Counselor, Greater Hartford Campus
“I love adult students,” said Lisa Kroner, Assistant Director of Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) & Non-Degree Programs and a BGS advisor at the Hartford campus. “I have such an enormous respect for anyone who is juggling work and children and life and is still able to make those commitments. They tend to be so dedicated and so passionate about learning and even about the process of learning.”
Kroner knows a thing or two about balancing the responsibilities of academia and home life. Her arrival at UConn in January 2008 marked her return to work after spending five years raising her twins, a boy and girl. She will soon finish a three-year stint as president of the Greater Bristol chapter of the Mothers of Twins Association of Connecticut. The position recently resulted in her fielding media queries about “moms of multiples” in the wake of the California “Octomom” story, but it has also led to some extracurricular counseling. In April she spoke at the organization’s state convention, joining representatives from other local universities on a panel discussion called “Retooling for the Troubled Economy: Why Not Go Back to School?”
Kroner is a firm believer in the worth of a BGS degree, regardless of whether a student’s goals are a career change, an enhanced job resume, or simply a fresh direction in life.
“The enormous value is adding that broad liberal arts knowledge to someone’s technical expertise, which they may have from an associates [degree] or their current job,” she explained. “Problem solving and critical thinking are competencies that are helpful to anybody and move them on to the next level, whether it’s graduate school or advancement in their current job. Even if it is career driven, those skills are helpful and applicable to whatever you’re doing.”
The Westwood, New Jersey native has always admired people who are inspired to follow non-traditional career paths. Before she moved to Connecticut, she worked at medical schools in Philadelphia. “Even there, I loved the students who were going to medical school in their forties,” she recalled. “They always wanted to be doctors, but they got sidetracked or their parents talked them into being accounting majors or something, but they always wanted to do it. It’s exciting to see people following their passion.”
A later job at the University of Hartford, where she worked with both day and night-time students as a transfer admissions counselor, was a similarly good fit. “I’ve always been interested in that career change and ‘what can I do from here?’ kind of person. I really enjoy working with them.”
Few of the students Kroner counsels today return to school for identical reasons. “A lot of them have specific goals in mind, but they don’t always stay the same,” she said. “Some come in with no goal but to finish,” she said of her advisees. “It varies with the individual.”
While she advises adults whose interests range from nursing to business, Kroner reflected that choosing specific themes in the BGS program is often influenced by needs not fulfilled by traditional majors. “Our Society and Justice area is popular since UConn doesn’t have a formal criminal justice major,” she said. “I had a student last summer who was an administrative assistant in the parole office and now that she’s finished her degree, she’s training to be a parole officer. So sometimes there’s a direct result, which is really cool.”
As retirements and a shifting job market diminish the supply of qualified teachers, especially at the middle and high school level, Kroner also expects a greater interest in traditional English major courses. “The English (program) is going to grow because of teaching,” she said. “Teaching is a huge area. Even people who aren’t going to go on to their Masters will still want to finish their Bachelor’s degree so they can work as substitute teachers.”
Kroner is optimistic about the future for returning students, regardless of their original reasons for deferring further education. “Now that they’re on track, they can be straight-A students. It wasn’t their ability that was holding them back. And our faculty love working with our students because of the life experience they bring to class,” she explained.
“The BGS program is a fantastic opportunity for students who need a flexible schedule to pursue something they want to do and to reach the next step in their lives.”