Three days a week, Louise Dobson commutes from Westport to New York City to pursue a graduate degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism. Dobson, who graduated magna-cum laude from Fairfield University in 2003, is fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a magazine editor.

But it hasn’t been easy for this English-born, 41 year-old divorced mother of two boys (ages 10 and 12). Dobson earned her degree while holding down a part-time job with a publishing house in Westport, where she still works today.

“It’s been a challenging and rewarding experience, ” Dobson says. “At times it has been a struggle to keep up with the course load and manage a family, but my children see the value I place on education and are very proud of me.”

Lorena Morales, 30, is currently taking two daytime undergraduate courses and one online course at Fairfield, while working part-time, six days a week, as the art advisor and general manager of the Southport Harbor Gallery.

The daughter of Columbian immigrants, Morales is pursuing her passion for art while fulfilling her prerequisites for a bachelor’s degree and then a graduate degree in art history.

“My ultimate goal,” she says, “is to be a curator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art or a specialist for Christie’s in New York.”

A Polish immigrant, Stasia Wieczerzak, 29, has been attending college part-time and working full-time since she arrived in the United States 10 years ago. As the nanny for three children of the Crown family of Chicago (the owners of Crown Theaters),

Wieczerzak has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Caribbean and the United States.

Just 12 credits short of earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Fairfield, she already has plans to get her master’s degree.

“I just love to learn,” she says.

All these women are part of a new wave of adult students, enrolling in college degree programs to enrich their lives and enhance their marketability.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, these non-traditional students outnumber their traditional counterparts. Survey data on undergraduate diversity taken from The Condition of Education 2003 indicates that the “traditional” college student-white, male, 18 to 21 years old, attending college full-time, and living on campus-is now the minority in higher education.

Today’s college population is predominantly female and includes more students who are ethnically diverse, older and attend college part-time, while working full or part-time.

“Of the total number of students enrolled at University College, 62 percent are women, (of total undergraduate enrollment, 57 percent are women) and 89 percent are attending school part-time,” according to Phyllis Fitzpatrick, director of management information, at Fairfield.

Adult education has always been designed to meet the needs of the community. These students, particularly women, have changed the focus of continuing education programs on college campuses.

“The prevailing trend today is to provide more flexible opportunities and formats so that students can advance faster in degree programs,” according to Marge Glick, associate dean of University College.

These students are self-motivated and demanding. Their desire to learn enables them to overcome obstacles and propels them toward their goals.

Nancy VanDer Mark, 48, left a successful career as a corporate executive for a major cosmetic company in New York to work towards a degree in journalism at Fairfield.

“I have a passion for writing because of my life experiences. It’s like music inside me that needs to come out,” said VanDer Mark, who is confident in her career change.

by Jocelyn Popovici

Three days a week, Louise Dobson commutes from Westport to New York City to pursue a graduate degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism. Dobson, who graduated magna-cum laude from Fairfield University in 2003, is fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a magazine editor.

But it hasn’t been easy for this English-born, 41 year-old divorced mother of two boys (ages 10 and 12). Dobson earned her degree while holding down a part-time job with a publishing house in Westport, where she still works today.

“It’s been a challenging and rewarding experience, ” Dobson says. “At times it has been a struggle to keep up with the course load and manage a family, but my children see the value I place on education and are very proud of me.”

Lorena Morales, 30, is currently taking two daytime undergraduate courses and one online course at Fairfield, while working part-time, six days a week, as the art advisor and general manager of the Southport Harbor Gallery.

The daughter of Columbian immigrants, Morales is pursuing her passion for art while fulfilling her prerequisites for a bachelor’s degree and then a graduate degree in art history.

“My ultimate goal,” she says, “is to be a curator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art or a specialist for Christie’s in New York.”

A Polish immigrant, Stasia Wieczerzak, 29, has been attending college part-time and working full-time since she arrived in the United States 10 years ago. As the nanny for three children of the Crown family of Chicago (the owners of Crown Theaters),

Wieczerzak has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Caribbean and the United States.

Just 12 credits short of earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Fairfield, she already has plans to get her master’s degree.

“I just love to learn,” she says.

All these women are part of a new wave of adult students, enrolling in college degree programs to enrich their lives and enhance their marketability.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, these non-traditional students outnumber their traditional counterparts. Survey data on undergraduate diversity taken from The Condition of Education 2003 indicates that the “traditional” college student-white, male, 18 to 21 years old, attending college full-time, and living on campus-is now the minority in higher education.

Today’s college population is predominantly female and includes more students who are ethnically diverse, older and attend college part-time, while working full or part-time.

“Of the total number of students enrolled at University College, 62 percent are women, (of total undergraduate enrollment, 57 percent are women) and 89 percent are attending school part-time,” according to Phyllis Fitzpatrick, director of management information, at Fairfield.

Adult education has always been designed to meet the needs of the community. These students, particularly women, have changed the focus of continuing education programs on college campuses.

“The prevailing trend today is to provide more flexible opportunities and formats so that students can advance faster in degree programs,” according to Marge Glick, associate dean of University College.

These students are self-motivated and demanding. Their desire to learn enables them to overcome obstacles and propels them toward their goals.

Nancy VanDer Mark, 48, left a successful career as a corporate executive for a major cosmetic company in New York to work towards a degree in journalism at Fairfield.

“I have a passion for writing because of my life experiences. It’s like music inside me that needs to come out,” said VanDer Mark, who is confident in her career change.

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