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.