Peggy Valdes is an exemplary undergraduate student and scholar, but returning to college as an adult presented her with a number of challenges. It was the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (BAIS) Program and Nontraditional Degree Programs that provided her with a path forward. It would have been a loss to the Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) community had Valdes not enrolled; she has emerged as a leader among her peers, highly respected by faculty and students alike.
“If it wasn’t for Nontraditional Degree Programs… I would have had a harder time envisioning myself as a college student,” Valdes said. “I thought because I had missed the boat after high school, it was going to be even harder to get in. The info session helped me see myself as an adult college student for the first time. I’ve since found out that nontraditional students make up more than 75 percent of all the students matriculated in higher education.”
Valdes double majors in Interdisciplinary Studies and Sociology and has achieved a 3.87 grade point average. She is an avid learner, committed to her academic and career goals, and receptive to guidance from advisers and mentors. Her research, conducted under the guidance of her McNair Faculty Mentor Dr. Brett Stockdill, investigates the factors contributing to the academic success of first-generation college students. In November, Valdes will present her research project at the University of Wisconsin National McNair Research Conference. Her most recent honor is acceptance into the distinguished ENLACE Fellows Program as she begins her graduate scholarship.
As a Latina, Valdes is a member of a group historically underrepresented in graduate education. Her goals are to achieve a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and to become a higher education administrator. In this capacity, she hopes to contribute to efforts to support the academic success of first-generation Latino college students.
When asked if she has any advice for NEIU students, Valdes responded, “There is an incredible amount of community wealth at NEIU. From sympathetic faculty who are themselves first-generation college students, to capable staff that will lend an ear and offer help if you take the time to ask for it. Another unrecognized resource at NEIU is the students. I’ve learned as much from them as I have from my text books and I’ve received support from students who know the challenges you face with a school load, work, and family obligations.”
Nontraditional Student Recognition Week is a national celebration held in the first week of November each year sponsored by the Association for Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE). It is a chance for member schools to recognize the support many campus departments provide and to celebrate nontraditional student success. As a part of National Nontraditional Student Recognition Week, NEIU’s Nontraditional Degree Programs is proud to highlight the accomplishments of this excellent student, Peggy Valdes.