Bev Carter seeks greater access for non-traditional students

Beverly Carter

Like many first-year UNLV students, Bev Carter was invited to join her peers in a Facebook group. The platform is intended to be a place where incoming students can make friends, find resources, and prepare for start of their undergraduate career.

But for Carter, relating to her peers on Facebook was a bit of a stretch. Most first-year students are in their late teens, but when Carter enrolled, she was 59 years old, retired, and had a grandchild nearing college age.

“I was reading the posts and hearing students inviting their friends to hit them up on Snapchat, and I just thought ‘Lord Jesus, help me,’” Carter said. “So I asked if there was anyone in the group who was just a little bit older.”

Five or six students replied to Carter’s message, and one of them, Tom Fairchild, launched a Facebook group specifically for non-traditional students.

From there, Carter and Fairchild resurrected the Alliance of Non-Traditional Students, a registered student organization that had gone dormant. 

Four years later, the group now has nearly 450 members. Though anyone can join the organization, regardless of age, the average member is 35 to 42 years old, she said.

“We didn’t have an agenda or any plans at first, we just wanted to have our own corner where we could talk about the issues we face,” Carter said.

Group conversations range from book swaps, to childcare strategies, to financial aid discussions.

“It has become a place for camaraderie and support,” Carter said. “People have said they couldn’t have graduated without the support of the group, so I feel very proud of that.”

But Carter says the group also highlights the need for support systems for students of diverse ages, experiences, and backgrounds.

“I grew up in the 1960’s, so there’s a part of me that’s always looking at situations through the lens of civil rights,” she said. “There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to make UNLV fully accessible to students of all demographics.”

Carter, like a lot of non-traditional students, always wanted a college education, but life got in the way. Months after she graduated from the prestigious Bronx High School of Science (one of her peers was famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson), and she had always excelled as a student, even skipping the eighth grade.  

“In high school, I expected a lot of myself, and there was a lot of ‘Oh, Beverly is going to be this, and Beverly is going to be that,’ but Beverly gave birth to twins soon after she graduated high school,” Carter said.

Though she obtained a two-year degree and led a successful career as a professional tax preparer, Carter dreamed of a second career helping disenfranchised women of color launch their own businesses. She graduated from UNLV in December with a BA in Multidisciplinary Studies, with a focus on entrepreneurship and urban studies.

“I want to help someone start a business from their kitchen table with limited or no resources,” Carter said. “I’d let to help someone take their side gig, and do it just a little bit better, in the right way, and particularly so the IRS doesn’t come after them.”

But before Carter can do that, she’s going to spend the summer as an intern consulting for Juanita Fain, vice president for student affairs. Her work will focus on addressing issues related to non-traditional students and how UNLV can better reach them.

“We recognize that students from all background have unique needs, and Beverly has done an excellent job highlighting those issues,” Fain said. “More and more, the term ‘non-traditional’ doesn’t apply. UNLV is a melting pot of ages and experiences, and it’s crucial we do all we can to make our institution accessible to everyone.”

Carter hopes her advocacy, the role she played in resurrecting the Alliance of Non-Traditional Students, and the forthcoming internship will have a lasting impact on UNLV.

“To be inclusive and to address equity, you have to start with recognition, and I think the right people now recognize that we’re here,” Carter said. “Now, when you’re talking about programs and resources, it’s important that people ask if this is accessible to the working student, the student with young children … and right now, there’s a lot that isn’t accessible.”

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