Thursday, December 30, 2010

Success tips from the front lines

WSU Online may use a lot of fancy technology, but we still put a high value on an old-fashioned asset: A real live person who answers your call and helps make things right. Rebecca Stull is one of those problem-solvers, and she offers these tips on how to be a successful online student:

One thing I’ve noticed is that savvy students always know the deadlines! They print off the Academic Calendar or write the key dates in a day planner.
They most likely have a few additional items marked on their calendar, including:

     Get money! The WSU Online student government has scholarships. The deadline to apply for academic year (fall and spring) scholarships is June 1, the deadline for spring only scholarships is November 1, and the deadline More... for summer scholarships is March 15. The general WSU Academic Scholarship application has a deadline of January 31.
     Check in with an academic consultant well before registration opens to get the advising hold lifted.
     Get financial aid squared away. Be especially aware of the FAFSA priority date, Feb. 15. It can mean the difference between joy and sorrow.
     Register! Yeah, this one you aren’t likely to forget, but if your ducks are in a row you’ll increase your chances of getting the classes you want instead of your second, third, or fourth choices. And, in case you forgot, those restricted schedule line numbers are in your My Account page under registration.
     Get your books early. It won’t be your fault if the shipment is delayed. But you’ll be the one who suffers. So, it’s best to ship early to ensure you have your books for the first day of classes.

But, it all starts with the Academic Calendar! Print it off, tape it to the computer monitor, tack it to the wall, highlight it, scribble on it, add alarms to your phone, do whatever you have to do to keep on course.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gearing up for spring semester

cybercafeSpring semester is just a couple of weeks away. Classes begin Jan. 10, and the deadline to register without a penalty is Jan. 9. When you start classes, here are some useful links you will find on your WSU Online My Account page:
  • Technical support is available 24/7. Select the Tech Support link from the lower left menu to see whom to call, and find a link to the speed test to check your Internet speed.
  • Need a little extra academic support? Online tutoring services are available in a variety of areas. Select Academic Support, then Tutoring Options for details.
  • Check out the Career Services link to get tips on creating a successful resume, networking, and more. Thinking of a career change? Select Career Development Assessments to learn how you can find the occupation that’s right for you.
Be sure to log in to your course space at on the first day of classes. If you need any help, call us at 800-222-4978 or e-mail us at

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Seven ways to puncture a wine windbag

larry wine crop
Uncle Patrick gargles his wine. “I taste blackberries and cherry and oak,” he says, “and a lot of tannins.”
The only thing you know about wine is that it comes in different colors. But, with holiday meals approaching, here’s how to puncture wine windbags, thanks to Washington State University Professor Kathleen Williams:

Precipitate saliva. When Patrick says he tastes tannins, you say: “Tannins don’t have a taste. They create a sensation as they precipitate the proteins out of your saliva.” Tip: Stroke your chin sagely as you pronounce “precipitate.”

Throw in a German word. Patrick swirls the glass. “Good legs,” he observes. You say, “The French call them tears. The Germans call them kirchenfenster or church windows, because they form an arch.” Want more? Try this: “Water has more surface tension than alcohol. The evaporating alcohol pulls the water up with it. When the alcohol breaks through, the water runs down.”

Hit him with brix. Patrick looks at the label. “Oh my,” he says, “14.9 percent alcohol.” You’re ready for him. “Did you know that wines from hot areas tend to have more alcohol? That’s because the grapes have more sugar. As a rule of thumb, every 2 percent of sugar will produce about 1 percent alcohol. So this wine was originally almost a third sugar. Of course, wine makers don’t call them sugars. They call them brix.” Tip: Refill his glass. Keep refilling his glass. This becomes important later.

Diamonds are your best friend. He holds the glass up to the light. Tiny crystals stick to the sides. “It’s going bad,” he says. “Not really,” you say. “Those are potassium tartrate crystals, same thing as cream of tartar. They’re a naturally occurring acid in grapes.” Smile tolerantly, and add, “In Canada, they call them wine diamonds.”

Herbal harmony. Patrick says, “A red wine would overwhelm the turkey.” You say, “It’s not really about the turkey. It’s about the herbs with the turkey, such as onion, celery and sage. What works well is to contrast the herbs with a fruity wine, such as a Beaujolais Nouveau or a Gewürztraminer.”

Make something up. By now, Uncle Patrick should be a bit toasted, so hit him with something ludicrous, but difficult to disprove: “Gewürztraminer has an umlaut,” you say. “The word umlaut is derived from the word omelet and Gewürztraminer pairs well with omelets. As a matter of fact, most umlaut wines go well with egg-based dishes, such as quiche. It’s called a bio-linguistic reaction.”

Fancy footwork. As he sputters to object, quickly change the subject: “Do you know what the best pairing is? Scientists in England proved that it is milk and chocolate chip cookies. Speaking of dessert, how about some pie?”

WSU’s viticulture and enology program offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees, and certificates. For more information go to

--By Richard H. Miller/Washington State University

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Missed deadline halts his college career

snowy playground

It will be a bleak Christmas homecoming.
     This past fall, a Washington State University freshman moved to Pullman to start a new life. Then his financial aid ran out. He can’t register for spring semester. He can’t stay in the residence hall. He will pack his university career into cardboard boxes and go back home.
     WSU financial aid counselor Kathryn Sutton met with the student and his father in October. “It was a sad day,” she says. And one that was easy to avoid.
     “They missed the priority FAFSA date,” Sutton says. “I showed them what would have been available if they filed on time. More than $7,000. I remember their faces. They were ….” Sutton can’t find the words. She sighs. “That money could have let the student stay at WSU.”
     The funding they lost was the State Need Grant, which is first-come, first-served: “When it’s spent,” Sutton says, “it’s spent.” Filing the FAFSA by the priority date also increases the chance for other grants and scholarships, she says.
     Sutton did her best to help for the student and his father. She outlined possibilities, including community college and WSU Online, both of which allow students to live at home and save expenses while continuing their studies.
     “When I last talked to them, they were planning to return home,” Sutton says. She invited them to contact her if she could help, but never heard from father or son again.
     “I think students get annoyed with us for harping on the deadlines, but they don’t always understand what’s at stake. When it hits home like this, it’s really hard.”

     The priority deadline for the fall 2011 to summer 2012 FAFSA is February 15. Please go to for more information.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Praised by the president at graduation

Sylvia on screen II     “We are immensely proud of you,” WSU President Elson S. Floyd says of WSU Online graduate Sylvia Guzman, shown above on the big screen during Saturday’s commencement ceremony.
     Guzman has had quite a journey, from homeless migrant worker to being praised by WSU’s president in front of the crowd at Beasley Coliseum. She was even featured on the front page of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.
     To see Sylvia during the ceremony, go to 37:50 of the video. To read her story, select this link.

Spring break project: Giant tube worms

riftia1Allison Drake (2)Giant tube worms live in the darkness of the deep sea, next to hydrothermal vents. They grow up to 8 feet long and, at their tips, have red plumes rimmed with blood vessels. They resemble a cross between a tentacle and a tube of lipstick.
     These weird invertebrates are called riftia. WSU Online student Allison Drake studied them this past spring during an internship at the Smithsonian National Museum of National History, which offers several spring break programs.
     “I told myself I needed to step out of the bounds of my day-to-day life and explore the world,” she said. Drake picked the Hunting Sea Monsters program, and gathered information for the Encyclopedia of Life website. More...      The best part of the weeklong program was seeing “the underbelly” of the Smithsonian. Drake attended lectures, watched the creation of exhibits and talked with staff at the Washington, D.C., museum. “I was privileged to meet one of the few starfish experts in the world,” she said.
     Drake’s university studies reflect her eclectic interests. She’s majoring in humanities, with a triple emphasis in art, music, and anthropology, plus she’s minoring in sociology and earned a professional writing certificate.
     “I've been fascinated with people and how they interact as long as I can remember,” she said. “I also love to write and express myself in creative ways, which is where the art, music, and professional writing come into play.”
     Drake chose WSU Online because of its long history of success, “really welcoming atmosphere,” and convenience.
     “I love WSU Online because it fits into my life,” she said. “I can schedule my day as I see fit, instead of sitting in a lecture hall, waiting for other people and listening to questions that don’t pertain to me.”
     Drake may not sit in a classroom, but she still feels connected.
     “I have had more contact and feedback from my professors through online courses than through face-to-face classes,” she said. “And my advisors have been very active and invested in what I'm doing.”
     Drake lives in Vancouver, Washington, and works part time for a nonprofit agency. She has a 3.73 GPA and after graduating in May plans to earn a master’s in social work. That decision was inspired by the protests and rallies she witnessed during her internship.
     “Seeing so many people in one place so passionate about life was inspiring,” she said. “It’s important not to just talk about the issues facing the world, but to do something about them.”

Story by Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education
Riftia photo courtesy of Vicki Ferrini, Marvin Lilley

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Study wine in Italy? Tourism in Thailand?

bangkok WSU Online students can earn credits this summer by studying business in China, food and wine in Italy, and health care in Peru. Other faculty-led programs include trips to Paris, Spain, Thailand, Greece, and Switzerland.

The programs are open to all WSU students from any academic major.

For more information and a list of all the available programs, go to the Education Abroad website.

Monday, December 6, 2010

New CyberCoug newsletter out

Check out the latest installment right here.

On a less cheery topic, if you're interested in WSU's preliminary plans for cutting $13.5 million from its budget, here's a link. In addition, WSU has to temporarily cut $11.2 million. Here's that plan.

The good news is that no academic programs are scheduled to be eliminated.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Online instructor wins national honors

John Turpin     A WSU Spokane professor has been named one of the top 25 interior design educators in the nation by the journal DesignIntelligence.
     John Turpin, who is interviewed in today’s Daily Evergreen, began teaching his first WSU Online course this past summer; his venture into online education is detailed in this WSU Today story.
     Turpin is offering the same course -- ID 250, History of Interiors -- again this spring. As of today, there are 12 seats left in the 20-student course, so better sign up soon if you’re interested.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Miss the Seattle party? Come to Pullman

IMG_9203     The band didn’t make it to Seattle. But the cheerleaders did, along with about 400 WSU students, staff and alumni who braved icy temperatures and snowy streets for last Tuesday’s party beforeharmeling (2) Cougars beat the Pilots in the Hardwood Classic basketball game.
     The event was organized in conjunction with WSU Online’s student government, and included dinner, an appearance by Butch T. Cougar and WSU basketball standout Daven Harmeling, right.
     WSU Online students, family and friends will soon have another chance to socialize, courtesy of AWSU Online.
     The student government is holding a precommencement reception from 5-7 p.m. Dec. 10 at Lewis Alumni Centre on the Pullman campus. For more information, go to the website.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Prof: ‘I’m not trying to torture people’

DSC_6274New online course on wines and vines requires a willingness to challenge your tastebuds. The story is in WSU Today.

Win an iPad from WSU

ipodcougar     Would you like to win an iPad? All you have to do is come up with a great name for WSU’s Student Information System, which we like to call SIS for short.
     Along with getting a shiny new iPad, you’ll also be leaving a lasting legacy at WSU as generations of staff, faculty and students refer to our computer system by the name that you came up with. But, don’t worry. You won’t be blamed for any glitches.
     The deadline to enter is Dec. 3. Rules and more information are on the website.

WSU to honor online student

sylviaSylvia Guzman, above, has been chosen as a highlight student for the December commencement. Guzman is the third consecutive online student to be honored, following Sandy Thomas and Debby Poris.
The 2009 article below describes Guzman’s journey from homeless migrant worker to speaking before a national Head Start conference in Washington, D.C.

A dozen preschoolers puff into plastic wands, shrieking as soap bubbles kite across the classroom.
“‘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."
     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.
     Guzman, a Washington State University Online student, 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.
More...     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.
     “The 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.”

By Richard H. Miller/WSU Online

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Engineering program a boon for Boeing

eng-mba-rumsey-280     WSU's online master's program not only helps working engineers build management skills. It also pays off for their employers, such as Boeing. Read about the profitable interaction of classroom and company here.
     For more information on the Engineering Management Program, go to the website.

     Back in 2008, we talked to an enthusiastic engineering graduate as he visited campus to watch a football game and stock up on Coug gear. Here's the story, and below is a video in which we ask him to sing the fight song.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cougs rock and roll at bowling party

     Students, friends, families and staff gathered in Pullman for dinner and bowling during this ASWSU Online-sponsored event.
     If you couldn't make it to Pullman, please join us in Seattle on Nov. 23 for a party before the Hardwood Classic basketball game. Along with a hosted dinner and play time with Butch T. Cougar, there will be a special appearance by the Cougar Alumni Band.
     For more information on ASWSU Online, including information on the special online student scholarships, please go to the website.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Virtual Mentor program wins first place

centss award (1)WSU Online’s Virtual Mentor program has won a first-place innovation award from the Center for Transforming Student Services. Instructional designer Rebecca Van de Vord, right, and Faculty/Student Services Coordinator Margy Fotopoulos run the program at WSU Online.
     Virtual Mentors are past and current WSU Online students who monitor online courses and who reach out to students to assist with non-content related issues, such as navigating the course space, mastering the technology, and building community. More...
   CENTSS praised the award winners for using “creative strategies, and fresh thinking to design, develop, implement, and maintain online student services that have produced measureable results.
     CENTSS is a partnership among the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and Seward, Inc. It promotes best practices in student services online.
     To read what a Virtual Mentor has to say about her experiences, go to the Cyber Coug blog.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New newsletter out; big party coming up

DSC_3008The latest Cyber Coug newsletter  is now online. You can get more information about ASWSU Online at the student government website, and you can see videos of past events on our video page.

While you're on the video page, be sure to check out all the food at the 2010 graduation party. If that whets your appetite, consider joining us for our Nov. 23 party at Key Arena in Seattle.

This should be a blast as we invite WSU Online students, friends and alumni to dine and mingle with other WSU alumni before the Hardwood Classic basketball game.

Scheduled to appear is the Cougar Alumni Band, and we're hoping for a performance by WSU cheerleaders!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two pioneers in distance education retire

kendall oaks “If you look at the past 20 years, there’s probably a half dozen people who have changed the way universities deliver education in this country,” said Samuel H. Smith, president of WSU from 1985 to 2000. “Muriel is clearly one of the leaders of that group.”
See the story in WSU Today.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Students can get software discounts

WSU has partnered with several companies to offer discounts on computer software. Here's the link. You'll need to sign in with your student ID.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scholarship helps him move on with life

He can be himself, sometimes. At the Eastern Washington community college where he co-founded
“She threw something at me and chased me out of the house, screaming."
a club for gays and lesbians. In a WSU Online classroom, where he can “give the gay perspective on different issues.” When he got Elton John to do him a favor.
     Other times, concealment is required. He learned that lesson as a teenager, when his father and stepmother threw him out. That’s why he doesn’t want his real name used here. “Prospective employers will no doubt use Google to screen applicants,” he said.
     Brandon, as we’ll call him, was 17 when he wrote what he calls a “compromising poem.” His stepmother found it and spent a week mocking him with crude homophobic jokes. Then she decided he was no longer part of the family.
     “She threw something at me and chased me out of the house, screaming. I’m a big guy, 6 foot 3, 170 pounds, but my stepmother was a large woman and full of anger. I was disowned and unwanted simply because of who I am.”
     Brandon ended up in a cockroach-infested apartment, so afraid of the insects that he slept with the lights on.
   He’s 27 now. He said he doesn’t dwell on the past.
More...      “I couldn’t care less about the whole debacle,” Brandon said. “My stepmother's years of verbal and emotional abuse, coupled with my father's fearful acceptance of her repulsive conduct, made my life unpleasant for years before they knew I was gay. I am glad to be rid of them. I wouldn't want it any other way.”
     Brandon stayed in Eastern Washington, where he works as a clerk, and is finishing his bachelor’s degree in humanities with a minor in management information systems through WSU Online.
     “The goal of some online programs is to accumulate students to maximize the federal funding they receive, with scant regard to the quality of the education or even whether or not a student graduates,” he said. “I wanted a respected school based out of an existing campus program, and that is what WSU Online represents.”
     Brandon has a 3.77 GPA and will graduate next spring. Helping him reach his goal – and move on with his life – is WSU Online’s student government, which awarded him a $2,000 scholarship for the 2010-11 academic year.
     “My scholarship has made it possible for me to complete my bachelor's degree this year,” he said. “I am not sure what I would have done without it.”
     Brandon’s past experience with scholarships was as a donor, not a recipient. At his community college, he gave $1,000 in cash and possessions and started a computer repair clinic to contribute to a scholarship in honor of a friend who died at 22 of heart failure after a short illness. He also persuaded Elton John to dedicate a song to his friend.
     “I wrote Elton John a heartfelt letter to his Peachtree Road residence in Atlanta,” Brandon said. “I had never written to him or any celebrity before.” Brandon combined video of the introduction with different versions of the song, added a montage of still photos of his friend, and posted the tributes on YouTube.
     ”It remains very shocking that someone so vivacious and with so many plans could die so suddenly,” Brandon said. “There is no good explanation as to why or how it happened.”
     In truth, there is a good explanation for how it happened. It’s the “why” that’s impossible to answer, much like all the “whys” Brandon has had to face.
     But sometimes cruelty can inspire kindness. Just before Brandon’s stepmother threw him out, she called his mother, who lives in Iowa. She told his mother that Brandon was gay, “as if it were the worst, most loathsome thing that could ever befall someone.” Then she handed Brandon the phone.
     “My mom asked me if it were true,” Brandon said. “When I admitted it was, she said, to paraphrase her, ‘That's OK. It doesn’t matter.’ My being gay has probably brought me closer to my mom. I can tell her anything, no matter how personal. She doesn't judge me.”

By Richard H. Miller/WSU Online

Monday, October 11, 2010

Website features WSU Online student

Erica Vieira WSU Online student and ASWSU Online Senator Erica Vieira talks about her academic experiences on the Division of Student Affairs website.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

FedEx/Kinko’s offers free Wi-Fi

cybercafe     Free Wi-Fi has spread from coffee shops to copy shops.
     Over the summer, Starbucks began offering free Wi-Fi at its stores, letting WSU Online students pursue their studies in a fully caffeinated frame of mind.
     Now FedEx/Kinko’s is following suit. About 1,000 stores nationwide have started offering free Wi-Fi, with another 600 or so due to join by the end of the month. The FedEx stores include Kinko’s sites, which FedEx recently took over.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cool cats read the CyberCoug

DSC_5808New edition of the CyberCoug: ASWSU Online student newspaper reports that Cougars frolic in the alleys during bowling get-together in Pullman.

Security alert: If you get an email saying, “(Your) E-mail Box has reached its maximum limit of 20 GB," don't take the bait, WSU computer expert says in the Daily Evergreen.

WSU Online's Lenore Chambers says she's seeing a different scam: "The WSU Online e-mail box gets several of these every day," she says. "There's no subject line, just a Web link in the body of the e-mail. Don't click the link. Someone did and she ended up sending an offensive Web link to everyone she ever wrote to and then was unable to change her password."

If you run into trouble, try WSU's Student Help Desk. In the meantime, don't click on any suspicious links, and be wary of revealing personal info.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Twins following parallel paths

williams sisters cropped     In an online course, no one knows if you look different. They also don’t know if you look the same.
     For identical twins Katrina, in red, and Kanethia Williams, that’s a relief. In grade school, looking the same wasn’t so great. “Hey! Twin!” their classmates shouted. “Which one are you?”
     The sisters still lead twin lives. They live together in Federal Way, Washington, work for the same company and are both earning social sciences degrees through Washington State University’s online degree program. If a stranger calls one by the other’s name, they go with the flow. “We usually act like we know them, even if we don’t,” Katrina said.
     The Williamses, 25, grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and moved to Washington in 1996. Katrina attended Tacoma Community College. Kanethia went to Highline and Green River community colleges. When it came time to finish their university degrees, they returned to parallel paths, both enrolling in WSU Online.
     “With online classes, you can set your own schedule,” Katrina said. “We both wanted to study psychology and liked the flexibility of the WSU program.”
     Kanethia echoed that.
     “I enjoy being able to access my coursework any time of day,” she said. “I always recommend the program to other people.”
     The sisters both work online as guides for ChaCha, a free search engine for mobile users. When people call or text questions about any topic (Can you make pancakes in the microwave?1 Tell me a corny joke2), they look up answers on the Internet.
     After graduation, Katrina will still help people, but in a more transformative way.
     “I plan to work as a chemical dependency counselor,” she said. “I would like to get a master’s in social work or community counseling.”
     Kanethia hasn’t made up her mind about her career. But Katrina spoke for her: “She is considering the same career path as me.”


1Yes, but they won’t get brown.

2 A three-legged dog walks into an Old West saloon, goes to the bar and says: “I’m looking for the man who shot my paw.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Grad learns that dreams within reach

We love to stay in touch with our grads. So we were delighted to receive a letter from Fred Misumi. Fred earned a 2005 business degree from WSU’s online program and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Here are excerpts from his August letter to his academic advisor:
Fred Misumi
I just graduated from Pennsylvania State University MBA last week!  Ended with a GPA of 3.88, and have some recommendations set up for potentially pursuing Ph.D. in finance!
Right now, I am sorting out options for the next chapters of my life. One that looks appealing is to become a finance professor at a major university – which means that I'll likely have to get some teaching experience under my belt, and of course earn a Ph.D. at some reputable school.  Of course, another option is that my employer could move me up the totem-pole/food-chain as well.  But I'm not holding my breath for a promotion to fall into my lap.  I have to work hard at shaping my own destiny.
Once again, I have to thank you for your support and encouragement.  I still remember so clearly the time I asked you for input on taking 12 credits in a single term after acing the previous two terms with nine and six credits respectively. I took a great leap of faith and not only realized that I could do it, but that I could do even more. It was that stretching moment that has helped me to overcome the challenges I experienced in completing the MBA at Penn State. 
I have learned that I can do much more than I think I can, so long as I’m willing to strive for things beyond my comfort zone. What may seem like impossible goals to complacent people are actually realistic objectives for someone who has been striving and achieving goals in increasingly rapid succession.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Grad student helps redesign Sociology 430

Jennifer Murray Two professors team up with graduate student to offer revamped online sociology course. The story is in WSU Today.

'Americans get an F on marriage'

     The statistics are startling: More than 40% of all babies born in the United States are born to unmarried women, and the number of new marriages among American women over the age of 15 has declined by roughly 50% since 1960.
     "Americans get an F on marriage," says WSU Associate Professor of Anthropology, Dr. Nancy McKee, who will discuss the reasons behind the numbers at three free, non-credit events, open to alumni and current students.
     The October seminars will be held in Everett, Richland and Spokane. Alumni can get more details and register at the alumni events page. Students should go to the current events page.

More budget cuts. WSU President Elson S. Floyd discusses upcoming budget cuts in his Perspectives column.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Online fitness program named top value

fitness image

This Newsweek article on good values in online education highlights WSU-affiliated program that offers professional certificates in fitness.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Join fellow Cougs in the community

beach_header082813      What are you doing Oct. 2? How about going to the beach, or helping build a house?
     Clark County students are invited to join fellow Cougs for a beach cleanup at Vancouver Lake Park and Frenchmen’s Bar Park. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. with refreshments and visiting afterward. Kids are invited, and garbage bags and gloves will be provided.
     You can RSVP by email.
     Students in Cowlitz County can help build a house for Habitat for Humanity. The Kelso event has two shifts, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, and noon to 3:30 p.m.
     Bring work shoes, food and drink. For information, email Byron Rickert at, and list your shift preference.

Scholarship applications now available: The 2011-2012 admission and scholarship applications are now on the Web. January 31 is the deadline for completing the scholarship application.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Can the cutest baby get cuter? Yes.

talia2     Back in July, we posted a photo of Talia, the new daughter of WSU Online staffer Thomas Wilson and his wife, Naomi. We boldly claimed that  Talia was the cutest baby ever, since the dawn of civilization.
     Now Thomas and Naomi have justified our confidence, and our aesthetic judgment, by sending us a new photo, above.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fun, free, exciting events this weekend

Coming to Pullman this weekend for bowling and football? While you’re here, all WSU Online Students are invited to use the Student Recreation Center for free all day Saturday, September 11. Students must bring their CougarCard, and will have access to the full facility, including the swimming pool, cardio, weight room, racquetball, volleyball, basketball and more. If you stop by from 10-11 a.m., you can get a free Wellbeing T-shirt or travel mug.

Later Saturday, you can help establish a new WSU tradition. Before the game against Montana State, WSU Athletics invites Cougar alumni, students, fans, faculty, and staff to join the Cougar football players and coaches for the first “Cougar Pride Walk” at 1:30 p.m. Wear your crimson and bring your friends and family to help form a tunnel for the team to walk through from the Cougar Pride Statue to Hollingbery Fieldhouse.

The Cougar Pride Statue is next to the WSU Athletics Ticket Office (720 NE Stadium Way, Pullman WA 99164).

If you’re planning on coming to the game, act fast. The deal for discounted tickets ends today.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Grad earning masters in forensic psych

Heidi Hyatt WSU Online graduate Heidi Hiatt sent us a nice letter recounting her experiences at WSU, and updating us on her grad school studies in forensic psychology.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Thank you, WSU, for your part in giving me a solid foundation in criminal justice so that I could move on to the hybrid discipline of forensic psychology. All those nights I spent mulling over police ethics, public administration, and history, and all those days I was immersed in crime control theory, juvenile justice, and civil liberties have been worth it.

“The coursework plus the guidance of dedicated advisors and a dependable, caring administration made for a memorable experience that I highly recommend to others.”

You can read the rest of Heidi's letter here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Party in Pullman; bring the family

football classic     Next weekend, Sept. 10-11,  is Family Weekend and Future Cougar Day at WSU Pullman. Lots of fun activities are planned, including a Cougtastic game of Hula Hoop-hot potato.
     If you're a WSU Online student or guest, there's also bowling Friday night at Zeppoz. Here’s a map. Barbecue/picnic-style food will be provided at 5 p.m., and bowling begins at 7. Please let us know you’re coming.
     The next day, you can join fellow Cougs at Martin Stadium as WSU takes on Montana State. For information on discounted tickets, go to WSU Athletics.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New publication, Web site released

cybercougscreen The new and redesigned CyberCoug newsletter is out, but this time, it's only part of the story.
WSU Online's student government has also created a Web page, above, that includes new features, such as RSS feeds from WSU news sources, and links to videos. Please have a look and let us know what you think.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Newspaper features WSU Online students

jason spicer-columbian Two WSU Online students are featured in a Sunday Vancouver Columbian story on online education.  One is Jason Spicer, above, a former Microsoft team manager.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Education expert chooses WSU Online

Tammy cohen
It’s a good thing that Tammy Cohen likes helping people.
“WSU has an extremely prestigious reputation.”
She’s been swamped with work ever since the two lumber mills in Omak, Wash., closed last year.
     Cohen is a financial aid specialist for the Colville Confederated Tribes. About 80 percent of the 450 laid-off workers are tribal members. She helps them find federal college funding and processes their applications.
     “We’ve had twice as many college applications as we did last year,” she said during a summer Omak resource fair for the unemployed. “When people are aware of their options, they can really grow. It’s awesome to see them succeed.”
     Cohen, 43, is planning some growth for herself. Her education stalled after she earned an associate’s degree from Wenatchee Valley College at Omak. She had to go back to work “for a minute” to catch up financially.
     That minute stretched into years, she said, as immediate needs took precedence over long-term investment in education. “Now I’m ready to move forward,” she said.
     Cohen lives in Okanogan County, so she wanted an online program. Because she knows a lot about college options, she chose Washington State University. She started classes at WSU Online this month.
     “I wanted to receive my degree from a traditional university,” she said. “WSU has an extremely prestigious reputation, and I am honored to be accepted.”
     Cohen plans to major in business. “I want to use my degree to help people better themselves,” she said. “I may pursue a master's at WSU next. But one step at a time.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's hard to keep up with our dean

Muriel Segway If you missed last weekend’s Lentil Festival in Pullman, you missed more than free chili and a parade featuring a giant legume named Tase T. Lentil. You also missed Muriel Oaks, dean of the Center for Distance and Professional Education, which includes WSU Online.

Muriel piloted a balloon-festooned Segway in the parade to honor the League of Women Voters. “The balloons helped keep me upright,” she joked.

Muriel said riding the zippy Segway was “really fun,” although her companions might have a different view. “They were exhausted trying to keep up,” she said.

To see a parade slideshow, go here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Make a date, don’t be late

calendar clip art It’s the first day of fall semester, and a good time to get organized. We talk with a lot of online students here, and the successful ones share the same tip: Get a calendar and write down all the due dates. While those vary by course, you can also check out our very useful academic calendar, which deals with such things as late registration and dropping courses.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Student leaders launch video channel

DSC_3008     The WSU Online student government works on lots of serious activities, such as seminars and scholarships. But it also throws a good party.
     The ASWSU-Online has started a new video channel to capture some of the fun.
     If you want an in-person experience, the next event is bowling followed by football on Sept. 10 and 11.  A schedule is also on the ASWSU-Online events page.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Library aide has shiny hair, spinning eyes

IMG_0131 helpbot     One has brown hair, the other hot pink. One knows all about WSU Online library services, the other can answer only three questions. One is a human with hazel eyes, the other is a “helpbot” with huge green eyes that spin around to follow your cursor.
     Jane Scales has been distance learning librarian for WSU Online since 1993. She also teaches, and has a bachelor’s in Russian, a master’s in German and a master’s of library and information science. When WSU Online decided to change its name from Distance Degree Programs this spring, Scales revised the library’s distance learning Web site and added the avatar to answer frequently asked questions.
     “I had a different face on the avatar, but I accidentally changed it,” she said. “I thought the pink hair was kind of fun, so I left it.”
     The avatar looks grown up, but she has a lot to learn. Her wisdom will grow as Scales adds more FAQs to her repertoire. Students are invited to suggest topics using the page’s comments box, Scales said. Scales is also planning a contest to name the new hot-pink helper.
     Online students new to WSU library services will get a couple of other pleasant surprises.
  • Books are shipped to students at no cost, with return postage included. 
  • WSU’s WorldCat system lets students order materials from libraries across the country and even worldwide. “Students can also access full-text articles through the database,” Scales said.
     If students have non-frequently asked questions, they can use the “Get Help” Web page, Scales said, or contact the reference desk through e-mail, online chats, or by calling 1-800-435-5832.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

We go where FedEx doesn’t

Island     “FedEx doesn’t go there.”
     Kay Huffine is among the few who have heard that phrase. She’s heard it about a jungle clearing in Central Africa. A mountain in Mexico accessible only by burro. A village in Nepal.
     KaKay Huffiney, who sends out proctored exams for WSU Online, expected to hear it again when she told FedEx that a student’s address was “a blue building just down from the bank” on an island in Central America. “I was picturing a sand road lined by palm trees,” Kay said.
     But FedEx surprised her. Apparently, it can handle color-coded directions. “Too bad,” Kay said. “I might have delivered that one myself.”
     Kay has spent two decades finding ways to get the exams, which require in-person supervision, to WSU Online students across the world. With the fall semester about to begin, she shared these tips for making sure the process runs smoothly, whether you live in Mukilteo or Mongolia:
     See if you have proctored exams. About 20 percent of WSU Online courses have proctored exams, Kay said. Go to each course in Angel, then to Content/Syllabus/Work, and scroll to the paragraphs on exams.
     If you do have a proctored exam, use the Exam Proctor Information link to get information on finding a proctor, requesting exams, and exam delivery modes.
     Set up the exam as soon as possible. Most Proctor Nomination/Exam Request Forms are available in the first two weeks of the semester in myAccount, formerly myDDP.
     Leave two weeks for mailing. Proctored exams, both online and paper, are snail-mailed to the proctor, so leave two weeks for processing and delivery. (Two weeks? Really? “Trust me,” Kay said. “I’ve been doing this a long time.”)
     Ask Kay. If you can’t find answers to your exam proctor questions online, feel free to contact Kay at, or by calling 509-335-3557 or 800-222-4978.
     Invite Kay. If you live on a tropical island and have a guest room, please contact Kay to discuss exam delivery options.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Change on the menu for Omak waitress

Kathryn Olson
Kathy Olson: "Life’s always tough. You just keep going.”

At 9 a.m. Thursday, the Corner Bistro in Omak, Wash., is nearly empty. People lucky enough to have jobs are already at work. The unemployed, including 450 laid off when both lumber mills closed, aren’t shelling out for French toast and a medley of seasonal fruits.
     Kathy Olson is on the 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift. Many here know her as “the lunch lady” for the 15 years she spent working at the Omak School District. Now she’s back to waitressing. Because business is slow, she has a few minutes to talk.
     “Originally, I was going to be a school counselor,” she says. “I made a lot of poor choices when I was young. Then I decided to make some better ones.”
     One better choice is to find a job that pushes her mind, instead of punishing her body. “I have a bad back,” she says. “I won’t make it to retirement doing physical labor.”
     Another is to revive her goal of working with children. She has a lot of experience. Kathy is the youngest of eight, has raised two children of her own, and the two of her significant other. She’s now raising her daughter’s two children.
     But life experience doesn’t fill out a resume. What Kathy needs is a bachelor’s degree, and Omak is far from the nearest university.
     In spring 2009, she enrolled in WSU Online.
     “I chose WSU Online because I’m familiar with Washington State University,” she says, “and because it has the Pullman campus. I can actually be a part of the graduation ceremony. It will set an example for my children.”
     Kathy is due to graduate in 2012 with a social sciences degree. “I love the program,” she says. “I love it.” More...     A man calls across the dining room. He wants a slice of lemon for his water. She gets it and sits back down. It’s a rare moment of rest amid working, studying, and raising grandchildren. “I look at college as a second job,” she says. “That’s how I get through it when it gets tough.”
     Her partner of 17 years, Mike Craigen, supplies not only crucial assistance – tutoring, baby-sitting, cooking – but also extra motivation.
     Craigen is a Vietnam-era veteran who worked on big machinery, taught management in the Army, and ran heavy-equipment shops. Then an injury left him disabled.
     “It really woke me up,” she said. “He went from being a capable hard-working man to a man who can’t go anywhere. He’s pretty much a prisoner in his own house. You can only push your body so far, and I already have back issues. When I get to retirement, I’d like to enjoy it.”
     Kathy’s GPA is 3.67, and she’s been on the President’s Honor Roll twice. She credits her “go-to guy,” WSU Online academic advisor Craig Stephens. “He truly has been my advisor. He’s been wonderful,” she says.
     “I expect her to graduate with honors,” Craig says. “She has the right to be proud, and WSU is proud of her.”
     But Kathy is just doing what needs to be done.
     “You have two options. You can whine about the situation you’re in, or you can do something about it,” she says. “Yeah, it’s tough. Life’s always tough. You just keep going.”
     It’s nearly 10 a.m. The last customers have left and Kathy has no more time to talk.
     “I’ve got to go wash windows now,” she says. “I’ve got to work.”

By Richard H. Miller/WSU Online

Friday, August 6, 2010

The bounty of the season

summer field Long days, fresh raspberries, the gentle drone of a lawnmower: Summer brings so many pleasures -- including the release of summer grades, which are now available to students in myWSU.

Whether you're celebrating or vowing to do better, it's a great time for some relaxing music: "Summer grades, make me feel fine ..."

Laid-off workers explore options in Omak

DSC_5586Jim Skinner of WorkSource Okanogan County staffs a table at the July Opportunity Fair.

When both lumber mills shut down last year, 450 people were thrown out of work in Omak, Wash.
     “There are a lot of families totally devastated by these layoffs,” Debi Condon said during the July 22 Opportunity Fair at the Omak Community Center. “Many are still hoping the mills will reopen. They’re not going to, not with the same number of people as before.”
     Condon is human resources coordinator for the Colville Tribal Enterprises Corp., which runs the mills. She organized the fair to connect laid-off workers with funding and training options. “I keep telling everybody, this is your chance of a lifetime,” she said. “Get out there.”
     By “chance of a lifetime,” she means the federal Trade Act Program, which will pay up to $22,000 for college or retraining, along with relocation expenses and a tax credit for health insurance.
     “Being out in the woods just isn’t what it used to be,” she said. “How else can you get free college, and money while you’re going to college?" More...
     Among the presenters were representatives from the Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington State University’s online degree program, a truck-driving school, and WorkSource Okanogan County, which is administering the federal Trade Act Program.
     “We’re here to help people learn more about the benefits of the program,” said Jim Skinner, Trade Act counselor for WorkSource. “We’ve had lots of people come by with great questions. We’ve been really busy.”
     The laid-off workers spent an average of 14 years at the mills, Condon said. Many worked there all their adult lives.
     “You get a lot of the older guys and they’re really lost right now,” said Tammy Cohen, a financial aid specialist for the tribes. “I think for the first time in their lives they’re worried about where they’re going to go.”
     Many are considering earning a university degree, said WSU Online program representative Rich Miller.
     “This has been the highest concentration of qualified students that I’ve ever seen at this kind of event,” he said. “Usually one out of three people I talk with might be serious students. So far, everyone that has come to my table has been a serious student.”
     Skinner said WorkSouce has been working with the tribes to get the word out about the Trade Act, which he calls the “Cadillac of training programs.” So far, WorkSouce has helped about 125 people, he said.
     “What’s nice is when someone comes in and they’re a little unsure about their future and we can help them,” Skinner said. “And when they get a job, they’re all excited, and we’re excited too – it’s like we win too.”
– By Richard H. Miller/WSU Online

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The most valuable college degree is …

DSC_4691     What’s the most valuable college degree? That depends. We think the most valuable degree is the one that best fits your interests and lets you reach your full potential as a human being.
     But career mobility is also important. Under that criterion, Yahoo Education rates the most valuable degree as a bachelor’s in business administration. “One of the advantages of a business degree is that you're able to move into many different industries,” it said in an online article. “To name just two, health care is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, and finance is one of the most stable.”
     WSU Online offers a bachelor’s degree in business in three areas: Accounting, Management and Operations, and Management Information Systems. It's important to note that all our online business courses are designed and taught by faculty in the WSU’s prestigious College of Business, which is fully accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the nation’s premier accrediting agency for degree programs in business administration and accounting.
     Here's a look at a WSU Online business major who is not only finishing his degree but losing 100 pounds.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

WSU Online joins Boeing ed fair

WSU Online Boeing     Washington State University has always had extensive connections with Boeing. A Google search for pages containing both Boeing and Washington State University brings more than 55,000 results.
    This June, Boeing gave WSU a $105,000 grant to increase mentoring for engineering and science students. This July, Boeing and WSU joined a team helping create create aviation biofuels. Last year, two top Boeing executives lent their expertise to a WSU Online marketing course.
    The most widely known connection may be that former Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Scott Carson is a WSU grad, and served on WSU’s Board of Regents.
    Now Boeing has invited WSU Online to participate in its first Virtual Education Fair, which runs from July 26-30, and offers the chance to reach more than 130,000 Boeing employees.
    You can see WSU Online’s virtual booth here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bookie Too offers text rentals

spider      You may want to keep that 20-pound Existential Economics textbook for your children. Or to kill spiders. But if you’re looking to save money and storage space, the Bookie Too is now offering textbook rentals.
     “It is much cheaper to rent than buy the book,” said textbook coordinator Rick Wayenberg.
     New rental books are being added daily, Wayenberg said. “We could perhaps run out of rentals on a title, so it is best if they order early,” he said.
     Because students must fill out forms, book rentals are available only online or in person, not by telephone. If students are ordering online, he said, the rental option will appear when available.
     “We typically would rent new books first, making used books available for sales,” Wayenberg said. “The rental fee is the same for new and used. If we were to run out or not have any new available, then used would be rented.”
     For more information, go to the Bookie’s rental page.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Who's the cutest baby ever? Gotta be her

photo West Side staffer and proud father Thomas Wilson just sent us this photo of Talia, born at 4:26 p.m. July 16 to Thomas and his wife, Naomi. Talia is 6 pounds,   2 ounces, and 18 inches.

“She’s a little thing,” Thomas said, “but she’s already pushing daddy around.”

We’ve started an office pool on Talia’s first words. So far, the smart money is on “Go Cougs!”

Student leaders get new advisor

Jason Mayburry     For the past three years, Jason Mayburry has helped WSU Online students with technical issues. Now he’s helping students help one another.
     Mayburry, formerly a Student Services program assistant, has a new job advising the online student government. He coordinates ASWSU Online’s in-person student activities, such as the Tacoma Rendezvous, the Hardwood Classic, parties and pre-graduation receptions. He also supervises the information technology assistants, who maintain course spaces in the Angel learning management system.
     “Christina Sturman created a well-oiled machine,” he said of his predecessor as ASWSU Online advisor. “We’re taking that same model and building on its strengths.”
     One upcoming change is a redesign of the ASWSU Online Web site, he said. “We want to make it more in line with on-campus program sites, while preserving elements that address the needs of online students.”
     Also in the works is a plan to offer University Recreation services to online students. More...     “We’re looking at things like providing access to online personal training and nutrition,” said student government President Larry Lawrence.
     More change is on the way. “We’ve got a crop of new senators coming in,” Mayburry said. “They’re ambitious and involved, and they’re going to start pushing the envelope.”
     Mayburry brings a special empathy to his new position. In 2006, he was working 30 hours a week at WSU Pullman’s writing center, helping raising two children, and finishing his English degree. He supplemented his on-campus studies with online courses and graduated in spring 2007. He was hired that fall by Student Services, where he was known for his genial manner, then promoted this summer.
     “Jason is doing a great job getting everything organized for the upcoming academic year,” Lawrence said. “We’re all glad to have him on board.”
     One challenge, Mayburry said, is that many students aren’t aware of the online student government, even though it was the nation’s first, controls hundreds of thousands of dollars in student money, and has established dozens of scholarships.
     “We need to be innovative and come up with fresh ways to let students know that there is a student government,” Mayburry said. “For example, any student can join a committee if they’re interested. But they don’t know those committees are out there, which is a huge hurdle.”
     Even if they do know, he said, online students are already busy with their education, families and jobs. So why should they want to join the student government?
     “It looks great on your resume,” Mayburry said. “But most importantly, you get a wealth of knowledge and experience. It introduces you to a whole new world of decision-making, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Two new online grad certificates

     Washington State University is launching two new online graduate certificates this fall, one in early-childhood educational administration, and one in molecular biosciences.
      The 12-credit Early Childhood Leadership and Administration certificate addresses the national shortage of educational administrators in schools, preschools, and child care centers.
      “This certificate prepares students for leadership roles in a variety of organizations that aim to improve lives of young children and families,” said Patricia Pendry, assistant professor at the Department of Human Development.
      The online format makes it ideal for working professionals, students in other graduate programs, and educators seeking continuing education credits.
      “The courses focus on research, theory, and practice that will lead to deeper knowledge of learning and development, effective mentoring and supervision of teachers and support staff,” said Assistant Professor Jared Lisonbee.
      Prerequisites include a bachelor’s degree in a related field, one year experience in early childhood education programs, and a three-credit undergraduate course in child development. More...      The Molecular Biosciences graduate certificate prepares students for advancement in biotechnology, medical research, and interdisciplinary fields, such as biological chemistry and biological physics.
      “The certificate gives recent graduates an excellent additional credential, while helping those already in the field keep up with the latest research,” said Dr. Norah McCabe, clinical associate professor of molecular biosciences.
      Prerequisites include a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Advisors recommend that students have completed three undergraduate semesters of a combination of general biology, microbiology, cell biology, genetics, or molecular biology courses, and one semester each of organic chemistry, physics, biochemistry and calculus.
      The certificate requires three 3-credit core courses, and an elective. All of the certificates’ core courses can be also applied to the new 32-credit Professional Science Masters, which is being offered both online and on-campus this fall.
      “The interdisciplinary PSM combines science and non-science courses,” said McCabe, “so graduates can efficiently transition into the workplace.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mentoring program gives students a boost

Jaylin, her husband, John, and their daughter, Kylee-Cathreen.
Did you know we have peer mentoring program? Here's an article from last December that explains how it works:

    Last winter, Jaylin Richman contacted a Distance Degree Programs mentor for advice about a course. She got a lot more.
    When Kendra Hayward wrote back, Jaylin ended up telling her everything. How her fiancé, Army Sgt. First Class John Johnson, was serving his fourth tour in Iraq. How she was staying in West Richland, Washington, with her parents and her 3-year-old daughter, Kylee-Cathreen, until John returns to their home near Fort Hood, Texas. How she struggled to handle parenting duties while taking 20 credits a semester for a double major in criminal justice and psychology.
    “Kendra and I e-mail each other usually twice a week,” she said. “Kendra makes me feel like I’m doing everything necessary to succeed. She has been such an inspiration.” More...        A few months later, life got a lot better for Jaylin. In May, John returned from Iraq. Jaylin joined him in Texas, they got married on July 11, and have just purchased a house.
    But Jaylin still leans on Kendra. “She's been helping me get started with the fall semester,” Jaylin said. “I'm taking seven classes, instead of my usual six, and I've been a little overwhelmed. Kendra is helping me to cope.”
    Kendra’s empathy is based on experience. She graduated from DDP in 2005 with a social sciences degree. Now she’s helping about 20 students. “Basically, I give encouragement and tips on time management and handling stress,” she said. Kendra is also brushing up on her own time management skills: She’s earning a master’s at the University of Washington School of Nursing.
    Faculty/Student Services Coordinator Cheri Curtis, who runs the mentor program, said Kendra is the only mentor, but that could change if more students take advantage of the program. “The University motto is ‘World-Class, Face to Face,’” she said. “Maybe we can’t be face to face, but, through our mentors, we can be voice to voice.”
    The mentoring program is funded through the DDP’s student government. “Mentors share their insight on how to study effectively, where to get information, pitfalls to watch for,” said Debby Poris, president of the ASWSU-DDP. “And they give us reassurance that we are on the right track.”
    Janet Kendall, DDP’s director of academic programs, pointed out that the mentoring program is only one part of the online support network. “They say it takes a village,” she said. “We’re creating a virtual village with this mentoring program, the Virtual Mentors in the course space, academic advisors, student support services, and 24-hour technical help. We all care about the students and want to help them succeed.”
    Kendra, who lives near Mill Creek, Washington, uses e-mail and the telephone to reach out to students. She may soon get the chance, however, to meet one of her biggest fans in person.
    “Kendra doesn’t know it yet,” Jaylin said, “but she’ll be receiving a graduation invitation next spring!”
    For more information about the DDP’s mentoring program, go to

-- Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education