Thursday, May 5, 2016

Degree gives her room to move

Global Campus graduate Sarah BottomsAs a space planner for the University of Washington, Sarah Bottoms was responsible for 20 million square feet at three campuses. But, when she wanted to advance, she hit a wall.

“In order to make it very far in the state system,” she said, “you have to have a bachelor’s degree.”

In 2011, she enrolled at Central Washington University. Then her husband, Brent, got a job as a prosecutor for Pacific County, and moved her and their three children to Raymond, Wash., a tiny community far from any universities.

“I needed a highly rated program that I could do from home,” she said. She chose Washington State University Global Campus.

WSU’s online program is challenging, she said. “At a brick and mortar school, you can show up, you don’t need to always post on a discussion board,” she said. “At WSU Global, I had to write everything—my writing skills have really increased.”

Bottoms earned her 2016 bachelors in social sciences, with a minor in American Indian studies. On May 2, just two days after attending the Global Campus commencement celebration in Seattle, she started a new job as a facility senior planner for the state Department of Corrections.

“I’ll be in charge of all the lease space in the state,” she said, “designing new lease spaces and doing renovations.”

Also attending the Seattle celebration were her children, husband, and her mother, Lisa Johnston, who was brimming with pride: “WSU is a known university,” Johnston said, “it’s a respected university, and it’s a respected university degree.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Student wins contest, trip to Geneva

Kari Whitney presentationKari Whitney is livestreamed into WSU Pullman.

     On April 8, she sent her teenage daughter to a Comicon convention, her husband to visit his brother, and the dog on a doggy playdate. The only thing she forgot was to close the windows.
     That became important about 5:15 p.m. that day, when WSU Global Campus student Kari Whitney learned she and her team had won the university’s Global Case Competition. She let out a piercing squeal. “My windows were open,” she said, “and I can only imagine what the neighbors might have thought!”
     The annual Case Competition brings together five teams of WSU students to solve a pressing problem. Each team comprises five students. This year’s focus was arbitrary detention in the U.S., and the top prize was a trip to Geneva to present solutions to United Nations representatives.
More...      Kari, a humanities major, presented online from her home in Tacoma. WSU Global Connections, which helps online students participate in WSU activities, livestreamed her segment into a packed WSU Pullman auditorium, and over YouTube.
     Most teams focused on immigrants and refugees. Kari’s team, Dignity Before Detention, looked at the inequity of jailing the poor because they couldn’t afford small fines, or to rent an ankle monitor.
     “Since my contributions would be webcast,” Kari said, “I scripted myself and rehearsed repeatedly in front of a camera, occasionally sending a recording to my teammates for critique.”
     During her time at WSU Global Campus, Kari has also been a student senator, and won a WSU Center for Civic Engagement award for writing about food bank clients. She’s highly organized, and like most Global Campus students, skilled at using technology to communicate.
     “Kari was incredibly effective,” said teammate Margaret Wyckoff. “Once our connection went out. While I looked at what we were going to cover, she made an entire video of her part, uploaded it to YouTube and sent it to us. And it was really good.”
     Teammate Kasey Markland said Kari was expert at collaborating over the Internet. “She would do the presentation in a way where we could see her, the presentation and her comments simultaneously.”
     Kari heard about her win from the YouTube livestream. After startling the neighbors, she immediately texted her husband and daughter: “I'm going to Geneva!!!”
     Her husband was delighted, but her daughter, Helen, was overjoyed. “We’re nothing if not a practical family,” Kari said. “Helen was ecstatic that my travel to Geneva might result in the appropriation of Swiss chocolate for her.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Building better lives for widows, orphans

Francoise Gakuba     A decade ago, Francoise Gakuba came to the U.S. from Rwanda. She already had a food science degree from the University of Burundi, but wanted to better help her native county.
     “Households in Rwanda lack infrastructure, such as clean water, electricity, refrigeration systems, that support food safety,” she said. “I want to teach them food safety and management skills to help them create projects that generate money.”
     In spring 2014, the Seattle resident enrolled in Washington State University’s online master's in agriculture, food science and management option. The program, offered through WSU Global Campus, combines food science with executive management courses.
More...      “Finding the combination of science and management was a good move,” Gakuba said. “This program enhanced my confidence in the area of food safety, and gave me the skills I need to help communities in developing countries.”
     Gakuba made a trip back to Rwanda in 2014 and worked alongside the non-profit group Equipping, Restoring, Multiplying Rwanda ( The group, managed by her husband, is helping the country recover from the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 Tutsi men, women, and children were killed, as well as thousands of Hutus who opposed the massacres. Gakuba’s specific focus is on widows and orphans.
     “My role is oriented toward food safety, product development and training to help widows develop small-scale businesses to generate income,” she said. “The organization has a vocational school for them and we are working on starting a culinary class, which will include food safety education.”
     ERM Rwanda also lets Americans sponsor widows and orphans. During her 2014 trip, Gakuba collected information about food safety education needs, and helped families figure out how to use their sponsorship stipend, which is $40 a month for widows, and $35 for orphans.
     Without training, she said, families often decide to spend that money on immediate needs, instead of investing it for future profit.
     “I motivated four families to identify their priorities and use their sponsorship wisely by choosing a feasible project,” she said. “As a result, two were able to buy land to be able to farm, and the other two were able to get running water with the plan to sell the clean water to neighbors. I also helped teach teenagers about the Bible and personal hygiene.”
     Barbara Rasco is Gakuba’s advisor at WSU. “Francoise is dedicated to helping improve the lives of families through better health and food safety practices in the home,” Rasco said. “She is focused on making the world a better place in the best tradition of a land-grant university.”

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Two students make Case contest finals

Kari Whitney and Victoria ButtressKari Whitney, left, and Victoria Buttress.

For the first time, two WSU Global Campus students are finalists in the Global Case Competition. Each is on one of five teams selected to solve a global issue. This year’s topic is arbitrary detention in the United States.

Kari Whitney and Victoria Buttress are the two finalists. Kari will be presenting remotely, and Victoria is coming to Pullman.

“While I am still just beginning to understand what arbitrary detention is, I am thrilled to have teased out some of its weighty issues and come up with some quite workable solutions,” said Kari, a Tacoma resident majoring in humanities. She’s working with students who have chemical engineering, economics, and political science backgrounds. “Together, we make a strong team,” she said.

Victoria, a human development major from Turlock, Calif., also praised the diversity of the teams. “The way the competition is set up—to include students at all levels and all backgrounds—is absolutely brilliant,” she said. “If I weren't graduating in December, I would definitely enter the competition next year too.”

The winning team will go to Geneva this fall to present its solutions to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“As an undergrad student,” Victoria said, “this opportunity is almost unheard of!”

The final presentations start at 3 p.m. (PT) April 8, and Global Campus students are invited to watch them live. Register here.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Student uses writing skills to help hungry

Kari Whitney     The stories compress long pain into brief paragraphs.
     Bill tore out both kneecaps in a car crash when he was a teenager. “The doctors, they put the bones in the wrong places.” He’s 58 now. He wants to work as much as possible. Social Security says he’s working too much, and cut his benefits.
     Patti is a disabled senior who fled her abusive husband. Her son fled too. “My son was found dead and we don't know how it happened.” Then her car was stolen.
     There’s Rosemary, who takes care of 13 grandchildren. And Paul, a laid-off locksmith. And Debbie and Steve, who retired and were living in their van on $504 a month: “We were eating, but not a lot.”
     There are 562,000 stories like these; that’s how many people are helped annually by FISH Food Banks of Pierce County.
     To help share those stories, WSU Global Campus student Kari Whitney wrote a series of short profiles for the food banks’ newsletter and social media, changing some of the names. Her efforts brought her a Community Involvement Award from WSU’s Center for Civic Engagement. More...      “I was surprised and honored,” Whitney said. “They're using my materials to illustrate the wide range of food insecurity in our community and to encourage people to donate food, money, and time.”
     Whitney was nominated by Emily Happy, the food banks’ director of development and communication.
     “There is an unfortunate stigma associated with hunger, poverty and needing to ask for help. All too often, we see people in the parking lot in tears, about to go into the food bank for the first time, totally overwhelmed,” Happy said. “Stories like the ones Kari captured put a face to hunger and help remove the stigma.”
     Whitney is a Tacoma resident majoring in humanities, and an ASWSU Global student senator. She volunteered as part of a human development course on families in poverty.
     “I was sent out to interview clients to help the food bank explain to potential contributors why people needed food,” she said. “And, wow, people need food! We discussed national food insecurity in class, but I was surprised by the diversity of circumstances that brought people to the food banks.”
     While WSU students bring university-level skills to community groups, said Erin McIlraith, the Center for Civic Engagement’s marketing and communication coordinator, the benefit is mutual. “Community organizations also provide a hands-on learning experience that students cannot get through standard coursework,” McIlraith said.
     Along with her community involvement, Whitney is also a senator in the online student government.
     “I thought this would be a clock-in, clock-out thing for me when I first signed into Blackboard. However, many classes include weekly discussion threads that require original posts and substantive replies, and I found that my classmates were real people with fascinating perspectives, and I wanted to interact with them more,” she said.
     “It was a natural progression to start attending webinars and Senate meetings and face-to-face events.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Investment pays off for strat-comm grad

JoAnna Martens     She’d worked in TV production for nearly a decade. She lived in Los Angeles, managed projects, arranged presentations, and was a production coordinator. But JoAnna Martens loved marketing and, despite her impressive background, needed career-related experience in that field.
     “As a growing professional, I knew that the investment in my career development didn’t stop at undergrad,” she said.
     In January 2014, she enrolled in WSU’s online strategic communication master’s program offered through The Edward R. Murrow College. Why WSU? Two reasons. “WSU is a respected institution,” she said, “and the degree was provided in an online format that met my needs as a full-time working professional.”
     Martens raced through the program, taking summer courses, and was among the first graduates in December 2015.
     The program, she said, provided a good balance of theory and application. “Upon graduation from WSU, I felt confident that I was now armed with the equivalent of two years’ experience in a marketing related field, and could speak to it with knowledge and expertise.”
     Martens now works in broadcast television doing marketing and affiliate relations. She lives in New York City with her miniature pinscher, Tidi. She also does a little free marketing on the side: “I’ve become WSU’s own personal walking talking commercial,” she said.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Livestream: Interim president narrates ‘Peter and Wolf’

bernardo-dan-550p-300x169Washington State University Interim President Dan Bernardo recently took on a new role at the university, narrating the WSU Symphony Orchestra’s presentation of “Peter and the Wolf.”
“When they invited me,” Bernardo said, “I thought it would be a unique experience that I’d have only because I’m in this position.”
The free performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s children’s classic was Feb. 18 in Bryan Hall, and livestreamed for Global Campus students by WSU Global Connections, which also brings webinars, career consultations, and guest lectures to online students.
“Being the narrator is like being one of the instruments in the orchestra,” said Bernardo, who played trumpet in college. “The narrator has a very defined role, and has to come in at the right time and with the right tone.”
Bernardo’s trumpet experience quickly became apparent, said conductor Danh Pham. “He paces his speech patterns based on the sounds he hears,” Pham said. “He’s brought his own flair and interpretation—and made musical decisions that sound awesome.”
Music students were “star-struck” to learn they’d be playing alongside the university’s interim president, Pham said.
“Their lips were zipped and their ears were open,” he said. “And they played better—the electricity in the room when they’re rehearsing with him is just wonderful, absolutely spectacular.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Student helps veterans. And wild cats.

allyce 1“Live Animal?” Yup, that’s how she rolls. Or used to, when she went by that name for roller derby. Better known as Allyce Rusnak, the WSU Global Campus student hung up her skates when she went back to school.

Now, instead of knocking people down, she’s raising them up: She works with veterans and psychologists to make 3D games that help service members cope with PTSD and brain injuries. She’s an ASWSU Global senator, helping support the online student body. And she also helps nonhumans. In her spare time, she traps feral cats.

“They can’t be rehomed, so we have them spayed or neutered so they don’t create a colony that gets out of hand,” she said.

Rusnak already had a bachelor’s in computer animation when she enrolled at Global Campus in fall 2015. But the south King County resident is changing paths, and is studying psychology and biology.

“My teachers do a really good job,” she said. “They are really involved. They have office hours every week, and student projects so we don’t feel isolated. It’s a lot more involved than online programs at community colleges.”

After graduating from Global Campus, Rusnak will look for a Ph.D. program in neuropsychology, behavior genetics, and neurogenetics, which is how genetics affect brain development.

“My passion is to better our understanding of mental health,” she said. “My goal is to increase early detection so we can use prevention techniques before a person’s illness becomes too much to handle.”

Getting into graduate school is a key reason why she chose WSU’s online program. “I wanted to make sure my degree was valid,” she said. “Because I want to pursue a Ph.D., it looks a lot better if I’m coming from a reputable actual physical campus.”

It also looks a lot better on doctoral applications if your name isn’t “Live Animal.” How did she get that name? “I had a sticker for a cat crate that said ‘live animal,’” she said. “So I put it on my helmet. The name just stuck.”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Grad parties: New friends, new futures

DSC_2890They hugged friends they’d never met before. They frolicked with Butch T. Cougar. To find their Global Campus classmates, some wore red sweaters emblazoned with WSU logos and snowflakes.

This year’s ASWSU Global commencement receptions in Pullman and Seattle drew more than 100 exuberant graduates and family members.

“It’s the first time I’ve met everybody,” said strategic communications graduate Wayne White, who sported one of the festive sweaters at the Pullman event. “I’ve worked with them for two years, seen their pictures, but to actually talk and interact with them is a different thing.”

The sweater idea came from a strategic-communications Facebook group. “We peer-pressured everyone into buying one,” said White, a video editor at KOMO-TV news. “Now we can all identify each other.”

Other ASWSU Global events include free zoo trips, ski trips, museum visits, and tailgate parties. “Most online programs would never do these kinds of things,” said Jonathan Olp, the incoming ASWSU Global president. “But it brings the students closer so they can connect with one another and the faculty.”

Criminal justice major Lindsey Clark attended the Seattle graduation reception with a full family entourage: Mother, father, husband, 4-year-old son, sister, brother-in-law, mother-in-law, and niece. Her support network quickly came in handy:

“Before showing up, I was thinking, ‘it's just a lunch,’” she said. “But clearly it meant a lot more to me because immediately after walking in the door, I burst into tears.”

Monday, December 14, 2015

Teen earns master's online at WSU

A 19-year-old has become the first graduate of WSU’s online master’s in electrical engineering program.

Alexander Anderson completing his degree in three semesters, and has started a company and filed two patent applications for airborne generators. The North Bend, Wash., resident is now launching an effort to bring light, power and entrepreneurial opportunities to residents of Jiwaka Province, Papua New Guinea.

He's also designing an unmanned hybrid-electric aircraft.

Anderson did his WSU lab work in his family’s home workshop, where he built and tested his airborne generators and energy augmenter. “From power systems analysis to smart grid cybersecurity to high voltage electromagnetics, every course was something that I really wanted to know and understand,’’ he said.

Full story here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

New course: Human-Animal Interaction

hai courseWSU Global Campus is delivering a new online course, Human-Animal Interaction: What We Know and What the Future Holds.

The noncredit course offers a basic understanding of the value of human-animal interaction, and the benefits of animal intervention in health-care and other settings.

More info here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Musical mash-up at grad receptions

IMG_0237At Washington State University commence- ments, the musicians play Pomp and Circumstance. But at WSU Global Campus pre-commencement receptions, there’s not much pomp, and the circumstances are more eclectic than classical.

That’s because the Global Campus student government, which organizes the Pullman and Seattle events, lets students choose their favorite songs, then assembles them into a wide-ranging playlist: Classic rock. Contemporary country. Pop. R&B, hip-hop, and the uniquely peculiar Dead Milkmen.

Some songs inspire: “Today is where your book begins/The rest is still unwritten.”

Some songs empower: “We ride and never worry about the fall/I guess that's just the cowboy in us all.”

And some may comfort those with average grades: “Happiness on earth/Ain't just for high achievers.”

The auditory free-for-all started last spring, when ASWSU Global decided to better tailor the receptions to the students’ tastes.

“They’re all sharing this incredible sense of pride and accomplishment,” said ASWSU Global liaison CeCe Smith. “We thought they should be able to share their music too.”

The diverse music reflects the diverse student body, Smith said. “Our students have a wide range of cultural and professional backgrounds,” she said. “It's one of the benefits of Global Campus courses: Students learn from their classmates as well as their professors.”

Does that make up for hearing Glenn Miller segue into Van Halen into Tim McGraw into Bon Jovi?

“These folks are WSU graduates,” she said. “They know how to embrace differences—and find beauty in unexpected places.”

--Richard H. Miller/WSU Global Campus