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May 5, 2022

Special Interview: The Starrs and Serving Adult Learners

“The brightest stars are those who shine to benefit others.” This anonymous quote describes Dr. Erv and Dr. Carrie Starr perfectly, as they both have inspired students over many years at Roberts Wesleyan College. Read on to learn how they serve adult learners.

When you hear the phrase “a college student,” what comes to mind?

Oftentimes, we immediately think of a young person in their early 20s. However, national data says that assumption would mischaracterize two out of every five college students.

According to EdSurge, adults over the age of 25 represent roughly 40 percent of enrollment in U.S. higher education. If one were to assume most college students are teenagers, one would exclude nearly 8 million learners.

Dr. Ervin Starr, the College’s Professor of Management and Strategy, shares his experience: “Even though I’ve been here for twenty years, I still think some people almost forget our work with adult students. Forty-five percent of our students are adults!”

Meeting the Starrs

Erv Starr

Dr. Ervin Starr has served adult learners for the last 20 years in both Graduate and Degree Completion programs.

A former anonymous student shares, “Dr. Starr was my favorite professor at Roberts! Encouraging, helpful, and brilliant.”

Carrie Starr

He’s joined by his wife Dr. Carrie Starr, the Executive Director of the Community Institutes. She is a former Roberts Wesleyan College professor in the Business department for 14 years and has spent the last two semesters teaching adult students at Northeastern Seminary. Over the past year, she has worked exclusively with adult students through the Community Institutes’ online classes.

Together, the Starrs share their thoughts on how colleges can meet the needs of adult learners.

In a perfect world, what would change about higher education in order to better serve adult students?

Erv shares, “One of the biggest challenges for adult students is the constant balancing act of working full-time, having a family life, and being a full-time student.

Carrie adds, “I think the most important thing to realize with adult students is the complexity of their lives. Many of them are married, many have children, and most of them are working full-time jobs. Accountability is key, and at the same time, you have to be more trusting when it comes to potentially delayed assignments.”

She agrees with her husband about the value of flexibility. “They are juggling a lot, so having options to accommodate them allows them to be successful, even in the midst of a difficult situation. Online learning fits around their lives.”

Adult students may not always have hours of undivided time, so the Starrs encourage adult students to think in terms of minutes. Their students often pursue their dreams and finish their homework in the spare minutes between carpools, laundry, their lunch break, and more.

Erv says, “Flexibility is greatly needed. COVID-19 pushed us online. That has become one of the College’s biggest opportunities to capitalize on.”

Click here to explore Roberts’ eighteen online programs spanning five different majors.

Accelerated Course Formats

Erv shares what he believes is one of Roberts’ major strengths in serving adult learners. “As I know from personal experience, pursuing school while working full time takes a toll on family and relationships. It’s important to create a curriculum that helps shorten that time of tension. That’s why we have accelerated options.”

Carrie explains, “I learned the value of online learning personally as a doctoral student. I found the flexibility freeing. I accelerated the pace of my program by taking multiple classes at a time, while other classmates slowed down to meet the demands of work or family.”

Thank you, Erv and Carrie, for sharing your perspective.

Carrie and Erv Starr

Interested in learning more about the couple?

Click here to read Erv’s faculty spotlight, and click here to read about Carrie’s recent promotion to the Executive Director of the Community Institutes.


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