Winter Convocation Recognizes Achievements of Nontraditional Learners

Winter Convocation Recognizes Achievements of Nontraditional Learners

In December, at universities across the nation, graduating students walked down the aisle into the next phase of adult life. Of these degree-conferring events, the University of Oklahoma’s College of Liberal Studies winter convocation was notable for recognizing the unique achievements of nontraditional students. Held at Paul F. Sharp Hall at Catlett Music Center on the Norman campus on Dec. 10, 2011, the CLS winter convocation marked an important transition in these graduates’ lives.

In the audience at the auditorium, supporting the 63 bachelor's degree candidates and 65 master’s degree candidates who walked during the ceremony, were more than 600 of the students’ family members and friends.

“The excitement of the graduates’ families really made this a special event,” said Missy Mitchell, CLS special events coordinator. “Since these students are nontraditional, attending school part time to complete their educations, they require a support system of family members to help them succeed and finish.”

The need for that support system and the demands that the time needed for academic study can place on it hold true for Steve Herpolshiemer, 50, who received his first bachelor’s degree at the December convocation. An officer in the Las Vegas Police Department and a single parent of two children (he has a son and a daughter), Herpolshiemer enrolled at CLS to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Administrative Leadership, 25 years after dropping out of college. For Herpolshiemer, it was a challenge to balance study time with work, family, and finances. But he found that with the support of his family, he could focus on the greater challenge of completing his education.

“My biggest challenge was all the writing,” Herpolshiemer said. “I started out getting red markings on my [graded] papers. Eventually, I was receiving compliments from my professors on them. Many OU professors took great time to straighten me out on my writing from the beginning. I am a better writer for that.” James Pappas speaking at winter convocation

Mitchell added that at the December convocation the excitement of graduation defied the ages or educational attainment of each graduating student. In this way, Herpolshiemer’s story embodies CLS’s attention to the importance of continuing education for nontraditional learners.
“Even if you’ve received several degrees, each degree and each graduation have its own special significance,” Mitchell said. “Our M.A. students are just as excited to get their graduate degrees as they were when they were undergraduates. Any kind of graduation is always exciting for these students.”
Herpolshiemer’s experience confirmed this.
“I was floored that I could earn a degree from a respected university,” he said. He recalled first learning about CLS degree programs at a recruitment event held as part of an educational partnership with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
“A year and a half after I applied to CLS, I walked the stage to take my diploma. My kids were there to watch and that made it special,” he said.
Since 1960, the College of Liberal Studies has offered interdisciplinary education to lifelong learners. The winter convocation, where nontraditional students who have completed bachelor’s or master’s degrees are awarded their diplomas, recognizes these graduates’ successful completion of their education, benefitting from the mission of CLS to provide continuing education for lifelong learners.
Additional information on the College of Liberal Studies and its educational opportunities may be found at
*As of June 2017, the College of Liberal Studies has been renamed as the College of Professional and Continuing Studies.
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Michael Carter

Michael Carter contributed to college marketing efforts while working as a student writer.