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Many students older than 40 have friends and family to offer social support, but some of them may be looking for a peer group to relate to — not simply people their age, but people their age dealing with similar situations.
Weber Wise is a group for WSU students ages 40 and older. The founders intend to eventually make it an official part of Weber State University Clubs and Organizations through the Nontraditional Student Center.
Martha Autrey, who finished her bachelor’s degree in gerontology last spring, came up with the idea to have a group specifically for students older than 40. She said coming back to school wasn’t difficult for her, but she realizes it could be for other nontraditional students, so she suggested the idea to the Nontraditional Student Center staff.
“We just want to make campus life conducive to that age group, because they have a tendency to feel like they’re isolated and they don’t have anyone to relate to,” Autrey said.
Weber Wise hosted an open house on Sept. 12. Autrey said the attendees provided evaluations, and that the feedback was helpful in determining the group’s current needs.
Debbie Cragun, the coordinator for the Nontraditional Student Center, said the open house turnout was surprising because so many attended.
“I’m recognizing that is a real need on campus, to have support for those students who are older — maybe coming back to school or just starting school,” Cragun said.
Additional meetings will be held on Oct. 3 and Nov. 14, both from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room 316 of the Shepherd Union Building. Each attending student will receive a resource packet.
The founders of Weber Wise plan on the group doing the same things other clubs and organizations do, such as meetings and social events. The first meeting will feature a guest speaker from the Counseling and Psychological Services Center who will discuss coping with campus life.
“I think it’s an exciting group, and we hope to support them academically; it’s really scary for many of them to come back to school,” Cragun said. “Math changes, the library — everything’s online. I mean, there’s so many things that are different, even if they had attended a university.”
Cragun said Weber Wise hopes to let its students know about resources such as math study groups, the Writing Center, tutoring opportunities and financial aid.
“We want to make sure they know all the resources that everyone else knows,” Autrey said.
Cragun mentioned specifically the Health Center at WSU as something many nontraditional students may not realize is available to them. According to the Health Center’s website, insurance is not required to take advantage of its services.
Autrey said she would like to get a career fair at WSU specifically for Weber Wise students, because some members of the group are concerned about what they’ll do with a degree once they earn it.
Cragun said she encourages students who fit the Weber Wise demographic to attend the meetings and workshops to see if they like it. She added that if students don’t like what Weber Wise is doing, the group seeks feedback to make it what the students want. Autrey said she wants the group to be for the people, by the people.
Since the group is still in its formative stages and details are still being worked out, its leaders are still determining whether Weber Wise will be available on the Davis campus.
Misty Hearnesberger is a senior majoring in social work who is not old enough to join Weber Wise, but she said she is proud to support the group.
“During spring semester, I will be the liaison from the Ogden campus to the Davis campus,” Hearnesberger said. “So I’ll be working with Martha to try to start it out there.”
Autrey said she feels there’s a gap between traditional WSU students and the older students, and that she would like to bridge that gap.
“I would like to have a discussion: a cross between the younger people and the older people,” Autrey said. “Wouldn’t that be a nice discussion?”
Students interested in joining Weber Wise or younger students who would like to support the group can contact Autrey or Cragun in the Nontraditional Student Center.
Hearnesberger said she is excited to see what happens with Weber Wise, because she doesn’t think the 40-and-older population gets enough of a spotlight. She said she believes the older students at WSU are special because the other students can learn from them.