STILLWATER — Hundreds of nontraditional students are invading the Oklahoma State University campus this month.
They can be spotted in groups of one or two dozen — wearing matching orange T-shirts — as they walk from the dorms to classrooms, where they are learning about everything from food science to firefighting.
In a veterinary medicine class, Lucy Ballew, of Tulsa, quickly masters the use of forceps to extract a foreign object from a simulated dog’s stomach.
It’s a two-person job, assistant professor Andrew Hanzlicek explains, as he wields the camera scope that lets the students see inside the stomach. Lucy quickly removes the object — a small Twix bar. Hanzlicek praises her skill and tells her she may keep the candy.
Lucy, 7, smiles to reveal a missing front tooth, but she is quick to point out the replacement tooth already is poking through.
It’s just another exciting day at Grandparent University, where OSU alumni and their grandchildren can experience together the joys of learning and campus life.
“It’s so much fun ... just for them to see what is out there and what it’s like to go to school,” said Kathy Dunlap, of Tulsa, Lucy’s grandmother.
And it’s fun for grandparents to share stories of their grandchildren and their college days, Dunlap said.
Grandparent University — a program of the OSU Alumni Association — has grown each year since it began in 2003 with four majors and 80 participants, said Chris Batchelder, association president and CEO.
This summer, 522 adults and children enrolled in 28 majors. Everyone who wanted a spot in the program got in for the first time, thanks to the faculty, staff and volunteer alumni who stepped up to help, Batchelder said.
“They do it because they love doing it,” he said.
Alumni Association members can bring their grandchildren, ages 7 to 13, to campus for the three-day summer camps. The legacies “graduate” with a certificate in their chosen field. They live in the dorms, eat on campus and swim at the Colvin Center.
“We are recruiting kids from the time they are born ... to become Cowboys and Cowgirls. Grandparent University is the that moment when you can finally come to campus,” Batchelder said. “It really gives them a taste of the college life.”
AT A GLANCE
2014 Grandparent University