technical gadgets while you’re driving isn’t always safe, there is an alternative to the recorder.  You can use your cell phone and http://jott.com/default.aspx to send voice mails that will then be converted into text messages for you by the site!  A personal transcription service, what a novel idea!
  7. Another tech-savvy idea involves using your MP3 player to catch up on podcasts.  Download a couple in the morning before you leave your house and you’ll have your own personal talk radio to listen to.  Even better, combine this idea with the idea of practicing a foreign language and download a podcast in Spanish, French or your preferred language – just make sure you don’t concentrate so hard on comprehending what’s being said that you lose track of the traffic around you.
  8. While I think it’s sort of futile to try and relax while you are facing bumper-to-bumper traffic, I did come across one fun little suggestion.  Splurge and buy yourself a car seat massager, either a battery-powered one or one that plugs into your carjack.

I also found a site that offered some safety tips for commuting.  Here’s a few basic suggestions, but for the full list go look at the site.

  1. Plan your route – make sure you take well-traveled, well-lit roads, even if that means adding a little bit of time to your drive.
  2. Keep your vehicle well-maintained.
  3. Have a decent spare tire, extra oil and a gallon of water in your car – for me, these are in the trunk.  More importantly, make sure you know how to change a tire, check and add oil and where to add water if your car overheats.
  4. Drive with your doors locked.  This might seem like something your mom would say, but given that crime seems to be on the rise around campus, it’s better to be safe than sorry – okay, that was definitely the mother in me. 🙂
  5. Get gas early in the day at a station that is busy and well-attended.  Make sure you are in line-of-sight of the attendant if you do have to stop after dark.

If you want some more tips, check this wiki, this article or this list – there will be some overlap and some adjustments you might need to make since they are mostly tooled towards work commuters, but it’s a good place to start.

Have any tips of your own?  Feel free to share!

*** Danielle

February 13, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | 1 Comment

Now For a Taste of Things to Come

In addition to the commuting story – which I’m still looking for some input on, by the way 😀 – over the next few weeks, I plan on talking about what job hunting, even with a degree, will be like in this economy.  Since I’m graduating in June, this is definitely on my mind, and from conversations I’ve had around campus, I’d say it’s worrying a lot of people.  I also want to open the floor for a little venting and ask for non-traditionals to share their top three pet peeves with attending college at this point in their lives.  Of course, if you’d like to flip that around and sing the praises of this approach to higher education, feel free.  Because I’m a single mom in addition to being a full-time student, I’m also curious how other student parents are coping to balance their own school work and that of their children.   Besides all that, I’m open to suggestions.  If there’s something you’d like to learn more about, or if you think I’ve overlooked a hot topic for non-trads, please comment or email me at daniellefrink@gmail.com.

*** Danielle

February 9, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | Leave a comment

Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh!!

Quick and dirty – it took me FOUR hours to get home from Clifton tonight, an hour just to get from Stratford Heights to I-75.  Thanks a lot to those who make the decisions on closing school at UC – I nearly peed my pants sitting in that nasty mess.  And forget about dinner – I’m getting ready to go nuke something right now.  Although I’m so hot right now, I might be able to cook my leftovers just by holding them in my hands.

*** Danielle

February 3, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life | Leave a comment

Aftermath (Part II)

I’m exhausted so this will be brief, but chockful of visuals 🙂  My 58-year-old mother and I didn’t get out to the driveway until 3:00 p.m. so we got less done than I hoped, but when all is said and done, I think we did a bang-up job – my aching arms and back agree.  Here’s the results:

two-hours-of-workicy-layerthe-two-layers-of-snowy-badness

darkness-fallsunburied-car

 

So I’m going to veg for an hour and watch American Idol – hopefully, I’ll be able to get up off the couch and get back to work 🙂

*** Danielle

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life, University Policies | Leave a comment

Aftermath

So, after going through freezing rain, sleet and another mini-blizzard, the sun is out now at my house.  I took my first trip out to the front yard once the snow had trickled back to the barest of flurries and look what I found!

 bent-but-not-brokenmy-poor-car

 We’ve gone through plenty of ice storms here, so the bent trees are nothing new – besides, we were without power for a week after the wind storm in September because some of the trees didn’t bend but broke.  What makes me feel completely defeated is that I know once the whole thing is over today, I’m going to have to go out and start trying to dig my way out. 

 As I watched the ice piling up on top of the three inches of snow we already had on the ground last night, I kept hoping that the freezing rain/sleet/whatever-it-was – can someone please explain the difference between all those words? – would let up.  I have had to shovel out this driveway more times than I care to remember, but the worst was last year after the horrendous snow/ice storm we had in February.  Multiple inches of snow are hard enough to shovel, but when you sandwich a layer of ice in between the snow, the job goes from an hour and a half to five or six hours of back-breaking labor. 

premilinary-measurementMy son wanted to know exactly how much snow we had gotten, so we tried to measure the depth of the snow on our back porch – but when I tried to stuff the ruler into the snow, we discovered that the ice layer was too thick to penetrate with his little wooden ruler.  So we just measured the snow above that rock-hard ice – three inches.  When I went out front to take those pictures, I grabbed our yardstick and managaed to stab through the ice – all told, it looks like a little over seven inches of precipitation.

Here’s my dilemma:  I have a ton of major projects due next week and at least one of them requires me to interview people in person.  That means I have to be able to get out of my driveway but in order to do that I’m going have to spend the rest of the day today and probably a couple of hours tomorrow (since sunset is only four hours away) to even think about getting my car out of the driveway.  I hate asking for special consideration from my professors, but I’m at the point where I either need a deadline push or a little flexibility in my interview format – accepting email or phone interviews instead of in-person ones.  And of course, other courses need my attention as well, so I’m going to have to carve out time for those as well – add on top of all of this that my son is sick – he had a fever last night of 103.5 degrees and that means he won’t be able to go to school tomorrow, even if they are open.  Oh, how I love winter quarter.  On the bright side, I got my email notification that I can register for spring classes on Friday – so, at least I have warmer weather to look forward to, lol.

Well, I’m off to grab a quick bite to eat before I start my herculean effort – wish me luck!  🙂

*** Danielle

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life, University Policies | Leave a comment

Isn’t It Ironic?

Given what I’m working on right now – this commuting thing – today’s weather may provide plenty of fodder for my classmates to contribute.  I have to laugh at the ridiculousness of UC cancelling classes until 10:00 a.m.  It’s a little after 9:30 right now, and I just took these pictures of my driveway to give you a feel for the absurdity of the idea that I’ll be in class today.buried-drivewayburied-car

 

The best part is that it’s still snowing heavily enough to make shoveling a complete waste of time; by the time I got to the top of the driveway, the bottom would be re-covered already.  And of course there’s the predicted wintry mix that will make driving all the more exciting later today.  So, I apologize to my classmates and professors, but I’ll be staying home today – and maybe tomorrow if this precipitation doesn’t let up so I can dig my way out. 

Anyone else want to share photos of their snow-covered adventures in driving?  Email them to me and I’ll toss some up here – I’ve got the time today 🙂

*** Danielle

Just a little postscript:  Does it seem odd to anyone else that the city of Cincinnati declared a snow emergency and UC still opened at 10:00 am?  Or how about the fact that Xavier, Mt. St. Jo and NKU all closed today, but not our beloved institution?  As I’ve been fervently keeping abreast of the weather from the safety of my basement bedroom, I have stumbled across articles speculating that Nancy Zimpher might possibly be leaving us for the State University of New York’s vacant chancellor seat – I’m pretty tempted to say, “Hallelujah!” and call it an answer to prayer. 🙂

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life, University Policies | 3 Comments

Calling All Commuters!!

I’m going to be writing about commuting over the next couple of weeks, and I need your help!  I’d like to look at the types of commutes we non-trads face to get to UC, and what – if any – additional steps or stops are involved.  I’m particularly interested in talking about the longest commutes, the most complicated routes and any commuting horror stories that you all have to share.  You can post your stories as comments here, or if you’d rather, just email them to me at daniellefrink@gmail.com – please include your first name, age and major, regardless of how you submit your info.

Thanks in advance – I’m looking forward to comparing traffic trials with everyone!! 🙂

*** Danielle

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | 1 Comment

Snow Daze

From the top of the driveway to the garage and back up to the street

From the top of the driveway to the garage and back up to the street

This weather is driving me nuts – it waits to start snowing in earnest until I’m getting ready to leave for school, regardless of what time of day that is.  I spent two hours Monday morning and an hour and a half this morning cleaning off my ridiculously long driveway (see photo collage), just so I could get my little front-wheel drive Cavalier up to the street.  There is no time of the year worse for commuters than the winter.  And of course the university’s policies on cancelling classes reflect one more way we non-traditionals are discounted or ignored.  My normal 35-minute drive to campus has been as long as two hours when the weather was nasty; the stress of driving in that kind of mess makes it feel like days of white-knuckling my way across a frozen bumper-car course. 

It’s not that I expect classes to be cancelled every time a white flake hits the ground.  I understand that missing even one class meeting can lead to as much as 10 percent of expected material being passed over in a course – in the case of those classes that only meet once a week especially.  But I wonder if the professors and administration ever think about how dangerous – or potentially expensive – it is to expect students who live off campus to make it to Clifton in awful weather.  I’ve lived in Cincinnati most of my life so I’m not unfamiliar with driving in the kind of slop we get in winter but now that I’m a mom I find that it’s a lot more nerve-racking – all those grown-up worries like paying for damages to my car if I slide into someone or off the road into a tree, or what would happen to my son if I were seriously injured (or killed).

I’ve got to wrap this up so I can start preparing my dogsled for the trip to Clifton – I have one evening class today, just in time to drive in rush hour both ways if I’m really unlucky and traffic is bad.  For all the commuters out there, non-traditional or not, drive safely and good luck this winter – here’s hoping we won’t have to miss any classes this quarter, unlike like the three or four days classes were cancelled last winter (which only happened after I was either already in Clifton or done for the day 🙂 )

*** Danielle

— Postscript to the story:  It was snowing like it meant it when I left for class Wednesday afternoon, so I left early.  By the time I got to Northside, it had completely stopped – at least until it was time to head home.  Between the break I took at 5:15 p.m. and when class was dismissed at 6:45 p.m., it had snowed enough to cover the sidewalks and parking lots in Clifton, making for an exciting drive home.  Thankfully, the roads were well treated – for the most part – but none so nicely as my own, which is pretty far off the beaten path.  Today’s ridiculously cold temperatures will provide a different kind of challenge – how to stay warm outside without broiling in class.

January 15, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life, University Policies | 2 Comments

Bed-Time

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like older students are getting the short end of the stick these days at UC.  The loss of dependent coverage in student health insurance has certainly put students with families in a tight spot.  Those who have small children and need accessible childcare will likely do better to check into their neighborhood daycare center – there is a waiting list for the UC Early Learning Center, which is not exactly conveniently located for West Campus students (see map).

But the final straw came last spring when UC announced their plans to close Morgens and Scioto Halls, the on-campus graduate and family housing.  While no one could argue that the buildings needed to be revamped to meet modern safety standards, the head shaking and grumbling really began when we found out that BOTH of these halls would reopen as traditional dorm housing, being rented on a bed-by-bed basis.  Even though I don’t live in Clifton, I was left scratching my head at the conversion from apartments to dorm rooms in buildings that have been home to graduate, international and non-traditional students.  The university is encouraging these student populations to return to Morgens and Scioto when the renovations are completed, but I have to wonder who thinks that is either a good idea or likely to occur.

When I returned to UC in the fall of 2006, I considered moving on campus.  The apartment-style housing offered in Morgens and Scioto was the only one I considered, since I wanted to bring my son with me.  Ultimately, financial constraints – more commonly known as being flat broke – kept me from relocating to Clifton.  I’m now at the point where I might have been able to afford the move, but the idea of trying to live in the communal setting of a dorm with my eleven-year-old boy is laughable at best.  Even if I were alone, I think I would find living with that many of my younger classmates to be too distracting.

Thankfully, the kindred spirits of non-traditionals – graduate students – are trying to rectify the situation.  The Graduate Student Governance Association (GSGA) surveyed 1,071 graduate students about the proposed changes to housing and the consequences of the rather late announcement in March 2008 that the halls would need to be cleared out by August 2008.  Based in part on the results of the survey, the Graduate Student and Family Housing Task Force submitted a housing proposal to President Nancy Zimpher on Dec. 1, 2008.  While the public version of the final report has not been made available yet, I obtained a copy of an earlier version through the GSGA’s website. 

          For an overview of the situation check out Madison Galster’s article on the report.

Not surprisingly, 96 percent of the survey respondents preferred apartment-style housing over the “bed-by-bed” model.  The bed-by-bed model would mean significantly higher rent compared to what residents were paying in Morgens and Scioto prior to the renovations, according to the report.  The increased rent would make this style of housing exorbitantly expensive for students with families.  In response to the cost issue, the task force offered two recommendations; rents in the new model should be equivalent to what residents were paying before (with a separate pricing scheme for students with families) and that students should be informed as to the required occupancy of their rooms before they sign a lease.

The second recommendation also relates to the concept of roommates, another consequence of the new model.  Common sense drove the recommendations of the task force in this regard; students should be allowed to select their own roommates, while students with families should be exempt from sharing their space at all. 

With the recent announcement of Stratford Heights becoming an official part of UC housing, rather than simply affiliated, I wonder if the plans for Morgens and Scioto might be altered at this late date.  Next year there will be a phenomenal increase in on-campus housing for undergraduates interested in dorm-style living.  But the websites for undergraduate and graduate housing at UC illustrate which group has higher priority – there are only recommendations for the graduates, either affiliated housing or private rentals.

All of this led me to wonder what other local universities offer their graduate students.  Xavier, Miami, Mount Saint Joseph and NKU seem to operate on the same presumption that those pursuing post-graduate degrees can take care of their own housing needs – affiliated housing and rental listings are all they have to offer on their websites.  However, heading an hour north on I-75, the situation seems to improve; both Wright State and the University of Dayton offer on-campus housing to graduate students that takes into consideration their needs – apartment-style rentals rather than bed-by-bed.

While I talked a lot about graduate students here, it bears mentioning that we non-traditional students generally suffer from the same issues and have a lot of the same needs.  In fact, I have found that in general I have more in common and am more comfortable with grad students than some of my younger classmates.  But I think it is obvious that we need to speak up about these decisions that negatively impact our college experience.  I worry that the recent changes in housing and student health insurance are just a sign of a larger change in priorities – it feels a lot like we’re getting the brush off here, and I think it’s high time someone explained why the university is focusing on the needs of traditionals and shutting us old farts out in the cold.

*** Danielle

January 11, 2009 Posted by | Student Life, University Policies | 2 Comments