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Published: March 21, 2018 Author: Traci Tillis

IRONTON, Ohio – Ohio University Southern student Stacy Griffing is taking a sign language course this semester that requires her to submit videos of herself telling a story by signing. Aubree, her three-year-old daughter, pops in and out of frame because she wants to play “movie,” too. Griffing said that balancing work, her 22-credit-hour academic schedule while being a wife and mother is a struggle. 

“I try to stay organized – sticking to a schedule is a must,” Griffing said. I also try not to be too hard on myself. In the grand scheme of things, if the dishes stay in the sink overnight or if we stay in pajamas all day Saturday it’s not such a big deal. I make sure to plan time for Aubree – she’s the most important thing.” 

Tyler Grubbs, a father of three, also balances work, school and family life. Grubbs says that he also keeps family first. “When I’m at work, I focus on work. When I’m in class, I focus on class. When I’m with my family, I focus on them and enjoy every second we have together,” Grubbs said. 

Southern Campus Associate Director, Student Resource Commons Robert Pleasant said that nearly 35% of students are considered non-traditional – over the age of 25 – and many tell stories similar to Griffing and Grubbs. “In fact, I would say that many of our traditional-age students are also balancing work, school and home life,” Pleasant said. 

Pleasant explained that Ohio University Southern works to identify the diverse needs of its student population. “We are always trying to identify potential roadblocks for our students and find ways to help them be successful,” Pleasant added. 

Some of these programs include financial aid, tutoring, services for veterans, accessibility assistance for students with disabilities, the Bobcats Share box for students with food insecurities, counseling, professor-led study sessions and events to explore community resources. 

Both Griffing and Grubbs have taken advantage of some of these options. Both have received scholarships and took advantage of the events on campus. Griffing credits the tutoring program with helping allay her fears about a statistic course she completed last semester. 

“I think just having these resources available and that support is there when I need it has been the biggest help,” Griffing said. “The faculty and staff here genuinely want to help you succeed.” 

In addition to these various efforts, My OHIO Success Network, an information and communications hub for students, faculty and student support staff to connect students with the university resources they need to successfully complete their degrees, was launched last year. The system allows faculty, across programs, to identify a student who may be struggling. 

Retention Specialist Ashlie Bailey worked to train Southern Campus faculty on the My Ohio Success Network. Bailey said, “Professors are able to identify patterns and see when a student may start to struggle. They can point these students to intervention resources earlier than ever before.” 

Associate Director of Nursing Mashawna Hamilton said, “College isn’t just about grades. It’s about the caring, human touch and convincing students that with hard work they can be successful. I’ve never seen a nursing program that reaches out to them the way ours does.”

“We aren’t successful unless our students are,” Hamilton added. 

Both Griffing, who will graduate in fall 2018, and Grubbs, who will graduate at the end of this semester, say that the benefits far outweigh the challenges of pursuing their degree. 

“I came here hoping for the opportunity to leave with a piece of paper that may get me an extra dollar or two an hour,” Grubbs said. “Instead, my time at Ohio University Southern has given me an appreciation of knowledge and education far beyond that. I firmly believe that because of my college education, I can be a better father and a better example of a man for my children. Ultimately, that is the most important thing I’ve been given by this experience.