Nontraditional Student ‘Jumped in Feet First’

By Purnell T. Cropper | August 3, 2010

By Larry Atkins, Adjunct Professor of Journalism

It was a long and winding road, but Peggy Shelly ’06 has finally found her career niche. Shelly, who attended Arcadia as an older, nontraditional student and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communications, is now the Coordinator of University Publications and Communications at Salus University in Elkins Park.

In her job, which she started in October 2006, Shelly writes and edits two alumni magazines per year. She also writes an annual report, newsletters, university catalogs, admissions materials, and press releases.

“What I like best about my job is that I have had a chance to meet so many interesting people while writing the profiles for the alumni magazine,” says Shelly, who lives in Souderton, Pa. “Our alums are doing terrific things in the community and in their profession. I like the writing aspect as well. It’s astonishing how much I’ve learned during the past four years.”

As far as challenges in her job, Shelly says, “Salus is a graduate degree institution that has two doctoral degrees in audiology and optometry, as well as four master’s degree programs. I’m the only full-time employee in the department, so time management is an issue. I also had to learn a lot about complex topics like audiology and optometry to write about them intelligently.”

Ironically, after attending Arcadia, which changed its name in 2001, Shelly was involved substantially in the Salus name change, which took place in 2008. For its name change, the former Pennsylvania College of Optometry looked to Backe Digital Brand Marketing, which was the same company in Ardmore, Pa., that Arcadia used during its name change.

“It’s a funny coincidence. It was great that they had the experience. They could say ‘this worked at Arcadia; this didn’t.’” After a long process of debating on the appropriate name, the school chose Salus, which stands for health and wellbeing in Latin.

Shelly had worked in the travel industry, but she was laid off after Sept. 11, 2001. She got an Associate Degree at Bucks County Community College and then decided to go to Arcadia full-time. Even though she was in her 50s, she indicates that she always felt welcome at Arcadia.

“Arcadia was wonderful. I jumped in feet first and never felt out of place. I was always included in projects and discussions. Even though I was older than the other students, we all had the common purpose of learning. The faculty made all of us feel welcome. In addition, I had grown up in Glenside and was familiar with Arcadia.”

There were certain challenges that Shelly had to overcome as a continuing education student. She worked several part-time jobs while at school. During one semester, she had a Work Study job in the Grants Office, and also had part-time jobs teaching adults with disabilities, tutoring children, and teaching English as a second language in a family literacy program. She was able to mix a combination of day and night courses and graduated in four years.

Shelly also had to get back into the groove of studying and writing papers and balancing school with work, family, and friends, but she also felt that being older had its advantages. “Anyone who decides to go back to school later in life is likely to be highly motivated with a goal. They’re there for a purpose, and they know what that purpose is. It makes it easier to shoulder through the rough times, such as when you’re studying at 2 a.m., and you’re thinking, ‘I’m too old for this.’ But you manage to do it.”