Kaye Foster (’89) can’t help but smile as she thinks back on her time at Baruch College. “Long days,” she laughs, “and longer nights.”
Ms. Foster’s experience was not unique. Like thousands of Baruch alumni, she attended the College’s Evening Session—a distinct, longstanding program that allowed students to work full time during the day while pursuing their degrees part or full time at night. In many ways, the Evening Session was a world unto itself, separate and distinct from Day Session, with its own faculty, staff, students, and activities.
“Maybe we bonded over our shared misery,” jokes Foster, an immigrant from Barbados who also served as president of the Evening Session Student Assembly (ESSA), the nighttime equivalent of the Day Session Student Government. She fondly recalls her busy days working as a manager at Donnelley Directories (which owned the Yellow Pages), then hustling across town to get to class at Baruch, grabbing food along the way. “Baruch’s wonderful, supportive community taught us lessons well beyond the classroom,” she says.
Although Baruch has since discontinued separate daytime and nighttime sessions—now offering flexible schedules that enable students to take a variety of day, night, weekday, weekend, and online classes—the impact of Evening Session, with its hard-working, dedicated alumni and emphasis on mentorship and professional development, can still be felt today.
In the Beginning
Night classes were long a staple of the College, according to Selma C. Berrol, PhD, who wrote of them in her book Getting Down to Business: Baruch College in the City of New York, 1847–1948. The official College historian, also Professor Emerita of History, detailed the evolution of the institution on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Free Academy, the precursor to City College. In 1919 the School of Business and Civic Administration (what would later become Baruch College) offered classes only between 8 and 10 pm. By the 1930s, the class schedule had expanded to both day and night, but students in night classes—which catered to individuals who already enjoyed established careers—accounted for more than 57 percent of the total enrollment.
Dr. Berrol explains: “The choice of majors was also the same, but because it was assumed that the student was already employed, six to 24 credits of actual business experience could be used in lieu of classroom work and be counted toward the degree.”
As the program continued to grow, so too did its extracurricular activities, among them The Reporter, a weekly—later monthly—student newspaper, established in 1922 and considered City College’s oldest evening-edition newspaper. Early Reporter articles shed light on some of the Evening Session’s other student organizations, including theater group Playrads; Camera Knights, a photography club; Gramercy Singers, a choral group; and fraternities Sigma Alpha Delta and Gamma Eta Sigma.
“There was something truly remarkable about Evening Session students who participated in activities,” recalls Ron Aaron, EdD, a longtime Baruch administrator who worked at the College for more than 40 years. According to Dr. Aaron, many of these student organizations boasted strong numbers despite meeting on Fridays, when classes were not even in session. “Remember, these were individuals who worked 40 hours a week, took classes all night, and still found time to get involved,” he says. “They made sure to get what they considered the ‘true’ college experience while still maintaining active careers, which is so admirable.”
A Vibrant Community
Industrious and driven, Evening Session students came from all walks of life: Some headed households, others lived at home, and many were immigrants striving to improve their families’ lives. Evening Session, however, was not strictly business: Its students created a dynamic community, with ESSA—the primary advocate and voice for Evening Session students—at the center of it all.
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Night Moves Proved the Right Moves
The Evening and Day Sessions merged with the help of these initiatives, among others. Many trace their origin and/or inspiration to innovative night school–era programs and accommodations.
- The Student Academic Consulting Center supports undergraduates with in-person and online tutorial services as well as instructional videos and software. Hours of operation include four weeknights to 8 pm and Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm.
- The Newman Library is open 7 am to 12 midnight, seven days a week, and continuously during exam weeks. Ask-a-Librarian also offers phone and 24/7 email support.
- The Starr Career Development Center helps students clarify academic and career goals, establish career plans, and develop job-search skills. The center operates until 7 pm three weeknights. Many resources are available online.
- Executives on Campus, a volunteer- and alumni-supported network, bridges college and professional life with mentorships and a roster of career development events.
Technology Changes the Picture
- Augmenting traditional classes are fully online and hybrid (half face-to-face, half online) courses. Schedule easing, these classes bring new technologies to the classroom and increase opportunities for experiential and global learning.
- Web-conferencing offers an easy way to hold online office hours and conduct a remote session. Options include Blackboard Collaborate, Google Hangouts, and Skype.
- CUNYfirst, the university’s enterprise system, improves students’ experiences with registration, financial aid, advisement, placement testing, billing, and records.
[/box]“There were between 15 and30 members of ESSA at each meeting,” recalls Pamela Mitchell (’14), the governing body’s 1996 president. Although she did not finish her degree until 2014, Ms. Mitchell took most of her classes in the nineties as an Evening Session student and remembers those long days hustling from her job at Mellon Financial Services to Baruch, where she would meet with fellow ESSA members to debate Evening Session initiatives. Issues typically included funding for snacks (essential for night students with little time to eat), social events, networking opportunities, and allocating budgets for clubs.
Mitchell, who is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration, credits her experience as ESSA president with helping to hone her leadership and organizational skills.
“Let me tell you something,” she says, her voice rising with excitement. “Night session at Baruch was where it was at. We had a great group of students who wanted to get involved, and we made sure to have fun, too.” A favorite memory is of her final day as ESSA president: “We presented a gospel concert—two combined choirs—right at Baruch, free of charge, with all the students stomping their feet, enjoying themselves.”
Decades earlier Jaime Weiss (’69) had his own eventful experiences during Evening Session, serving as business editor of The Reporter during some of the College’s most turbulent times, including its official separation from City College of New York in 1968.
“I remember there were some good bars around campus,” recalls Mr. Weiss, who spent his days working at famed Decca Records, “but most students didn’t have enough money, or energy, to go after school. We’d go to class, work on The Reporter, then rush home to get a good night’s rest so we could do it all over again.”
Weiss, who went on to a successful career in real estate, says he has wonderful memories from Evening Session—including one of his favorite Reporter articles. “It wasn’t particularly scandalous,” he says, laughing, “but we covered a big blackout.” Besides being newsworthy, the event caused the cancellation of a test for which he felt unprepared. “It was a convenient blackout,” he jokes.
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