Roseanne Short is the director of nonresidential programs and support services at Brenau University.

Long Story Short

If you think potty training a toddler is not a road block to completing your education, you are probably a man. However, Rosanne Short knows first-hand that minor distractions become major in the world of nontraditional students.

Roseanne Chastain Short enrolled as a freshman at Brenau Women’s College in the 1981-82 academic year. That summer, she got married. Her then-husband had enrolled at the University of Georgia, so the Clayton, Ga., native transferred to the Athens institution, too, as a nontraditional journalism student.

It wasn’t her only transfer.

“My husband graduated and got a job out of town, so I transferred to a number of different schools in places where he was working at the time.” Her itinerary included stopovers at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, back to UGA, then Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga. By time Short made her way back to Brenau, she was a mother with a small child, encountering a new set of distractions.

“My son, Christopher, was one-and-a-half years old when I came back to school. We’d just started potty training and we were having problems. He wasn’t sleeping at night. It was a rough time,” Short recalls.  However, she added, “I was determined to finish.”

And she did.

Short, a public relations major and a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, graduated from the Women’s College in 1990. About 16 years later – with a new husband, Daniel, and a blended family of three children – the Cornelia, Ga., resident completed a master’s degree in organizational development at Brenau 16 years later. The self-described “glutton for punishment” plans to join the nontraditional student ranks again in the fall when she begins a doctoral program in higher education administration at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

However, in her full-time day job Short serves as Gainesville campus director at Brenau, essentially providing services to people just like she was – and. she says, “will be again in a few months” when she starts the doctoral program. She is also a point person for Brenau’s active military students. And, she teaches, too, as an adjunct professor for Brenau’s online mass communication and academic success classes for students – and a “teach the teachers” series of classes to certify other Brenau faculty for teaching online.

Short grew up in the north Georgia mountains. She was a student at Rabun County High School after it became home for the nationally renowned Foxfire program.

In the 1960s by Eliot Wigginton, a teacher the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, the program began as a writing project based on his students’ collecting oral histories from local residents and writing them up. That led to production of the Foxfire publications, a magazine an iconic series of books that touch all aspects of culture and customs of life southern Appalachia as well as the folklore and oral history of local residents. Short’s grandmother was a regular contact source for Foxfire, and she’s featured in articles about quilt-making and cooking.

Short nurtured those gifts as a storyteller in her nomadic journalism classes – including those at Brenau. Recently, one of her essays, recounting recounts how she uses the approach of interviewing family elders in her adjunct teaching of interpersonal communication to undergraduate students was published in Foxfire’s 45th Anniversary Book: Singin’, Praisin’, Raisin’. In addition, the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce in Gainesville recently awarded Short its prestigious Silver Shovel Award for her volunteer work as a Chamber Ambassador, of which she serves as a co-chair.

Still Short says she has not forgotten her own travails as nontraditional student in the difficult balancing act of adult responsibilities and classroom requirements. And if you think dealing with potty training a toddler is not a travail, you probably either are, as some might suggest, a man, or you have not been a mother. Helping her through, Short recalls, were Brenau faculty who were not reluctant to crack out of the mold of academic advisement and invest themselves into interaction with students.

“I remember sitting down with a professor that I knew had three kids of her, telling her about the trouble I was having potty training,” Short recalls. “She didn’t slough it off. She said, ‘Let me tell you some of the things I did.’ She took the time to talk with me one-on-one about a personal problem I was having, and that was comforting. Also, I didn’t show up for a class, someone would call me and ask if everything was OK. That made all the difference in the world.”

That level of care and support inside and outside of the classroom is one of the reasons Short says she was able to complete her degree.  It’s also a career motivator that pushes her to do the very best she can for each of the students that cross the threshold of her office in the Owens Student Center.

Like the wonderful Wizard of Oz, she knows how to unravel intricate problems and offer just the right words of encouragement when they’re needed most.

“When a life crisis hits, everything kind of starts falling apart because it’s all woven together like a spider web,” says Short. “My role is to be the liaison to help them keep those pieces together.”

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