By Kim Patton
Nearly one-third of Wright State University students are considered non-traditional. Graduate student Jennifer Troutman is just one of them.
Many non-traditional students, like Troutman, often face different challenges than your typical out-of-high-school college student—work obligations or family situations that can make attending college full-time more difficult. But for Troutman, these challenges led her back to the classroom and eventually to Wright State.
The decision to pursue her degree came quickly after the life-altering experience of divorce and the added family dynamic of single parenthood. The mother of a 16-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 11 and 8, Troutman had to do some soul searching, after her nearly 18-year marriage ended, to figure out her next step.
“It was actually a blessing in disguise,” Troutman recalled. “I was forced to sit down and ask myself, ‘What’s next? How do I do this?’ The real reason why I felt compelled to pursue a degree in education in the first place was because I needed a career that could be compatible with my children’s schedules.”
After completing her bachelor’s degree in human services administration from Antioch University Midwest, Troutman had originally planned to pursue a master’s degree in special education at Antioch and become an intervention specialist. But when the master’s program was unexpectedly cut from the curriculum, Troutman had to find a new door to open.
The closure of the special education program gave Troutman the freedom to examine closer what she actually wanted to do with her life beyond the singular need of raising three children. As she explored her possibilities, she discovered the Student Affairs in Higher Education (S.A.H.E.) program at Wright State.
“The way Wright State supported and encouraged me through the entire admissions process was a way better fit than other universities,” said Troutman. “I appreciate Wright State’s program because of the widened diversity factor. It really has a broader range of students than most, culturally—commuter vs. residence, traditional to non-traditional.”
Now in her final year of graduate school, Troutman has no regrets about pursuing her master’s of education in the S.A.H.E. program.
“I love Wright State students,” she explained. “My cohort has made the experience fun and very encouraging. It’s given me more confidence in my academic pursuits, which at one point I greatly questioned.
Of course, balancing school, work, and parenthood is never an easy task. Despite the challenges, Troutman encourages other non-traditional students to return to higher education and pursue their dreams.
“My first piece of advice is to believe you truly can do it,” she said. “My second piece of advice is if you really want to hit that reset button, then get into campus life—immersing yourself into university life as much as possible will open doors and bring new things to view.”
Troutman models her own advice by working as a graduate assistant in the Office of Annual Giving, where she helps with phone-a-thon and the annual Wright Day to Give campaign. She also advises the ’67 Society, an undergraduate student group that promotes philanthropy at Wright State.
Before returning to school, Troutman had a long career in both commercial and public radio, so she feels right at home in a fundraising environment. She also understands the importance of supporting higher education.
“I would not be where I am if it wasn’t for scholarships,” said Troutman. “I would not have been able to take the time needed to figure out and pursue what I truly desired to do next.”
While Troutman has always taught her children about the value of a college degree, through her experience, they are now able to see in detail how education can impact someone’s life.
“Completing my education not only transformed my life, it saved my life and changed the trajectory of my children’s lives,” said Troutman. “It has a multi-generational impact for which I will forever be an advocate for higher education.”
When she graduates, Troutman would like to stay in the Dayton area and work at a local college or university in either athletic advising or pursue a job within a division of advancement. No matter where she ends up, she will remain passionate about helping young people succeed and encouraging others to support their dreams of earning a college degree.
“Those who place value on their own educational experience, have a direct obligation to help continue to pave the way for others who may have had a twist in the road, or not had that opportunity during early adulthood,” she explained. “I cannot think of a better way to pay it forward than by providing support towards an educational foundation, whether it’s at the beginning, middle, or much further into someone else’s life journey.”