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Video Transcript – Get a (Student) Life Podcast: Episode One

Zack: What’s something you wish somebody had asked you in a class or in any of your other experiences as a non-traditional student?

Gabrielle Moore: That’s a great question. Really honestly the most simple of questions. I would have appreciated anybody reaching out and saying “Hi what’s your name?” or “What brought you here, what’s your major?” Any basic, simple, curious question that’s authentic and I would return that and that’s like I said the building blocks, that foundational stuff.

[Title: Get a (Student) Life Podcast]

Ben: Hello and welcome to the Get a (Student) Life podcast, the podcast where we talk about all things student life and share student stories. On this episode we got a really exciting guest. We have Gabrielle joining us today, Gabrielle can you just tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do here at Boise State?

Gabrielle: Yes I’d be happy to, thank you so much for having me. So right now I am currently finishing up my Graduate Studies here at Boise State. I am presenting and defending my thesis project this month and then I’ll be graduating this summer, walking in December, and then I’m also a full-time employee here, a professional staff member at eCampus where I work with the program development team.

Ben: Awesome, thanks for introducing yourself. Cool, before we get into our conversation a little bit we’re going to start with a question of the day that we have, at our office we always have a random question that we share so we wanted to ask you one. Today’s question of the day is: who would win in a fight, is it gonna be Iron Man or Batman? The caveat here is they don’t have superpowers but they’re kind of rich and they have a lot of gear and stuff so kind of curious your thoughts there.

Gabrielle: Geez you know I have to reflect back on all the hours I put in watching superhero movies with my kids. I’m going to say Iron Man.

Ben: Why is that?

Gabrielle: I just feel like he can fly faster.

Ben: That’s what everyone at our office has been saying too, he’s got the boosters.

Gabrielle: Yes exactly.

Ben: Cool well I’m glad we agree there. Awesome, so let’s get into the topics we had planned out here. So when we were speaking earlier one of the things that really excited me about what you do for work is your kind of awareness about the non-traditional student and bringing that awareness to other people here at Boise State. Can you talk a little bit about your experience as a non-traditional student and what you’ve learned speaking with other
non-traditional students?

Gabrielle: Yes, that is my passion right now and it is the focus of my graduate project so I’m happy to share what I can. I returned to Boise State as a non-traditional [student]; I started here as a traditional student a long time ago and then returned here after my own daughter graduated from college, so that was in the spring of 2019 and I realized the minute I stepped foot on campus that I really didn’t plan for the emotional overload and overwhelming-ness that, being a non-traditional student, I was faced with.

There are a lot of barriers and mine are not unique, everybody faces their own barriers, traditional [or] non-traditional students, but it is a really overwhelming process and there are supports here at Boise State–which is great and I’d be happy to talk about those because I think they’re really important–but at eCampus as well as in my personal experience and project what I found is that there is a really big focus both with faculty and with student life on the traditional student experience.

And it’s super important, I have two kids in college and it’s really important to have that traditional college experience. However, there is a very large chunk of people on this campus that are not living on campus and dorms and have other demands on their time, other areas of attention that need outside of their academic life. And I want to just bring attention to that because a lot of them come from marginalized situations as do I and I want to give them a voice because I want Boise State to increase, as we grow, our awareness and helping those non-traditional students overcome barriers and see through their goals.

Ben: Totally, yeah I agree I think it’s really important that you bring up that point; that kind of initial touch point that students experience when they first come to campus they’re blasted with a lot of communication and help, their hands are held in a really supportive way.

Gabrielle: Yes.

Ben: But then as soon as that first year’s over there seems to be a little bit of a drop off with that kind of support and they’re kind of on their own and you know there’s a couple schools of thought there like at one side they want to be kind of independent and they want to feel that but the other point there’s also all throughout that student journey they need that kind of help and support. For non-traditional students are there any specific resources or events or anything that you know of that can help those students in their journeys as well?

Gabrielle: So there is the New Student Center which is a great help and it does have a guide available for students, The Writing Center was super helpful for me because when you’re a non-traditional student student you may have never written a research paper or it has been 15, 20 years since you’ve written a research paper and that goes for graduate students as well. It’s a free resource and easily accessible both in person and online. I also felt the Technology Center was a really important resource because it just is that non-traditional students are often the ones that are struggling with Canvas, with Google Suites and so forth so just to know that that is an in-person as well as an online tool or on the phone tool available. And then hopefully your department chairs and your professors are a great resource for you as well.

Ben: Absolutely, and something that we spoke about last time we talked was your dream to create a center of sorts for nontraditional students, can you talk a little bit about that dream and how you hope to achieve that?

Gabrielle: Yes I call this my magic wand project because this is my goal for Boise State, like other bigger universities, to have a Non-Traditional Student Center that’s someplace that you can go in person or online and receive support services, request a mentorship, request temporary help or just be with people that maybe feel like you or look like you or understand and are experiencing Boise State the way you do and to have that kind of commonality just like the traditional students have in their dorm rooms and in their sororities and fraternities and so forth.

Ben: Absolutely, yeah I’m sure that’d be very helpful. Thinking on your own experience, if you had something similar to that here at Boise State, how do you think that would help you in your journey here?

Gabrielle: I think that it would have helped me feel less “other than”, less stand-outish. Now I know that there are some barriers to getting– because a lot of non-traditional students attend online or at least partially online and time is an important issue there because a lot of their schedules have other demands besides just school– so I don’t know the answer to that but I would love to explore that I would love to see what we could do to support non-traditional students a little bit better. Like I said, Boise State’s doing a really great job because we do have such a big percentage of non-traditional students. We have a Veterans Center, we have a Student Access Center, we have financial emergency funds available and the [food]pantry, all those things, daycare, but for those of us that don’t have urgent needs but we’re still overwhelmed and intimidated it would be great to have somebody to say, “Oh I went through that last semester, here’s what I did.”

Ben: Totally, yeah.

Gabrielle: Because sometimes you aren’t talking to your fellow students in class as much.

Ben: Right yeah that totally makes sense.

Zack: Yeah because a lot of collegiate interactions take place outside of the classroom. You go back to your dorm and you study with other people who are in your class and if you’re a non-traditional student you go home to your family, or everyone has their own situation. It’s harder to find a mentor; you can’t just go next door and find somebody who’s one year ahead of you who took that course last year.

Gabrielle: Yeah and I really did feel like my presence especially in my first class which I was, I’m sure, hyper aware of everybody’s looks and their body language around me. I felt like I was intimidating, maybe, to the traditional student and so I didn’t get those first conversations. So a lot of what I do, like I taught a CTL Workshop earlier this year for professors so that we can help them also be a little bit more aware of what they can do to support their non-traditional students.

For instance, don’t ask students to pick a partner. I mean it’s a simple thing, but that will strike fear in the heart of somebody who feels like they don’t belong because then you’re waiting, you’re the last kid picked for kickball again. And so just little things like that and during my process I did interview a lot of non-traditional students and there’s just a lot of little things trying to overcome and create a safer space for them to be vulnerable, to be innovative, to speak out and to do their best at learning and focus on that.

Ben: I love that, that’s a really good point. I actually haven’t thought of that before but that idea
of picking a partner, it seems so menial but that is kind of a big deal in terms of just making people feel included, that’s definitely very insightful.
Something else we talked about a little bit: there was this kind of theme of fortitude, survival and all these other stories that you’ve learned from nontraditional students. Can you talk a little bit more about that, and you also spoke a little bit about the need to have a little more empathy within the classroom for those people because you don’t know what they’ve been through, and that’s true in life in general.

Gabrielle: Boy some of the stories that I heard during my interviews were just jaw-dropping and the amount of bravery that it took for some–I have one person in mind right now–to come back to
school. Some of these non-traditional students they’ve experienced a huge life change which is why they’re here and some of those huge life changes really knocked them down into the gutter. Not everybody, but certainly a good number of them. So it’s important to remember that those people are a little wounded, maybe a little tender, and to–I I teach also I’m adjunct
professor or adjunct instructor here at Boise State–and to understand that everybody
that walks in that door in your classroom has a different story, and to be empathetic and curious. I believe that curiosity is the foundation of empathy and if we can be curious and kind to everybody whether they’re traditional, non-traditional students just extend a little grace for
those who seem a little awkward or a little uncomfortable and just put ourselves in their shoes.

Ben: Definitely yeah that was a really big lightbulb moment for me when we were speaking earlier. I never really thought about the ‘why’ they were there, I just noticed that there were different types of students in in my classroom but I didn’t think about what life events may have had them show up in that in that position so that was definitely a big lightbulb moment for me so I really appreciate that.

Gabrielle: Non-traditional students have a lot more life experience; some of them have served in the military, some of them have raised families, some of them have experienced a huge career change, but give them a chance to share that information and it will be really enriching to the academic learning environment.

Ben: Absolutely. Something else that we spoke a little bit about earlier is highlighting the fact that DEI, diversity equity and inclusion, extends to other marginalized groups. So it doesn’t just extend to those ones that we always think of when it comes to gender and race and all those other ones, but there’s also age and there’s preferences in different groups that aren’t as typically highlighted. What’s some of the ways that we can kind of start to think about those other groups when we’re thinking about DEI Initiatives?

Gabrielle: I think that realizing that people that are other than us– Boise State’s sort of like a puzzle, we all bring a different different piece of the puzzle to the puzzle board, but it’s important for all those puzzle pieces to be here or we don’t have the whole picture of things– so just to remember that just because somebody looks like you doesn’t mean they are like you. And just because somebody looks other than you or talks differently than you or uses different pronouns than you doesn’t mean they’re different than you. What I do in my class when I teach is I try to get everybody talking together at some point–I call it speed dating–and almost every single time, each pairing will find something in common. That’s really important, and part of the thing that I encourage instructors to do is to get their students talking because the minute that your students are comfortable in their space, and feel safe and heard and seen, that’s when they’re going to contribute, that’s when their energy will be available to learn then, rather than
focused on their anxiety or their overwhelmingness.

Ben: Definitely yeah that’s a really good point too, being able to kind of close out all these other factors that you’re thinking of while you’re in the classroom; kind of like you were speaking about earlier having these feelings that you’re being watched or you’re intimidating other students. If you could block those out I bet your academic success would be a lot higher.

Gabrielle: Yes and that’s probably all imagined. I’m not saying that everybody’s staring at me, I imagine that they are staring at me. You always are worried how you appear, did I wear the right clothes or am I going to fit in. So just to be aware that somebody, and it may be a traditional student, might be feeling a little unnerved or anxious and just to be aware of that and to just say “Hello” and “How are you?” or just some sort of curiosity type question. Again, I’m a big fan of curiosity; I’m a big fan of Ted Lasso and Ted Lasso says be kind and be curious, not judgmental so I follow that.

Zack: Him playing darts with Rupert always comes to mind.

Gabrielle: Exactly.

Zack: You never know what
somebody has in their life experience.

Gabrielle: Right. Unless you ask.

Zack: What’s something you wish somebody had asked you in a class or in any of your other
experiences as a non-traditional student?

Gabrielle: That’s a great question. Really honestly the most simple of questions. I would have appreciated anybody reaching out and saying “Hi what’s your name?” or “What brought you here, what’s your major?” Any basic, simple, curious question that’s authentic and I would return that and that’s like I said the building blocks, that foundational stuff. And then by the time those questions get asked between fellow students, after a few weeks that space is a lot less anxious. It’s a lot less nerve-wracking to walk into that door or turn on that Zoom call and get paired into a private chat room or something like that. It just really helps to get those nerves out of the way so that you can start learning.

Zack: So is there something faculty or staff could be doing to help facilitate those interactions, be it within a class or other student life experiences?

Gabrielle: Yes, I believe that it does take intentional effort to do that kind of pairing, that kind of basic
building. Like I said the learning is really important, and our instructors are rightly focused on that, but is the learning happening if the person is anxious, if they’re still in that nervous state. So I think providing great resources on their website that show that they’re aware that you’re there–because they may not come to you, they may not be able to ask those questions or feel feel confident enough to ask those questions–so having great resources and then just making your class a safe, space your office hours a safe space; “Hey, if you have any questions…” you know, to really hone that in.

Zack: As a student did you have any professors who you thought exemplified doing this well? Or as an adjunct instructor do you have any colleagues that exemplify this really well?

Gabrielle: My professor and mentor and chair of my graduate project, Ashley Nichols, a lot of her students were non-traditional. She runs the conflict management program with the School of Public Service and she was super great about making us feel comfortable; making us feel comfortable with her and with each other. So I really appreciated that.

Zack: Wonderful.

Gabrielle: And I teach for her, so she does that in her classes and I’ve been able to learn to now take that into the classes that I teach for her.

Ben: I think that’s a really great point; I think it’s really encouraging to hear that there’s staff and faculty that are, to your point, their top priority is that teaching aspect but teaching goes deeper than just the subject matter. There’s also that social component and there’s that component of making everyone feel welcome, so I’m glad that that’s becoming kind of a trend of sorts within the classroom and hopefully that continues.

Gabrielle: I totally agree, I’m seeing a lot more of it, however I have a very limited view because my studies all existed within the liberal arts. I’m not sure what happens over in math and engineering and all those other things, but I believe that we’re headed in the right direction.

Ben: Definitely, agreed. We actually have a guest coming on in a later episode, so this kind of a shameless plug, but we’ve got someone who’s a woman in mechanical engineering and this is something that she speaks about a lot as well. In a similar sense to what non-traditional
students may experience, as a woman in that engineering group she also feels watched and she feels like she has to be really careful in the class about asking questions because she doesn’t want to misrepresent women in that subject matter. So we’ll get more into that with her but I think it’s really cool that that aligned with one of our future episodes, so we’re excited. Speaking a little bit more on that, how did you overcome that feeling of being left out by peers and your unique age? Was there anything that you did personally that would help you through that process?

Gabrielle: So a lot of what I did was overcoming one hard thing at a time. First it was Blackboard, when we had Blackboard, and trying to understand how that worked and Google Suite. And
then the more hard things that I did that were little, the more I realized that I could do hard things. So I built confidence doing the things, and just time. It was a lot of time, and finding a little bit of a circle of support and people that I could turn to that I could trust. I think that if
you were to ask Ashley, who was one of my first instructors when I came back to school and she’s followed me–or I followed her actually–through through grad school, she would say that I’m a different person now and it is because of just those little hard things that I did all along the way that built that confidence, that that next challenge I can take that on too.

Ben: I love that. That’s great advice just for life in general too, and for the professional world and the student world, whatever it is. Taking small challenges and defeating those challenges boosts your confidence like crazy. I’ve seen that in my life and I’m sure Zack you’ve seen the

Gabrielle: And it’s great to have somebody to remind you, because sometimes those challenges end your career or end your academic career because you don’t see them as overcomable. But there’s so many people that want to tell you, “I did it. It was hard, but I did it, and you can too.”

Ben: Yeah I love that. Great, well I think that leads us into the last question we have. Are there any pieces of advice that you can think of for students at Boise State, any last final thoughts about advice for students at Boise State?

Gabrielle: I think this may be a little bit repetitive, but be curious and kind. Curiosity, like I said, I believe is the foundation of empathy and all the research says being emotionally intelligent and being empathetic will make you a better leader in the community, in your career, in your family, in your friend group and as a student. So that is my focus, and also when I’m teaching that is the focus of my classroom, is I want my students to think less about themselves and more about others. Be curious, ask open-ended questions, and really authentically wonder where somebody’s coming from. This isn’t a competition; our hearts are different hards, all of our lives have different things to offer, but together we’re better.

Ben: I love that, and that wraps up our episode for today. Thank you for listening to the Get a
(Student) Life podcast and thank you Gabrielle so much for joining us, we learned a ton from you and I’m hoping that our students listening in also learned a lot from you. Stay curious and Go Broncos!

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