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RUE group forms board to enhance presence on campus

Friday, March 17, 2006

Though there are often fewer than 10 Resumed Undergraduate Education students admitted to the University each year, members of this segment of the Brown community boast a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences. With an average age significantly higher than most undergraduates – The Herald reported in October that the program includes 35 RUE students ranging in age from 25 to 50 – the RUE population contains students who are married, have children or have served in the armed forces.

Despite their unique stories, some administrators and student leaders feel RUEs are among the least visible students on campus and are at times separated from the rest of the Brown community.

“Students’ usual reaction is: ‘Who’s that old guy?'” said Jeremy Bedine ’07, a 28-year-old RUE student who served in the Israeli Army and previously attended the University of Colorado.

Bedine, who is the new president of the Resumed Undergraduate Students Association, said RUSA formed a board to initiate “a pretty wide-range agenda” with the goal of larger visibility in mind. The board will try to have a reception table at Commencement in May and is investigating the possibility of communicating RUE students’ own advice and experiences in collaboration with the Career Development Center.

In addition, Bedine is also working to become an associate member of the Undergraduate Council of Students to give RUSA a voice on the council.

Many of the board’s ideas remain in the planning stages. “I have not yet been involved in any proposals,” said Perry Ashley, executive associate dean for academic advising and support and dean of the RUE program. Ashley said he has spoken with Bedine a number of times and appreciates his motivation.

Still, “(the RUSA board) just had the elections and he’s brand new,” he said. “Maybe a year from now there will be a lot more” improvements, he said.

RUE students have often been the ones working toward increased visibility, but administrators have also made efforts recently to improve the program. Prompted by the urging of Teresa Tanzi ’07, RUSA’s former president who stepped down this semester to give birth to her fourth child, the Office of Campus Life and Student Services has attempted to increase its financial contributions to the program.

Though “Brown has shown that the RUE program is important … there are resource constraints,” Bedine said. Due to these limitations, there are no substantial plans to change the size of the program in the near future, said David Greene, vice president for campus life and student services. Previously, faculty have pushed to enlarge the RUE program, “but it has not been as involved” recently, Greene said.

Both Greene and Bedine said the entire Brown community can benefit from an increased presence of RUE students.

“We have something to contribute to the Brown community that other students don’t have,” Bedine said. “Overwhelmingly, those who have contact with non-traditional students have benefited from that contact.”

Greene echoed the idea that RUEs offer a unique perspective that benefits the entire University community. “It’s clear how returning students enrich discussion in class,” because “diversity of life experience really matters,” he said.

“For a long time there was hesitancy on the part of administrators to impose commitments on RUE students,” Bedine said. But “we’re not asking the school to be left alone. We’re asking to be involved,” he said.

But RUE students’ unique experiences can sometimes also hinder their on-campus visibility. There are 30 students officially enrolled in RUSA, but many of them “do have to prioritize,” Bedine said. He himself has to balance between on-campus commitments and time with his wife.

Despite these obstacles, “We came to Brown to play a part in enriching a community,” Bedine said.

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