TTU's Project Linking Lives makes campus leaders of nontraditional female students

Two female nontraditional students at Tennessee Tech University may have never before thought of themselves as campus leaders, but their involvement in last year’s Project Linking Lives began to change that.

Because of their involvement in the project — the purpose of which was to help ease the transition of nontraditional women like themselves into college — TTU sociology major Page Goad and psychology major Teresa Long recently attended the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders at American University in Washington, D.C.

In addition to helping them gain even more leadership experience, the conference also gave them an opportunity to represent the American Association of University Women, TTU and Project Linking Lives.

TTU’s Project Linking Lives was one of only 10 campus action plans funded last year through a grant from the AAUW’s Leadership and Training Institute, and it offered various resources — including peer mentors, workshops and a conference — to help potential nontraditional female students.

Equally important, however, was the leadership experience gained by the female nontraditional students like Goad and Long who made up the project’s team, said principal investigator Lachelle Norris, an associate professor of sociology at TTU.

Being able to attend the College Women Student Leaders conference served to further enhance that leadership experience, the students said.

“It was a wonderful way to network and share ideas with people from other colleges and universities,” said Goad, who served as the Tennessee AAUW representative at the conference.

Long, in fact, in her role as the CAP Project Linking Lives representative, led a discussion about the TTU project in a conference presentation titled “Women Helping Women to Succeed: Mentoring to Improve Women’s Economic Lives.”

The idea for Project Linking Lives came about when it was noted that no resources or services existed specifically for nontraditional students at TTU, which has resulted in a growing segment of that student population expressing feelings of isolation, invisibility and frustration, Norris said.

The Transitions Conference, which culminated last year’s project, attracted about 35 potential nontraditional female students to campus and directly resulted in several enrollments.

Thanks to TTU’s Project Linking Lives, those nontraditional students will still be able in coming years to take advantage of services provided by the Nontraditional Student Mentoring Center, located in Matthews/Daniel Hall, and a nontraditional student handbook has been created.

In the fall, Goad will continue serving as a coordinator for the Nontraditional Student Mentoring Center, a role in which her skills will be enhanced because of the opportunity to attend the recent Washington, D.C., conference.

“I learned skills there that I will be able to apply to every aspect of my life,” she said.

In addition to being a full-time college student and active with the work of the project, Goad also works part-time as an administrative assistant at the Upper Cumberland Dismas House.

Those combined experiences have “completely transformed my perception of leadership,” Goad said.

“There was a time when I thought of leadership as a dirty word because my impression of a leader was someone who steps on others in his or her climb to the top,” she said. “Now I realize that a true leader is simply one who wants to help meet the needs of others. There’s nothing prideful or boastful about true leadership.”

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