Adele, Lois and Eileen remember when Marquette students were Warriors. They remember when the GIs from World War II returned to campus. They even remember when the student Union consisted of a broken-down couch, some books and a Nesco roaster.
Much has changed since these ladies attended Marquette a few years back, but the Jesuit ideal of lifelong learning remains, and is the inspiration behind the College of Arts and Sciences’ Alumni in the Classroom program.
Currently in its tenth year, Alumni in the Classroom allows alumni who have graduated before 1964 to return to Marquette and audit classes for free. This semester there are 27 alumni taking a total of 32 classes, Tim Simmons, Chief Alumni Relations Director for Marquette’s Alumni Association said.
Participants are expected to regularly attend class and complete readings, but are not required to take tests or turn in homework. According to the College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Association, alumni earn no credit through the program and participants must be Arts and Sciences graduates, be comfortable with the use of computers, have a desire to learn and have an open mind.
Simmons said the program was originally a suggestion of some Arts and Sciences alumni and is unique in allowing alumni to connect with current Marquette students.
“Alumni have fond memories of their days as students,” Simmons said. “They want programs that help recreate those experiences. More importantly, they wanted a program that promotes lifelong learning, a very Jesuit concept.”
The office of Alumni Relations works directly with the College of Arts and Sciences to promote the program, register alumni for classes and conduct orientation. Participants can choose from a list of English, Foreign Language and Literature, Political Science, History and Theology courses which have extra space.
Simmons says the program has no plans for expansion.
TECHNOLOGY, WAR AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY AT MARQUETTE
Although Simmons says that while adjustments need to occasionally be made for participants, overall feedback from the program has been positive.
“We have received comments from faculty and students that it is good to have their perspective in classroom discussions… the experience of having older alumni in the classroom has been rewarding.,” said Simmons. “Alumni do realize that their student counterparts are in pursuit of their degrees, and are respectful to add to, and not detract from this experience.”
Although there have not been any major program set backs, Simmons said many alumni do find the technological adjustment challenging.
“Technology is definitely the biggest change,” Eileen Johannsen said. “Everything is so much more interactive.”
Johannsen is a 1960 graduate who studied Latin and German. Johanssen earned her Masters in 1962 and then taught high school for 23 years before starting her own software business at 50.
Johannsen said she notices how the opportunities for women have expanded on campus, and is impressed with level of awareness of students in her class.
“Students today are much more with it than I ever felt with my peers,” Johannsen said. “They’re exposed to so much more in their young lives.”
Adele Hanson agrees and is continually impressed by students’ multi-tasking abilities.
“I could never begin to be able to do what students do now. When I hear and see what they learn and produce, I’m astonished,” Hanson said.
During a time when women mostly majored in nursing or education, Hanson stood out as a female engineering student in the 1940s.
“I felt very out of place taking classes in engineering,” Hanson said. “There were only three other girls taking classes with me.”
A history course on World War II might be interesting to Hanson, as she lived through the conflict and attended Marquette when the GIs returned to classes.
Hanson said she remembers taking classes in temporary government buildings that were put up to provide room for returning GIs, who were gladly welcomed back to campus by female students.
“After going through the war years with no boys, it was fun to have them back,” Hanson said.
To help returning students complete their education quicker, Hanson said a tedious trimester system was put in place so former GIs could get their degrees in three years.
“Men coming back were serious about getting their education, and were impatient to finish,” Hanson said.
The Jesuits played an important role as spiritual and academic mentors to students after the war—and went out of their way to help the GIs new to Marquette.
“Jesuits were extremely helpful to these guys. They bent over backward to help them get through,” said Johannsen. “GIs returning often had little high school preparation, and the Jesuits really worked with them to help them finish in three years.”
A DIFFERENT DYNAMIC
Both students and professors say alumni offer unparalleled perspectives and bring a unique dynamic to class discussion.
Dr. Barrett McCormick currently hosts alumni in his Chinese Politics class and said their presence makes class discussions richer and more interesting.
“Getting students involved in a conversation about the material is an important part of my teaching strategy,” McCormick said. “Alums have had experiences that the rest of us have not yet had and might not ever have. I think we all feel fortunate to have the chance to learn a little of their wisdom.”
Arts and Sciences junior Carlos Angeles said having perspectives from older classmates set an interesting dynamic for the political science course he took last year.
“I feel that his perspective was very valuable and gave the class discussion more depth,” Angeles said. “Their opinions matter because their experience and wisdom doesn’t come by very often, which gives students more conviction to participate in class… it’s exciting to see our own Marquette alumni still engaged in the Marquette community and still interested in academia.”
Alumni in the Classroom gets a 10 all around for Lois Wakeman, a 1948 English graduate, who was a member of the first class to graduate with an elementary education focus. Wakeman has been involved with the program every semester since its inception, making this her tenth semester.
“It gets a 10 exponentially,” Wakeman said. “It’s wonderful not only to keep learning but to be back on campus. We feel very welcome here.”
Wakeman said she enjoys the variety of courses for alumni, and has taken a broad range of classes while in the program.
“Sometimes I want to learn more about a topic and other times I want to take a class on something I’ve never studied before,” Wakeman said.
The ladies said they have enjoyed every aspect of the program so far, and were surprised that the Alumni in the Classroom is relatively unknown to the Marquette community.
“I absolutely love it and plan my social calendar around class,” said Johannsen. “It’s amazing how well we’re received.”
Lois Wakeman agrees, but would like to see the program expanded to other colleges at Marquette.
“People who thought of the program deserve a pat on the back,” said Wakeman. “We wish other colleges would open up to expand so other alumni can enjoy what we’re enjoying.”
Hanson said she knows other alumni from other colleges who would participate if the program were expanded.
“It would be good for people to be able to come back and see what’s new in their fields,” Hanson said.
Tim Simmons said the relationship current students build with former ones in the classroom is a key component to the program, and encourages students to be open to interactions with their alumni counterparts.
“They [alumni] are appreciative of the opportunity and truly view our current-day students as a key element in the experience,” Simmons said. “They like to hear the contemporary points of view, and share in the learning experience.”
Angeles said the program is something he would be interested in as an alumnus as well.
“Hopefully when I’m older, I’ll have some free time to return and take classes as well. Marquette really shows us that you’re never too old to learn.”