Sue Angell '99
On being a non-traditional student: "I came to Oberlin in 1995, as a 22 year-old transfer student and the mother of a two year-old boy... determined to get the type of education that would help me raise my son as a single mom."
I came to Oberlin in 1995, as a 22 year-old transfer student and the mother of a two year-old boy. I had been accepted into the College of Arts and Sciences on a full scholarship, and was determined to get the type of education that would help me raise my son as a single mom. I'm not sure that my professors or administrators knew what to make of such a non-traditional student as myself, but they were determined to help me succeed and to lend their support in every conceivable way.
The next year, the then-head of the English Department introduced me to a new student from Cleveland. Like me, she was a mom. She matriculated at Oberlin and became an English major, but a long commute from the East Side -- and a second pregnancy -- ended her Oberlin career. My friend eventually did finish school at her own pace, earning a B.A. in English from Kent State University.
By the time I began my junior year at Oberlin, I realized that I was not alone -- a couple in the Conservatory had a baby and could be seen pushing the child in a stroller from class to class, while negotiating child care with their peers. Another student couple moved into my apartment complex -- she gave birth to her son during winter term and returned to finish out the rest of the school year. I met a single dad of three, who was even younger than myself.. Another student transfered to campus from a local community college, bringing her son along for the ride. By the time I graduated in 1999, I had met seven individual students (or couples) with children.
Now, those of you who have had children know parenting is an all-consuming task. Yet, this small group of Obies stayed committed to the pursuit of academic excellence throughout the earliest years of their children's lives -- and have gone on, from what small anecdotal evidence I have managed to uncover, to be successful in their chosen careers as well as in their parenting endeavors.
Going away to college is a fearless endeavor for many -- especially if you are a first-generation student, or are breaking the mold to pursue a liberal arts education in a family full of business majors. Becoming a parent takes a singular leap of faith, and a deep trust in your ability to persevere over the long haul. But combining the two life events while pursuing the highest form of academic excellence at a challenging institution like Oberlin? Well, that's just fearless. Foolhardy, maybe -- but fearless, nonetheless.
Submitted by Sue Angell '99
Our goal is to collect 1000 Oberlin stories, but we're not there yet. If you are an Oberlin student, alum, professor, or staff member, you can help by contributing your story.