Thomas Benedict isn’t afraid of hard work. He spent years as a wildland firefighter during his 20s. It was an arduous and dangerous challenge that took him around the country from his home base in North Carolina to places such as South Dakota and California.
Benedict, a 32-year-old senior studying exercise science, has found that being a non-traditional transfer student is a completely different kind of test.
“I keep saying each new semester is going to be easier, but for some reason, every semester has its own special challenges,” Benedict said. “Especially for me being a transfer and a non-traditional student, you have this other life you have to take care of.
“I’ve had to maintain a full-time job, sometimes past full-time. Last semester, I was taking 17 credits and I was also working close to 80 hours a week. And then I took a summer course and I’m back at it this semester. Then I’ll be taking a winter course. It’s been a grind.”
Benedict, a member of the Tau Sigma National Honor Society for non-traditional students, grew up in the Onondaga Nation and has also lived at the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne near the Canadian border as well as with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in western North Carolina. He returned to New York to study physical education and exercise science at Onondaga Community College in 2014 and 2015 and transferred to SUNY Cortland after receiving his associate’ degree.
The physical nature of his work in firefighting piqued Benedict’s interest in helping others develop physical strength. He’s hoping to pursue a career in a field that involves fitness training and health care.
Benedict credits his academic success at SUNY Cortland with developing a strong support network of classmates and faculty members. His advice to other transfer and non-traditional students trying to manage their academics, work and personal lives is to lean on the College’s helpful and caring professors.
“I know it’s taboo for a lot of students to go see a teacher for help. But I didn’t care,” Benedict said. “I needed their help.”
Benedict is another reason why SUNY Cortland recognizes and celebrates these dedicated students during annual Non-Traditional Students Week, Nov. 13 — and runs through Friday, Nov. 17.
Non-Traditional Students Week will feature an array of activities.
The College will be publicly recognizing notable non-traditional students throughout the week with a series of feature articles posted on the College website. You can nominate someone for recognition by contacting Non-Traditional Student Support Coordinator Cheryl Hines or visit the website.
Read the stories of other remarkable non-traditional students that have appeared this week: