Winter 2007 Stories
Evening & Weekend Studies Helps Workers Find New Paths
Rediscovering Your Talents
By Crystal Shepherd
Wrestling 100-pound blades and taming 40-foot band saws was all in a day's work for Lynn Aue, and she loved it. Aue was the first female saw filer at Weyerhauser's Aberdeen Lumber, a plant that employed 200 men and 15 women. "Previously, I'd worked at a local bank, and many of the men I worked with at the mill knew me from there," she said. "When I first walked in to the mill, I knew they didn't think I would last, but I did."
Aue had worked at the mill for more than three years when she and half the workforce lost their jobs - which paid solid wages and benefits. A casualty of Canadian imported wood products, Aue suddenly found herself unemployed. She also found she wasn't interested in returning to her previous careers in banking and management.
Aue got a job at the State Labor Council, where she began working as a peer advocate for her laid-off co-workers. From there, she specialized in trade laws, and developed an interest in career counseling and advocacy for laid-off workers. A 50-something mother of two, Aue had an associate's degree in custom apparel and design and previous management experience as a general contractor, but lacked a bachelor's degree. An academic advisor at Grays Harbor College, who was an Evergreen graduate, suggested that the Evening and Weekend Studies schedule might work for her.
Not only did Evergreen's schedule mesh with Aue's needs, but so did the mix of classes. She took Developing Minds, Nurturing Communities, offered in her backyard at Gray's Harbor College through Evergreen's Evening and Weekend Studies program there. This fall she will enroll in Prior Learning from Experience, a writing program on the Olympia campus that allows returning adult students with substantial work and life experience to earn writing credits by placing their experience in an academic context. The end result is that Aue plans to graduate with a bachelor's degree in 2008, just five quarters after beginning her studies at Evergreen.
Evening and Weekend Studies at Evergreen is designed for adult students such as Aue who are in need of retraining, and are also juggling families and jobs. Classes are geared toward non-traditional aged students, whether adult students returning to school after an absence or those attending college for the first time. "While classes at Evergreen are geared to help students develop for themselves a skill set to work in the real world, Evening and Weekend Studies classes offer these opportunities in manageable increments for students who have been focusing on other areas of their lives," says Corey Leneker, EWS outreach coordinator.
Classes that are suitable for students new to Evergreen, called Entry Points, are structured to be a good segue into the Evergreen educational experience and are printed in each class listing. Typical offerings include courses designed to help introduce students to academic writing and the college.
Adjusting to college doesn't need to be overwhelming. "If anything, it's been an opportunity to test myself by rediscovering old talents and reaffirming new ones," Aue says.
Students may "try out" Evergreen for a limited number of credits without formally enrolling in the college. Credits earned under this "special student" arrangement count toward graduation should a student decide to enroll at a later point. Whether pursuing a bachelor's degree or taking courses for professional or personal enrichment, Leneker explains, "Evening and Weekend Studies gives adult students the opportunity to take pause, and to explore and cultivate areas of interest they may not have had a chance to in the past."
Crystal Shepherd is a junior at Evergreen. She has lived and traveled widely in Central and South Asia and the Middle East. With an interest in food and linguistics, she hopes to work in agricultural rehabilitation in post-conflict regions upon graduation.