Meet Keara Wilson, Director of Span Plan Nontraditional Student Services

September 19th, 2022

Keara Wilson has always had a passion for supporting women and students who fall into the non-traditional category, because she was once in their position.

Growing up in a home with her mom, grandparents, and an aunt, Wilson was the first in her family to go to college.

“There were a lot of times where I wasn't sure what to do and turning to a family member wasn't always an option for the best guidance, advice, or support, so I really had to figure things out for myself,” said Wilson.

In addition to being a first-generation college student, Wilson also enlisted in the military after high school, and her training schedule meant that there was a gap between graduating high school and entering college.

Her strength lies in the ability to understand college is not easy to navigate on your own as a nontraditional student.

“I always started small and went up from there, ultimately resulting in a big change, so that’s what I want to show my students,” Wilson said. “I want to be the bright light that you need when the world feels very heavy, and I want them to know that it is OK to be lost and ask for help or guidance, because I have been there.”

Pictured: Span Plan director Keara Wilson stands on a decorative swing in Krach Lawn during Boiler Gold Rush

Wilson aims to help support students’ drive and confidence, as well as make sure they have the resources they need to succeed.

“I am drawn to helping fill the gaps and provide the right support and resources for both women and students with non-traditional backgrounds,” Wilson said. “When they are given the right tools, they are extremely resilient and successful.”

As the new Director of Span Plan within student Success, Wilson hopes to use her non-traditional background, passion, and creativity to give non-traditional students guidance and a place on campus where they are understood.

“Coming into this role, I have learned to look at things with a critical lens to make sure I am not missing anyone in the definition of non-traditional students,” Wilson says. “I want them to know that we’re here to help.”

Below, Wilson shares a few goals she has for Span Plan:

Q: What things will you be working on as the new Director of Span Plan?

A: One main thing I am working on right now is creating a space Span Plan students can go on campus that is conducive to their needs and can give them a central location for commuting to campus, parking, and walking to class. The side on campus near Krach Leadership Center is more geared toward traditional students, located right near housing and across from the CoRec, whereas the students I work with don't necessarily live on campus. Aside from building a community of non-traditional students on campus, I would also like to raise awareness. Not just of nontraditional students and who they are, but of all the resources available, including scholarships. Raising awareness can help break down barriers and change the narrative about what it means to be a non-traditional student and the resources available to them to be successful at Purdue.

Q: What strengths do you bring to this new director role?

A: I bring a creative outlook on things and like to look at possible problems with the understanding that there is always an option for change. I like to look at big visions and at ways to build relationships with other departments and colleges across campus. People often refer to me as the mad scientist because I always have an idea for something. I think it’s important to have the mindset that there is always a way forward. There is strength in knowing that you will always find a solution, and I think that is a great asset in a leader. Because things can change in a split second, it’s important to be able to turn your focus and shift your attention to the wants and needs of non-traditional students right now versus in five years. In other words, we can’t be to set in our ways because that doesn’t always allow you to adapt. We need to be able to push our energy in a different direction when it is necessary while staying true to the values of your program.

Q: What opportunities are there for staff to engage with your program in the upcoming months?

A: I’m in the process of developing a schedule to talk to different faculty members about non-traditional students, as well as speak to classes about what being a non-traditional student looks like. I want to just open myself up to staff as a resource so we can work together to identify students who are struggling and be able to better understand where they're coming from and what they need to feel supported.

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