Summer Sizzles for Adult Students

July 7, 2005

Mary Baldwin University Baldwin Online and Adult Programs (Baldwin Online and Adult Programs) students Tracy Elliot and April Whitlow never lived in a residence hall as undergraduate college students. They didn’t have the chance to plaster the walls with pictures of their friends and magazine cutouts of music and movie icons. They didn’t get to talk late into the night with roommates about relationships or commiserate about classes.

Until this summer, when they finally spent a week on a college campus.

“We’ve been working hard, but the experience is amazing, and the food is great,” said Elliot, one of about 80 adult students on the main campus for Baldwin Online and Adult Programs Summer Week. Finishing her lunch in Hunt Dining Hall and wearing a pink Mary Baldwin T-shirt, she was the perfect picture of a fully indoctrinated college student.

For more than two decades, adult students who take classes at Mary Baldwin in Staunton and at regional centers around the state have been invited to the main campus for Baldwin Online and Adult Programs Summer Week. They have an intensive introduction to a course they choose – there were nine to select from this year – and instructions for completing the rest of the work by August 16 from their home or regional site.

Like Elliot and Whitlow, 36 participants lived in King Residence Hall – for many their first visit to the Staunton campus. Pam Jackson and Sherry Hudson joined Elliot and Whitlow for the trip from South Boston, Virginia, where Mary Baldwin’s newest regional center is just celebrating its first year. None of the group had been to Staunton before arriving for Summer Week, and they were eager to take it all in – and surprised by some of the campus’ hallmark features.

“We were planning to exercise after class, but after a few trips up and down those hills (on front campus), we decided we didn’t need to do that,” Whitlow laughed.

With about a year left to complete their degrees and teacher licensure, the group from South Boston signed up for Developmental and Diagnostic Reading Instruction and Practicum taught by Karen Amato, adjunct instructor of education. Amato has taught during Summer Week for about five years, and she enjoys hearing pupils’ stories about their experiences as students and as student teachers. Amato, a fourth-grade teacher at Westwood Hills Elementary School in Waynesboro, hung posters and student work on the walls, displayed rows of books, and put colorful carpets on the floor of her Mary Baldwin classroom to make it look more like her elementary school classroom.

Amato’s class is full, but others are smaller, giving students opportunities to pick their professors’ brains. Ed Petkus, associate professor of business administration, moved his classroom outdoors on a warm morning to extend discussion with the two students in his international marketing class. He engaged students Celeste Boley of Richmond and Cheryl Duncan of Charlottesville in animated discussion about international shipping practices.

Walter Ampey lives in Charlottesville and has taken most of the courses for his Mary Baldwin degree in political science online. He decided to enroll in Statistics for the Social Sciences during Summer Week for a “challenge,” and to speed his progress toward completing his degree.

“One of the most interesting things for me has been meeting people from the other regional centers,” said Ampey, who was at Summer Week for the first time. “Hearing about how they came to know Mary Baldwin and why they chose this school over others in their area has reaffirmed my decision to earn my degree here.”

Like Ampey, Baldwin Online and Adult Programs students often mention the flexibility of online courses, tutorials, and independent study, and personal attention from faculty and staff as their primary reasons for choosing Mary Baldwin’s adult program.

Image one: Baldwin Online and Adult Programs students in Professor Karen Amato’s Summer Week class play a reading retention game. Holding the ball is April Whitlow, a student at the regional center in South Boston.

Image two: Children’s books line the chalkboard in Karen Amato’s Mary Baldwin classroom.

Image three: Professor Ed Petkus (center) meets with Baldwin Online and Adult Programs students (l-r) Cheryl Duncan and Celeste Boley.