Thursday, May 27, 2010

Online student wins Service Star Award

David Brooks accepts the award with his wife, Beth.

David Brooks gave a lot to the Copalis Community Church Food Bank. He unloaded supplies, swept the floor, greeted people when they came in. When it was raining, he gave clients a ride home.
      The WSU Online student also got a lot back during his 20 hours of service learning, which was part of a human development course. He made new friends. He gathered material for his writing career. And, in May, he accepted the Service Star Award from Washington State University’s Center for Civic Engagement.
      The monthly award honors students who show outstanding service while demonstrating leadership and teamwork abilities.
      “He doesn’t need to be asked,” said food bank director Jeanne Elliott, “he jumps right in.”
      “David gave his heart and soul to the position,” said his nominator, Jenni Whelan, a CCE peer mentor who helps students find volunteer opportunities.
      Brooks was among 72 students doing service learning in HD 403, Families in Poverty, taught by Mary Garcia. More...      Over the past three years, WSU Online students have contributed more than 9,000 hours of service in classrooms, charities, offices and Habitat for Humanity sites.
      Brooks lives in Copalis Crossing, Washington, near Ocean Shores. He works half time at WorkSource, a state-run employment program, where he edits resumes and cover letters, and worked as an intern for the North Coast News.
      "David did some terrific stories for the North Coast News," said editor Tom Scanlon. "He's a hard-working reporter with an original writing style."
      Brooks is earning a degree in humanities with a professional writing certificate, which he hopes will lead to a job where he can continue to help people.
      Even though Brooks’ human development course has ended, he continues volunteering at the food bank, along with his wife, Beth. “She came with me and decided to stay,” he said.
      “WSU students often get involved through a course assignment,” said Kim Freier, CCE assistant director. “But when they see the difference they make in the lives of others, it can become a genuine part of who they are and what they do in their day-to-day lives.”

Line up your proctored exams

Now is the time to submit Proctor Nomination/Exam Request Forms for all WSU Online summer semester proctored exams. Please write your proposed exam date in the comments box on the form.

Exams are mailed to the proctor, (both paper-and-pencil format and online exam passwords/instructions), unless the student requests that an exam be expedited. For more details, go to the Web site.

If you have a question, please call Kay Huffine at 509-335-3557 or 800-222-4978.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why choose WSU? It "actually exists"

Capt. Chris Andersen, with his daughter, Christina, who also works for the Everett Police Department.

In 2002, Chris Andersen gathered his wife and four children together for a big announcement. The Everett (Wash.) Police Department sergeant was going back to college. He wanted to earn his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He hoped it would help him get promoted.
      “I made a big deal to my kids about the importance of finishing what I started,” he said.
      Three weeks later, the promotion came through anyway. That didn’t change his college plans. “After making such a declaration to my family,” he said, “I had little choice but to follow through.”
      Because of his job and family, Andersen wanted to earn his degree online. He chose Washington State University.
      “WSU actually exists,” he said. “It meant a lot for me to be involved with an institution that did not exist merely on a Web site. There were people to talk to whenever I had questions.”
      One of those people was his academic adviser, Rich D. Miller. More...      “Chris was highly motivated to learn,” said Miller, who is now a WSU Online program representative. “It helped that his criminal justice courses paid off almost immediately in his daily work.”
      Andersen had earned his associate’s degree in 1985 from Skagit Valley College when he was a Skagit County Sheriff’s deputy. “It was very difficult with shift work and young children to go to a traditional classroom setting.” So, he created his own form of distance education: “I asked classmates to record the lectures for me.”
      By 2002, distance education had been transformed by the Internet. But many courses still required mailings.
      “I will never forget my first class at WSU, Biology 103L,” Andersen said. “WSU shipped me a small microscope and the necessary slides. My kids and I spent many hours around the kitchen table with my experiments.”
      Cathy Lentz, who handles media shipping for WSU Online, laughed when asked about the microscopes.
      “We haven’t shipped microscopes in a while,” she said. “They were fragile. And they were so fun that children wanted to keep them.” WSU Online now streams most course materials over the Internet, she said. “It’s much more convenient for students.”
      Andersen graduated magna cum laude in 2006. Although his degree didn’t help with the first promotion, it did with the second. He’s now a captain. And he’s considering an online MBA.
      “Although I haven’t decided what the next chapter in my professional life will be, having my bachelor’s degree from WSU gives me many more options."

By Richard H. Miller/WSU Online

Monday, May 24, 2010

Scholarship deadline is June 1

June 1 is the deadline to apply for a $1,000 fall scholarship funded by the ASWSU-DDP. There are 30 scholarships, and they are available only to WSU Online degree-seeking students.

The scholarships are awarded based on three criteria: Quality of the application, which includes an essay,academic merit, and financial need.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"I wanted more. Much more."

Ahmad Baitalmal with his son, Ameen, at the May reception in the Lewis Alumni Centre.

“Up until I was 9 years old, I weighed the normal weight for my age,” WSU Online student Ahmad Baitalmal wrote in an English 499 paper about growing up in Saudi Arabia.
      “Then one night, my dad came home with dinner. … It didn’t smell like the usual stuff he brought home like lamb gyros, beans, or chicken with rice. This dinner had a logo, and it spelled Hardee’s.
      “Even before he opened the bag, the smell quickly drew the family towards it like a cube of sugar in an ant farm. It smelled different, it spoke to our deepest desires, and we paid attention. … There was just one thing that didn’t satisfy me. I wanted more. Much more.”
      Wanting more wasn’t always unhealthy for Baitalmal, who last year topped the scales at 470. As a child, he wanted an American lifestyle. He watched U.S. Armed Forces TV, had long hair, and listened to Metallica. He studied information systems management, but was frustrated by lack of Internet access in Dhahran. He felt like he wasn’t learning “real usable skills.”
      Despite Internet problems, he chatted with a New Jersey woman named Jemma. In 1995, he sold his car, took a plane to New York, then a bus to New Jersey. More...      He fit right in. “My early exposure to American culture helped me immensely,” he said. “I had no accent. People thought I grew up in New Jersey.”
      Baitalmal “soaked up everything Internet,” married Jemma, and took a job at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash. He’s now the chief product architect at Etelos, where he designs and builds systems for Internet software sales, distribution and licensing.
      He wanted more; he wanted a bachelor’s degree. In March 2007, he enrolled at Bellevue College and used the co-admit program to join WSU Online in April 2009.
      “The strength of WSU’s online program comes from the excellent faculty and the excellent makeup of the curriculum,” he said. “The content of the courses is very relevant, current, and well delivered.”
      Baitalmal will finish his business degree in summer 2010. He maintains a 4.0 GPA, despite his stressful job, heavy course load and being a father to Ameen, 8.
      “My son is trained,” he said. “When he sees my head buried in a book, he knows to stay away. He knows Dad has some homework or finals.”
      Baitalmal wants more than a BA. He wants an MBA. He’s applying to Stanford’s Sloan Fellows, Harvard Business School, and the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA program.
      But Baitalmal also wants less. He succeeded once in Saudi Arabia, when he lost 130 pounds on the Atkins Diet. He gained that back in New Jersey on what he calls the “Sicilian Pizza and New York Cheesecake Diet.”
      Last September, he told his doctor that he’d lost 20 pounds during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. “If you can tolerate hunger,” his doctor said, “I have something for you to try.” The doctor put him on a 500-calorie-a-day diet that includes injections of human chorionic gonadotropin, which some believe to burn fat, despite opposing scientific evidence. Dieters take a five- to 12-week break between 40-day dieting cycles.
      “It was very tough,” Baitalmal said. “During those 40 days, I would wake up hungry, go to work hungry, study hungry, and go to bed hungry, lather, rinse, repeat. I learned to embrace hunger.”
      Like many summer graduates, Baitalmal walked in Pullman’s spring commencement ceremony. By that time, Baitalmal had dropped 100 pounds, getting down to 370 before going on a break and gaining back 30 pounds, which he’s maintained for the past three months.
      “It was really good having to go clothes shopping again,” he said, “and just in time for the May graduation.”

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

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Discounted M's tickets, plus free T-shirt

Friday, June 4, is WSU night at Safeco Field. WSU alumni, faculty, staff and students can enjoy Seattle Mariners baseball at a discounted price. A portion of the ticket proceeds will go towards WSU student scholarships. This online offer includes a free Mariners-WSU T-shirt that can be picked up at the game.

Monday, May 17, 2010

94-year-old graduate: 'I've had a busy life'

At 94, a California woman, right, became the nation's second oldest college graduate over the weekend.

"It's taken me quite a long time because I've had a busy life," said Hazel Soares. "I'm finally achieving it, and it makes me feel really good."

Who's the oldest college grad? Nola Ochs of Kansas. She graduated from Fort Hays State University three years ago at 95. But she didn't stop there. On Saturday, at age 98, Ochs received her master's degree in liberal studies from Fort Hays.

Last semester, WSU Online had 146 students over 50. Here's a look at one WSU Online student who returned after a 40-year break.

For other older people considering earning a degree, Soares offers this advice:

"There's no reason why you could not go back," she said. "Some people do give up the idea or postpone the idea. It's too late. It's too much work. They may not realize that once you try it, it's exciting to go to school."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

WSU holds Yakama Nation event

WSU Online's Rich D. Miller speaks with a prospective student at Eagle Seelatsee Auditorium.

      A series of WSU admissions presentations drew a full house to the Yakama Nation’s Eagle Seelatsee Auditorium recently.
      “The turnout and quality of discussion was great,” said Jordan Hightower, a graduate assistant in the Office of Enrollment Management, who spoke about general admissions procedures. “I was very impressed with the whole event.”
      Other presenters were Veronica Mendez-Liaina, an academic adviser with the College of Business; Kathleen Parker with the USDA; Dr. Robbie Paul, director of Native American Health Sciences at the WSU College of Nursing; an alumni panel; and Rich D. Miller, program representative with WSU Online. The event was organized by Raynel Begay of the College of Nursing.
      “The turnout was wonderful,” Miller said. “We had 30 or 40 people in the presentation on online degrees.”
      The top question he gets, Miller said, is “how long will it take to complete my degree.” The answer is, “as long as you need.” More...
      “That’s one advantage of our flexibility,” he said. “It takes a lot of pressure off when they understand they don’t have to go to school full time, that they can have a life and meet their family obligations.”
      Miller said he’s been trying to reach out more to the Yakama Nation, especially with the loss of the area learning center. “But we don’t have events like this very often,” he said. “For students interested in online degrees, probably the best alternative is to attend a Webinar.” A schedule is at
      WSU Native American Outreach Coordinator Ralph Young noted that the April 30 event drew a wide range of people, from tribal members to local high school seniors and junior college students.
      “Events such as this show the Native communities that we are interested in helping them promote higher education not only to their youth but to the community as a whole,” he said.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Need help? Just ask

Looking for a little help with a course? WSU Online has several free options.

Our mentor program pairs students with WSU Online alumni who can help you navigate the system. Here's an example of how it works.

Our eTutoring system offers help in these specific areas:

  • Accounting
  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Math (Developmental through Calculus)
  • Medical Coding
  • MS Office 2007
  • Physics
  • Spanish
  • Statistics
  • Web Development (xHTML, CSS, and Adobe Dreamweaver)
  • Writing
In addition, many classes have Virtual Mentors. They'll offer help to any student who needs assistance.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Students show power of perseverance

More colleges are banning laptops from classrooms, The Washington Post reports. They're just too distracting for students. But what if you're an online student who has to work on a computer? How do you handle the constant lure of YouTube and Facebook and Freecell, plus the more concrete demands of work and family?

The answer is simple: Self-discipline. Online students succeed because they are motivated, organized and dedicated.

WSU Online congratulates all of our students on their perseverance. We offer special congratulations to the record number of online students who will see their dedication pay off Saturday at commencement. If you can't make it to Pullman, you can watch the ceremony on videostream.

A must read on financial aid. If you receive federal financial aid, you need to know about some changes due to the passage of the Direct Loan Program. Please read this note from WSU's Financial Aid Office on completing a new master promissory note.

For general information about financing your education, go to this link.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Packed house for Friday reception

Registration for pregraduation party is closed as record numbers of students bring record number of graduates. For more, see WSU Today.

Web outage: Due to server maintenance, many of our Web sites will be unavailable for about an hour this Saturday, beginning at 7:30 a.m.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New summer course on interior design

New summer online course explores interior environments from ancient civilizations through the 18th century, and how they were affected by historical forces. Check out the article in WSU Today.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blue eyes crying from the onions

As we mentioned in a previous post, April 30 is Willie Nelson's birthday. While WSU Online marks the date with several student deadlines, the College of Veterinary Medicine takes a more festive approach. It holds a chili cook-off and an animal-centric poetry contest.

Here's a slideshow and article on the event. Or, depending on your tolerance for farmyard poetry, you can go straight to the Web page with the three winning entries.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Online student writes column for Daily Evergreen

"Without Distance Degree Programs, I would still be where I was in 2008: working each day to pay the bills and coasting through life with no real direction. Washington State University has not only given me an education and a degree – it has given me a desire to do more."

For the full column, go to the Daily Evergreen Web site.

She 'defines what it means to be a Coug'

      WSU Online student Sandy Thomas – who “defines what it means to be a Coug” – will be among 15 students honored as highlight students during spring commencement.
      “After nine years of hard work and commitment, graduation is finally here,” Thomas said. “To be recognized as a highlight student at commencement will make earning my degree even more special.”
      But Thomas will be more than recognized. As a highlight student, she’s in for some serious highlighting:
      She’ll sit in a front row during the May 8 ceremony at Beasley Coliseum. She’ll stand as her academic and volunteer achievements are described to the crowd. Her face will be shown on the giant monitors and on the live videostream.
      The Bellingham resident is earning her degree in social sciences with a minor in political science. She has a 3.94 GPA, and is graduating summa cum laude. She is married to Doug Thomas, a 1987 WSU graduate. “I want to hang my diploma next to my husband’s,” she said. Their daughter, Lauren, has enrolled as a freshman on the Pullman campus this fall.
      “On my first day as an academic advisor, Sandy came in to discuss her next semester,” said Craig Stephens, who has worked with Thomas for five years. “Her dedication to being successful in her classes and choosing courses that related to her personal goals was immediately apparent.” More...      Thomas is the second consecutive WSU Online student to be highlighted. In fall 2009, Debby Poris was honored. She had been student body president, and won both regional and national awards as an outstanding non-traditional student.
      Thomas will use her degree to further her philanthropic work, which includes volunteering at Bellingham High School and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and serving as a School Buddy Mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
      In 2009, her philanthropy helped her become the first WSU Online student to win WSU’s President’s Award, which honors leadership and community engagement.
      “She has truly spoiled our staff,” Bellingham Principal Steve Clarke said in his President’s Award nomination letter, citing her coordination of monthly luncheons that serve up to 100 staffers. “We are the envy of the other schools in town.”
      Thomas has also been an intern for U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash.
      “What made Sandy’s time with us exceptional was the amount she was able to give back to both the office and our constituents,” said her supervisor, Luke Loeffler.
      That internship was part of her Liberal Arts 497 course, taught by Carla Michaelsen. “Sandy Thomas exemplifies the best of an American spirit of giving back through dedication, perseverance and compassion,” Michaelsen said.
      Thomas is as dedicated to good causes as she is to her WSU studies, her academic advisor said.
      “With her devotion to her education, as well as her philanthropic and advocacy work, Sandy Thomas defines what it means to be a Coug,” Stephens said.