Alumni add new perspective to undergrad classes

When you’re in an undergraduate class, it’s usually not a stretch to assume everyone else in your class is attending sans-bachelor’s degree. The Alumni in the Classroom program, started by the College of Arts & Sciences alumni association in 2004, makes that a bad assumption, and gives alumni a chance to relive their Marquette experience.

Alumni interested in the program have 10 courses to choose from a semester, which are selected based on individual instructors, course topics and space availability in the classroom. Alumni audit the course, free of charge, and are not required to do homework or complete exams. The program currently offers courses in English, history, political science and theology.

“All that is required of the alumni is the desire to learn and willingness to do course reading and have an open mind,” reads the promotional brochure.

Mary Dunnwald, the associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences who runs the program, said the number of alumni participants varies between approximately 16 and 23 each semester. This semester there are 23 alumni participating, Dunnwald said.

Dunnwald said the presence of the alumni speaks to their love of education.

“It’s about lifelong learning and a continued interest in Marquette,” Dunnwald said.

The program is for alumni who graduated in 1968 or before, but Dunnwald said as alumni approach the 45-year anniversary of their graduation, they will be invited to join.

“It expands every year, so next year 1969 grads can participate. Every year the program becomes available for another class,” Dunnwald said.

Alan Ball, a Marquette professor of history, said his Cold War class included one alumnus earlier in the semester. It was his first semester with an alumnus in one of his classes.

Ball said the alumnus was very helpful for the time that he was present, and emailed him materials that he will make use of in the course.

Ball admitted, though, that because his course is discussion-heavy, it is not ideal for an alumnus looking to take in lectures every day.

Nick Lopez, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, currently has an alumnus in his children’s literature class, but said it is not his first experience with the program.

Lopez said he is not upset that alumni don’t pay for the classes they take or that they don’t have to do homework.

“It depends on (why) they’re taking the class,” Lopez said. “If they get credit or certification then that might be annoying, but if they’re not getting anything like that out of it, I don’t care.”

Although Ball said he was unsure how the presence of alumni might benefit students, he said it had proven beneficial to him as an instructor.

“One of the advantages is alumni students are here entirely because they want to be,” Ball said. “There is no requirement, they’re not taking the course because they need to be here, they want to be. For the instructor, that’s ideal.”