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.