Non-traditional student finds voice in forensics team

Haywood Hogan, of Bowling Green, is a non-traditional student and forensics team member at WKU. Hogan, 42, is the oldest member and only the second non-traditional student to ever be on the team. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Whitney Allen

Non-traditional students are a part of nearly every campus, but the backstory of each student varies. Venice Beach, California junior Haywood Hogan, a non-traditional student and forensics team member, took an especially unique path before finding himself at WKU. 

Upon graduating high school, Hogan learned his girlfriend, and later wife, was pregnant with his second son. At the time, he was working as a cook in a local restaurant. With another son on the way, he knew he had to do something. 

Hogan enlisted in the Army where he worked in Field Artillery and Military Intelligence.

“I went in to it as a way to support my family,” Hogan said.   

After serving eight years, it was time for another change. Hogan had held several jobs, but was not yet satisfied.

“I kept getting passed up for jobs, in basically every position I was in I was as far as I was ever going to go without a degree,” Hogan said. “So I put myself back in school.” 

Hogan was simultaneously enrolled in three community colleges.  “Getting older I felt like…I still feel like I don’t have time to waste time, I want to get things moving,” he said. 

Hogan enrolled in an intro to speech course at LA Valley College. After his introductory speech, his professor approached him. 

“He was an ex speech member and he said, ‘Hey, you know what? You should try out for the speech team.’” 

With that encouragement, Hogan tried out with a piece of his own poetry. While he always had an appreciation for art, poetry and short stories, Hogan never anticipated those passions leading him to forensics. 

“As a kid I was always told to be quiet. It has kind of always been a ‘be seen and not heard’ type thing,” Hogan said. “So I had to have an outlet and that’s how I expressed myself throughout and it took me to adulthood.”

Hogan was invited to join the LA Valley College forensics team after his audition. Two years later, at age 42, he finds himself here, across the nation at WKU.

While Hogan is ecstatic to be at WKU, being older than most of his coaches has been an adjustment. 

“This opportunity is really strange because sometimes you don’t know where you fit in,” Hogan said. “I hang out with some of the younger people and they’ve accepted me and embraced me being here. They’ve made me feel quite at home actually.” 

Ganer Newman, the newly announced director of Forensics, graduated from WKU in 2010. Newman said despite the age gap, Hogan has meshed with the team very well. 

“Haywood is such an incredibly empathetic and conscientious person,” Newman said. “He just jives so well with everyone on the staff and on the team that you don’t really think twice about it.”

While the jump from active duty military to forensics is quite a leap, Hogan doesn’t find things to be all that surprising in perspective. His life experiences have prepared him for where he stands today.

“A lot of my life experiences taught me to go for it and stop being afraid because sometimes you don’t get a second chance for that opportunity itself,” Hogan said. “You just do it. So when I’m presenting a speech, my mentality is ‘I’m here and there’s no turning back.’”

Hogan attributes his ‘just do it’ attitude and the dedication and discipline that forensics requires to his time spent in the military. After he graduates from WKU in 2016, Hogan plans to go to law school.

“That’s not an option or something I want to do,” Hogan said. “It’s something I’m going to do.” 

Newman reiterates that the team is composed of 48 vastly different people, with Hogan adding to the variety of personalities.

“What helps our team is having those diverse perspectives on different issues,” Newman said. “Whether it’s a man in his 40s who has children and has served honorably in the military or if its someone who comes from a background of less privilege, or from different background, all walks of life. It really contributes to the different voices we have in the activity.”

Regardless of their diverse backgrounds, Hogan’s high expectations are in good company with his teammates.  The WKU forensics team has multiple national championships as well as 10 World Championships. 

“Western to me is a no brainer,” Hogan said. “They have high expectations and I have high expectations for myself. I’m only going to do this once, so why not go to the best university in the United States in this activity?”