Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tiny cheerleader, big spirit

Millions of children happily inform their parents that the wheels on the bus go “round and round/round and round/round and round,” or reiterate Barney’s position that, “I love you/You love me/We’re a happy family.”
Hear Mackenzie sing the fight song.
In Richland, Washington, one 5-year-old isn’t content with spinning her wheels or dispensing syrupy sentiment. She sings of pride, conquest and rolling over those standing in the way. The song is always in her heart and on her lips:
“Fight, fight, fight for Washington State! Win the victory.
“Win the day for Crimson and Gray! More...
“Best in the West, we know you'll all do your best, so
“On, on, on, on! Fight to the end! Honor and Glory you must win!
“So fight, fight, fight for Washington State and victory!”
Mackenzie sings the “Cougar Fight Song” at home. She sings it in the car. Sometimes, during game days, she dons her little Cougar cheerleader outfit, gets up on a table, and sings at the Towne Crier, a Coug-centric sports bar co-owned by her stepfather, Joe Jisa, who graduated from Washington State University in 1997 with a bachelor’s in education.
Her mother, Marta Gray-Jisa, graduated from WSU last summer, earning her social sciences degree online through Distance Degree Programs.
“It was pretty sweet when Marta graduated as a Coug,” said Joe, who is also the principal at Christ the King School, a private kindergarten through eighth-grade school in Richland. “I am very proud of her. She worked extremely hard on her education while she was raising a child and working full time.”
Marta and Joe got married on August 8, 2008, two weeks after Marta’s graduation. They played the “Cougar Fight Song” at the wedding. “Mackenzie walked me down the aisle and stole the show,” Marta said.
Just a few years ago, Marta was struggling to rebuild her life after a divorce. “I became a single mother,” Marta said. “I had a barely 3-year-old, worked full time, sold a house, moved. DDP made it easy for me to burn the midnight oil and attend classes in the middle of the night.”
Other online universities offer convenience, but Marta wanted “a great education, not just a degree,” she said. “I decided on WSU because I wanted to be part of something great, something secure, a college with years of proven dedication to great education.”
Marta is spreading the word about WSU's distance program.
“I cannot count how many people I have spoken with about WSU-DDP,” she said. “I let people know there is always support available, and that it can be done, no matter how busy life is – I also tell them that I went to school every day in pajamas!”
Marta’s next step is to get her master’s in social work so she can “help children and families in need.”
What about Mackenzie’s next step? Once she’s conquered elementary school, junior high, and high school?
Mackenzie says her career plan is to become a princess or fairy or mermaid or scuba diver. Or some combination of the above. Her mother is more specific:
“Mackenzie will be a Cougar. There is no question about it!”
Joe was just as certain. “I don't think she has a choice on the school she will be going to,” he said. “She already says, ‘Huskies ... Yuk!’
“When she’s playing in her toy room and I hear her yell out a ‘Go Cougs’ or bust out the fight song, my heart just swells with pride.”

Story by Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education

New tuition rates for DDP students

As announced earlier, WSU is increasing tuition in response to state funding cuts. Here are the new rates for DDP students:
Full-time: Resident,$3,800; Non-resident, $5,572.
Additional hours: Resident, $354; Non-resident, $531.
Part-time, per credit: Resident, $380; Non-resident, $557.
Full-time: Resident, $4,228; Non-resident, $6,214.
Additional hours: Resident, $397; Non-resident, $595.
Part-time, per credit: Resident, $423, Non-resident, $621.
Increases in financial aid, such as Pell grants and Hope Tax Credits, will offset some of the tuition hike. Find out what help is available by talking with one of our financial aid advisors.

Feds investigate Blackboard deal. Department of Justice interviews WSU-Spokane administrator after he raises anti-competition concerns about purchase of Angel.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Back to nature

College students are taking summer internships at organic farms, says The New York Times, which notes that WSU created the nation's first degree in organic agriculture. Not mentioned in the article is that WSU also offers an online certificate in organic agriculture. How does that work exactly? Check out the article on Page 18 of our 2008 Revolutions magazine. It's a .pdf file, so may take a moment to download.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Award surprises DDP student

When told she'd won an award for her history paper, Gail Langseth thought there was a mix-up.
“I am the lamest writer you ever read,” she said. “I can put teachers to sleep faster than cold medicine, so this is very surreal.”
After her student ID number confirmed she actually had received WSU’s Howard C. Payne Award, the Distance Degree Programs student tried a different tack: “Maybe no one else in the class submitted anything," she suggested, "and I was the only choice they had.”
The winning paper was written for Professor Richard Williams’ History 341 course, Rome: Republic and Empire.
More... Williams called Langseth's paper "an excellent discussion, covering all that I asked, and going much farther to look at a generational divide as well as political and social differences."
The Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum & Instruction gave the award. The panel looks for a well-researched project that uses primary sources, presents facts, gives a clear logical historical analysis, and places research in a broad historical context, said Patricia Thorsten-Mickelson, the history department’s administrative manager.
Along with those factors, Langseth's paper was also "a pleasure to read," said Williams, who gave her a 100 on the exam. ("When is C a good grade?" he wrote. "When it is in Roman numerals.")
“Williams was a great history teacher who really made the class fun,” Langseth said. “He was very responsive to student questions and provided really pertinent feedback on all our school work.”
The award comes with a $250 prize. Langseth says she’ll use the money for tuition.
“I love school,” she said, “and if I don't have the cash, I can't take classes. This will help keep me going!”

Monday, May 18, 2009

Collective effort

Blackboard's purchase of Angel, a rival learning management system, has some administrators comparing it to Star Trek characters who assimilate everyone in their path. Has "Blackborg" gone too far? Does it really matter to students? Have a look and let us know what you think.

Friday, May 15, 2009

No trees were harmed

This blog used to be the Online News. Before that, it was the DDP Times, mailed out once a month. It started as the Extended Degree Program Newsletter, first published in January 1993. The photos were black and white. The paper was yellow, or has yellowed with the passing years. Its six pages were fastened with a staple.

Now, staplers are relegated to the back of a desk drawer. More...Printed publications are disappearing, a victim of budget cuts and the advent of the Internet. What does this mean for universities that once relied on paper publications to communicate? Robert Frank, director of internal communications at WSU and editor of WSU Today, tells Inside Higher Ed that there are positives and negatives. You can find the article, not surprisingly, online.

While the trees may be pleased, we at DDP sometimes miss the feeling of an actual print publication. But the blog has some important advantages: It's immediate. We can get news to you right away. It's searchable, so people can find it online. And it's interactive. You can comment. Just click on the comment button below any of the items to share your thoughts. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Don't delay, study today

Trying to find your summer DDP courses? Online courses with DDP are in Angel, our learning management system. The most direct way to access your courses is to log in with your WSU network ID and password. The Angel link is also in the upper left navigation bar throughout our Current Students Web pages and myDDP.

Children, Angel, and cheese

Cultural differences. WSU instructor Noriko Porter shares her research into differences between how children are raised in U.S. and Japan. One key distinction is that Japanese parents are more likely to blame themselves for their children's shortcomings.

Everything will be OK. Blackboard execs reassure college administrators worried about Blackboard's purchase of Angel, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Cougar on a cracker. WSU's famous Cougar cheese will be included in the public tastings during the Seattle Cheese Festival at Pike Place Market this weekend. Also on tap, the winner of the grilled cheese recipe contest will create her concoction. (It involves a pint of beer.)
In other cheese news, Cougar Gold wins gold star award from magazine.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tuition rising; so is financial aid

As you've probably heard, WSU's Board of Regents on Friday approved tuition increases of 14 percent for resident undergraduate students for each of the next two academic years. This change also applies to DDP students, both resident and nonresident.
Graduate students will see a 5 percent increase each year. The regents also set tuition for the new online MBA at $750 a credit. WSU has posted a spreadsheet detailing the changes.
More..."We have to play the hand that is dealt to us," said Francois Forgette, chair of the board, who pointed out that, even after the tuition increase, the university will have to cut its budget by $54.16 million, or 10.38 percent, over the biennium. The regents also mentioned a report that showed WSU’s 2008-2009 tuition and fees placed the university $1,166 below the average of 22 peer institutions.
The good news is that expansion of financial aid, such as Pell grants and Hope Tax Credits will offset some of the tuition hike. Other changes are still working their way through Congress.
Even if you don't think you qualify, be sure to talk with one of our financial aid advisors. And, a gentle reminder: Check the application deadlines. Filing late can cost you a whole lot of money.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Once homeless, now helping others

DDP student, ex-migrant worker spoke at national conference in D.C.

A dozen preschoolers puff into plastic wands,
shrieking as soap bubbles kite across the classroom. Sylvia Guzman, 29, sits cross-legged on the floor, next to a poster showing ways to calm down (put hand on tummy, take deep breaths). She reads aloud in Spanish: “There are three amigos.” She points to the book. The children flock around. She turns the page. “Four armadillos. How many armadillos? Let’s count them.” They count together – “Uno, dos, tres, cuatro” – as one boy stomps errant bubbles. “Look. Five cows,” she says. “What does a cow say?” Everyone moos in unison. More... Guzman, a Distance Degree Programs student at Washington State University, has worked at Early Head Start in Mt. Vernon, Washington, for four years. “I get paid to play all day,” she says. “I never want to go back to the fields. And I’m not. Never.” The fields are the farms of California, Oregon, and Washington where she picked oranges, grapes, lemons, olives, blueberries, cucumbers, apples, and strawberries.
Sylvia started picking in central California at 13. She picked on weekends during the school year and all summer to help her parents, immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico. “When my parents told me it was time to get another bin, I’d start crying,” she says. Her mother, Silviana, still works the fields. Her father, Guadalupe, died in 2000.
At 18, Sylvia married Cornelio, a fellow Oaxacan she met in the fields. They became migrant workers, following the harvest up through Oregon and Washington, where their daughter, Angelica Avila, was born. (Karina came two years later, then Diego, who’s now 4.)
The family lived in labor camps, in their cargo van, and in a livestock barn where they boiled water to shower in a plywood-covered feeding pen. One boss let them sleep in a corner of his rat-infested warehouse. “I was pregnant, and I would cry because I did not want to stay there,” Sylvia says. “I’m terrified of rats. In Mexico one night I felt something scratching on the blankets and I told my husband, ‘Honey I think there’s a rat on top of us.’ He told me, ‘No, it’s not. Go to sleep.’ Then he felt it and he flung off the blankets. And the rats in Mexico …” She holds her hands a foot apart.
In 2001, Sylvia, Cornelio and their two young children were sharing a two-bedroom house with about 20 people in Burlington, Washington. Fed up with fieldwork, she walked across the street to a child-care center. “I asked for a job. I told the woman that I’d come here every day for a week and work for free.” She got the job, her first job in child care.
She enrolled at Skagit Valley College, and graduated two years later with an associate’s degree. She wanted a bachelor’s degree in human development next and chose an online degree completion program so she could study while spending time with her family. In fall 2008, Sylvia was accepted in WSU’s online program.
“DDP classes are very good,” says Sylvia, the first in her family to attend college. “I’m very glad I can work at my own pace and still have the teacher interaction when I need it.”
Sylvia singles out her academic advisor for praise. “I love Chrisi Kincaid,” she says. “She’s been a real help. Every time I have a question, every time I can’t find a book, she’ll go to the bookstore and tell me, yes, that’s the one or no it’s not. She really goes out of her way.”
Students like Sylvia make her job “very rewarding,” Chrisi says. “When I meet someone like Sylvia, who has overcome so many obstacles to obtain an education, I am compelled to do whatever I can to urge them on to success.”
At Early Head Start, Sylvia teaches special needs and mainstream children, using Spanish, English and sign language. She also makes home visits to teach parenting skills – simple things, she says, such as how to obtain a driver’s license or use food banks. In October, she was selected to go to the national Head Start conference in Washington, D.C., where she gave two presentations, one about bilingual education, and one about her life.
Sylvia plans to earn her bachelor’s degree by 2010, then get a master’s in bilingual education. “I am the way I am because of my life experience,” she says. “I don’t settle for minimum. I want more.”
Parents begin arriving to pick up the preschoolers, who have howled with eight coyotes, hissed with nine snakes, meowed with 10 cats. None shows any sign of calming down. “Paku,” Sylvia says to the Russian-speaking boy, “Goodbye.”
After the children leave, she sits in a tiny wooden chair and switches to Spanish: “Se aprende de los golpes de la vida.” It’s a Mexican saying, she explains. “You learn from the hardships of life.”
Story by Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education
Photo by Brian Maki/Center for Distance and Professional Education

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Media designer honored

A media designer at the Center for Distance and Professional Education recently won an award for creating a a digitial model of a Spartan warrior. Jon Muller used a 3D application called Zbrush to sculpt the model "like clay," he says. The competition was hosted by Gnomon, a visual effects school.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

This just in

Blackboard to buy Angel. But Angel's features to remain the same, at least for a while, newspaper says.

New Kindle for textbooks. Experts discuss how a student-oriented Kindle could change the textbook market. One problem? "Most college students — more than 80 percent, according to a survey by Educause — already own portable machines that can display electronic textbooks: They're called laptops."

Praise from Vancouver. The Columbian newspaper editorial page gives WSU "cheers" for the Online MBA, citing its "modern approach" to education.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ballgame for a good cause

"Beisbol Day." Edgar Martinez and wife, Holli, have teamed up with the Mariners to offer discounted tickets for the June 6 game against the Twins at Safeco Field. Money from ticket sales for “Salute to Latinos in Beisbol Day” will help fund 15 fellowships that bring more teachers of color into the classroom. Five of those future teachers are from WSU. Check the Web site for ticket info, or go to the article for more about the fellowship program.

New way to study? Amazon is about to unveil a Kindle for textbooks, according to the Wall Street Journal. UPDATE: The new Kindle is here. It costs just under $500. Here's a first look.

Monday, May 4, 2009

In the news

Financial aid. Obama's budget plans are "the most fundamental rewriting of federal student aid policy in 35 years." In the Washington Post, registration may be required.

Co-admit program. Kitsap newspaper discusses Olympic College co-admit program.

Free books online. From poetry to encyclopedias to audio books, Web site offers 50 places to find free books online.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cap, gown, and mask?

Universities nationwide are preparing for two things: Commencement and the swine flu. In order to keep the first from spreading the second, officials have floated a variety of ideas, including more warning signs; asking people with symptoms to stay away; providing hand sanitizer and masks; and forgoing the traditional handshake.
The most popular idea is skipping the handshake. Perhaps a pat on the back instead? A slight bow of acknowledgment?
To be extra-safe, you may want to review this article on how to properly wash your hands. And watch a video on how to cover your cough.