Span Plan Adult Student Services
40th Anniversary Celebration
Remarks from Sandy Monroe
Thank you for coming tonight to help be a part of this special celebration!
I have been asked to make a few brief remarks about the history of Span Plan. In order be true to words brief, and to allow time for others to speak tonight, I will focus primarily on the first three directors of Span Plan.
A good place to start in talking about Span Plan would be to explain the name – Span Plan- which when the name was created in 1968 was derived from a conviction that young women should begin to make education and work plans for a total lifespan. --- not just for a year or two before or after getting married.
It might be helpful to set a context of what was happening before the birth of Span Plan may also prove valuable in understanding how this very successful program has evolved Purdue. The notion of making a lifelong educational plan of action was long supported by Deans Helen Schleman, and other key leaders in the Office of the Dean of Women who operated the “Freshman Conference Program”. In the 1960’s Freshman women were invited to the Dean of Women’s Office for an individual appointment with a staff person to learn about the services of the Office but beyond that, Dean Schleman/ or her staff member had an important message to give. After the staff member and student got a chance to become acquainted, the staff person asked the young freshman what she planned to do after completing her education. The great majority of these women in that era, forty years ago and beyond thought they would get married and live happily ever after with little thought beyond that event in their lives. The Dean’s at that time knew from statistics from the U. S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau the following: Age 21 was the average age for women to marry, age 30, the last child is born: at age 35 the last child enters school—showing that the woman of age 35 has 30 employable years before her.” These statistics were summarized in the famous Span Plan chart. So, the next question asked, “What are you going to do with those 30 years?” Usually there was an uncomfortable silence, but the staff person would encourage the student to give it some thought, along with a statement about, “you will have a fine education and you may want to use this time for yourself but for society… 30 years is a long time."
Now back to the sequence of events that leads us to today, in the late 1960’s Dean Schleman and Dean Cecelia Zissis became concerned about statistics they observed in Married Student Housing. They conducted a survey in 1968 and discovered that 100% of the men contacted were students, of the women contacted only 3% were students. Consequently, it was the husband earning his degree, and the wife was working wherever she could to put him through school. At the end of the experience, too often, the married couple had grown apart in knowledge and experience and too many marriages ended in divorce. Armed with this information, Dean’s Zissis and Schleman came up with the idea of offering the non-enrolled spouse, a tuition grant so that the wife might have the opportunity to take a course at Purdue and share in some part of the academic experience of her spouse including the benefits of furthering her education. These grants still exist today—no longer limited to Married Student Housing or women but are much broader in scope serve as an entryway for men and women to begin an academic program. Early financial support came from a wide array of supporters: the university, community organizations such as the Purdue Women’s Club, friends of Purdue, and the Dean of Women’s staff members themselves. The grant was first called the student wife-grant and was the first of its kind at a major university. It provided tuition and books for a part-time student. One student wrote about receiving a student wife grant, this was grant that was a tremendous opportunity given to virtually forgotten about student wife- for me it opened up a whole new world.
Eventually Purdue administrators would get letters from all over U. S. telling of how women got their starts through Purdue’s programs and went on to complete their bachelor’s degrees. Out of this initiative by the two Deans, The Span Plan Program was created and officially recognized.
It was on April 25, 1968, the Purdue Board of Trustee appointed Dean Helen B. Schleman, Director of Span Plan. Dr. Cecilia Zissis associate dean of students assisted her.
Dr. Zissis became the second director of Span Plan in 1970 and remained in that position until her retirement in 1987. During Celie’s tenure, the Span Plan grew EXPONENTIALLY and its impact was far-reaching.
Early on in 1971, the Span Plan Program was cited in the 1971 New York Times and was referred to as an “Advocate for Women’s Adult Education”. In the article 140 grants were given that year for a grand total of $9,000.
- It was during Dr. Zissis’ tenure that The Span Plan’s focus began to expand from the student wife and began to include a category of students over 24, or non-traditional students.
- A non-credit course entitled Educational Planning for Women, which was filled to capacity every semester and was designed for women to exam goals and personal motivation in returning to school. Enrollees got information about the current job market, took vocational interest tests and received personal and career counseling. Later in the program, you will her from one of these students.
- The program was so successful it became necessary to add more staff, so Dean Beverley Stone a strong supporter of the program authorized the addition of assistant directors, Linda Ewing and Sheila Shearon who provided invaluable administrative and counseling services, which gave adult learners, both men and women the confidence and support they needed.
- Span Plan Program was carried on the local Cable TV as a regular series in 1979.
- The numbers and types of financial grants grew and were opened up to men. Significant financial incentives have been given to both women and men students in forms of Mature Student Grants, Student Spouse Grants and Span Plan Grants. Named scholarships have been identified.
- In 1986 the Adult Center @IUPUI opened and was greatly influenced and mentored by Purdue Span Plan Program.
- An Orientation program for students 25 years and older was specifically designed by Dean Zissis, and assistant program director Peggy Sullivan to fit the needs of older students return to the University and provided a forum for them to connect with other students.
Dr. Cecelia Zissis’ work is a cornerstone for the Span Plan Program. Upon her retirement, Peggy Sullivan became the Span Plan director and she continued to build on the work done by her predecessors. Peg expanded or modified many of the existing Span Plan Programs. The Orientation Session was modified to occur earlier in the summer, and offered, more than once and at variable times to accommodate work schedules, child- care was provided. Eventually the orientation session became an eight-week course that included transition information as well as life-career planning assistance. Peg established tutoring services for Span Plan students and was an active supporter of an Off-campus Lounge or gathering spot for commuting students.
Peg was interested in bringing older students together and knew the value of peer support, encouragement and friendship. She originated and advised the Adult Students’ Association of Purdue. In addition, she brought the Alpha Sigma Lambda to Purdue’s (a national adult student honorary that recognizes the special achievements of the adult learners who accomplish academic excellence while facing the competing interests of home and work. She knew the importance of outward recognition of personal accomplishments and providing incentives for continuing high scholarship. This is but one example of the many examples of Peg’s advocacy for students who were affiliated with the Span Plan Program.
Peg Sullivan was trained as a counselor and spent many hours supporting and encouraging Span Plan Students. Peggy's outstanding work with Span Plan is recognized annually by a scholarship given in her memory to a Span student. The Peg Sullivan Achievement Award.
Following Peggy’s retirement from Purdue, Lynne Horngren and Lou Ann Hamilton have served as Span directors, each adding their enhancements to the program by updating the Span with a Website, Computer applications, Lunch N Learn Programming a Support Group and expanded tutoring options.
Today the Span Plan Adult Services Program continues to assists adult non-traditional students, alumni, and prospective students through their academic career and beyond or throughout their life span.
Tonight, you will have the chance to hear more about this remarkable program but also meet some of the students who have experienced the SPAN PLAN. I invite you to enjoy the evening and help us celebrate the accomplishments of these past 40 years.