Sue holds her diploma in one hand and her son's hand in the other.

On being a non-traditional student

Sue Angell ’99
“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 transferred 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.

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