Basketball Alumnus Stanley Roberts returns to LSU, graduates
College is hard. It's a significant investment of time, money and resources, even for the average student. Never mind somebody with the responsibilities that come later in life – children, a full-time job, a mortgage, etc.
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And yet, approximately 1,456 students are currently enrolled at LSU that would be classified as "non-traditional," which is to say, are older than the average college student. This past December, one of the more well-known ones wrapped up a degree that was some 20 years in the making: Stanley Roberts.
Roberts' name has often been associated with cautionary tales for athletes, as a promising basketball career was cut short due to injuries and personal problems. But now, he can serve as an example to anybody that has ever thought about starting or finishing a college degree late in life.
"It's possible for anybody," Roberts said. "It's going to be hard, but it's so rewarding."
Roberts, walked the stage at LSU's December commencement exercises and completed a degree in sports administration from the LSU School of Kinesiology in the College of Human Sciences & Education at age 42. It was the culmination of a process that originally began in 1988 and resumed nearly 20 years after he left Baton Rouge.
Originally from Hopkins, S.C., Roberts was recruited to LSU by legendary basketball coach Dale Brown, where he joined a team that included superstar Chris Jackson, and future NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal. At 7-feet tall, Roberts was known for incredible athleticism and polish on the court, so much that many considered him a better player even then O'Neal, who's career would feature Most Valuable Player awards, NBA Championships and make him one of the most famous professional athletes on the planet. Roberts' and O'Neal's showdowns in practice hold a mythical status in the Tiger basketball program, even today.
But by Roberts' own admission, school was never a big priority. He was forced to sit out his freshman season at LSU due to academic ineligibility, and would only play one season before leaving LSU to join the professional ranks. He spent the next 15 years bouncing back and forth between the NBA and various European basketball leagues, dealing with various injuries and personal issues. Three years later, friends, family and connections he still had to the university encouraged him to return and finish what he began.
"LSU really took an interest in guiding me," Roberts said. "It never really left my heart, and I have so many people to thank for pushing me to come back."
Roberts returned in 2007, and the next six years would be a struggle for a number of reasons. Roberts found out that the coursework he did complete in his original university stint didn't carry over, so he didn't have much of a foundation for many college courses. Still, he managed to maintain a 3.0 grade point average of better over four semesters, overcoming previously undiagnosed dyslexia and even taking advantage of online and other distance coursework when he was forced to undergo triple-bypass surgery one fall semester.
"Life throws you curveballs all the time," Roberts said. "You just have to fight through them."
In addition to the struggles he had in the classroom, returning to a major college campus was a bit of a shock for a man in his late thirties.
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"When I first came to LSU, computers were still a new thing and we used typewriters in classes," he said. "Now the way computers are used for everything – that was a bit of an eye-opener. But life is a learning experience every day."
On top of that, being the oldest student in most of his classes was interesting as well – especially for a man that already stands out due to his height.
"I was the grandpa," Roberts joked. "But the kids took to me."
"Stanley was such a joy," said LSU Assistant Professor Dorothy "Dee" Jacobsen, whom Roberts' credits as one of his principle motivators in the push to finish his degree. "Students are all motivated, but it's special to see somebody that's been through all of his experiences coming back to finish what they started. Having somebody like that in your class really enhances both the teaching experience and the learning experience for other students because it gives another voice that has experienced a lot of what we talk about first-hand out in a real-world setting. Plus, they can see his determination to get his degree, and that can be infectious as well."
Known for a gregarious and infectious personality, Roberts took to today's LSU students as well, and began to figure out just what he'd like to do with his college degree: coach the game he still loves. His former coach Dale Brown and NBA legend and current Southern Methodist University Head Coach Larry Brown, along with current Tiger basketball coach Johnny Jones have all encouraged Roberts to pursue basketball coaching at some level, whether it high school, college or professional.
"Right now, I'm just letting things happen," Roberts said. "I really just need to get some experience. I would love to start in college coaching, but I really just want to get into the business and learn. It's going to take a while, but I want to work with kids. Help players today make the right life choices."
He's also aware of the example he can set for anybody else that has ever thought about returning to college.
"Just do it," said Roberts. "People say they'll go back – a lot of my ex-teammates used to say they would go back, and I always encourage them. It'll only help you to finish a degree. The reward is so great."
Laura Lindsay, dean of the College of Human Sciences & Education, cites Roberts as an example as well.
"The dedication he has shown and sacrifices he has made in order to return to campus and work his way through school are a testimony to his belief in himself and the value of education to his future," Lindsay said. "It is the difference between a long-term investment or a short-term gain. I think Andre' Champagne said it best at our graduation ceremony—to paraphrase: an LSU degree is a mental asset that no one can take away from you—a risk mitigation device that allowed him to be fearless. Stanley certainly lives up to Andre's mantra, ‘Tigers are fearless'!"
The College of Human Science & Education is home to a number of programs that attract non-traditional students seeking certification to join the state's teaching ranks, among others. The College's School of Library & Information Science, is extremely popular in this regard, with approximately 35 percent of its student body falling into the non-traditional category.
"We encourage these students," said Beth Paskoff, director of the School of Library & Information Science. "People that are interested in a career in managing information – whether it is working in a library, managing a database or working as an archivist – these are positions that are in-demand, and the School of Library & Information Science has alumni working in 49 states and more than 25 countries. We also specialize in distance learning for those that can't make it to campus. Many of our students are already working in libraries and cannot leave their jobs and families to come to Baton Rouge, so we bring LSU to them."
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The School of Library & Information Science currently offers courses in three formats: face-to-face for those students attend classes in Baton Rouge; via compressed video, in which students attend class in Baton Rouge and in other classrooms around the state; or online, in which the course is completed online using combinations of Moodle and Adobe Connect. Online courses may by asynchronous, with no scheduled times that students must be online, or synchronous, with scheduled times that students must be online.
Students who are in the school's Library Specialization may complete all requirements for the degree online, though others require some of the other formats.
The School of Library and Information Science offers an MLIS degree with specializations in archives, information management and libraries. The School of Kinesiology advances the understanding of physical activity, sport, and health to optimize the quality of life for diverse populations. The school offers bachelor's degrees in athletic training, kinesiology and sport administration.
For more information about the LSU School of Kinesiology, visit www.lsu.edu/kinesiology.
For more information about the School of Library and Information Science, visit www.slis.lsu.edu.
The schools are two of six schools realigned to form the new LSU College of Human Sciences & Education, joining the School of Education, the School of Human Resource Education and Workforce Development, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Social Work and the University Laboratory School.
For more information about the College of Human Sciences & Education, visit www.lsu.edu/chse.