Monday, October 19, 2009

Cruise line exec gets in deep

One, twice, three times a Cougar: Sally van Boheemen is a Cougar mom, an Alumni Association volunteer, and, most recently, a student in Washington State University Distance Degree Programs.
Football coach Bill Doba assisted with her conversion to Cougar mom. In 2004, several universities were trying to recruit Van Boheemen’s son Kellen, a top football player at Tumwater High School.
During a WSU recruiting event, “Doba came up and talked with Kellen,” Van Boheemen said. “He was so warm and personable that we were immediately struck with a feeling of family. That feeling became more intense as we sat through a few team sessions where players discussed why they chose WSU. Kellen came away saying, ‘It feels right, it feels like a family.’” Kellen turned down a scholarship elsewhere to enroll at WSU.
More... Van Boheemen was also impressed, which led to the second phase of her Cougar-ization. In 2006, she learned you don’t have to be a WSU graduate to volunteer with the Alumni Association. She served on committees, organized events, and became a deputy director of the King County Alumni Association as well as a director of the King County Athletic Foundation.
It wasn’t like she had time to spare. Van Boheemen, 51, is the director of Fleet Medical Operations at Holland America Line. She manages an $8 million budget, supervises an office staff of nine in downtown Seattle and more than 800 nurses and doctors on 14 cruise ships. She deals with erupting volcanoes, plane crashes, outbreaks of polio and dengue fever on resort islands. “My job is 24/7,” she said.
Phase three of Van Boheemen’s Cougar transformation happened aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam ship in Seattle. She was helping WSU organize a diversity tribute. One presenter was Dr. Michael Tate, vice president of WSU’s Division of Student Affairs, Equity and Diversity.
“He was such an engaging speaker, I thought, ‘Wow, if my professors were like that in college, I would have learned so much.’ It got me to thinking about returning to college. That, combined with my love of WSU, got me started on the DDP path.”
Van Boheemen joined DDP in 2007, almost 30 years after she graduated from Yakima Valley College with a nursing degree. She’s majoring in sociology. “I wanted to stretch my mind in a new direction.”
Online education is both easy and difficult, she said.
“The process is made very easy by the University,” she said. “You can log on no matter where you are. You can see your work, chat with the professor. The challenge is that you have to be very self-disciplined. It’s very easy to say, ‘I’m busy today, I’ll wait until tomorrow.’ A couple times I had to take a personal day off to finish my papers.”
Her employers are more than understanding.
“There’s a part of our yearly performance appraisal that asks what you’re doing to improve yourself, aside from work,” Van Boheemen said. “I put, ‘obtaining a degree from WSU.’ I listed the courses, and that I got an A. They were really impressed.”
-- Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education

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