Thursday, December 22, 2011

WSU Online among top five in nation

viewbookSuperScholar website has ranked WSU Online among nation’s top five online degree programs.

The judges said that WSU Online has "proved itself to be one of the premier online degree programs in the country.”

Here’s the news release.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Inspiring stories of unstoppable students

IMG_1413smIn the past year, we’ve posted 65 stories on this blog and most were about determination: Students determined to graduate, determined to change their lives, determined to improve the lives of those around them.

Among the many students profiled here were Jules Dossou Azatassou, who is driving cabs in Spokane while he aims for a career in law enforcement. Alex Esparza, who works at a juvenile detention center and wants to use his degree to keep kids out of the system. Kerry Clark, who is building a new life after his mother was killed in Iraq.

This year, the blog has had nearly 11,000 visitors, and 22,000 page views. The five most-read stories were:

A graduate describes overcoming incredible obstacles, and brings audience members to tears. 

The story of Kayla Heard, a 16-year-old who became WSU’s youngest graduate. Her youth sparked a national discussion. A follow-up story made the top 10.

A list of top things to look for in an online university.

A story about a couple who both became teachers, and, in fifth place, a story about SAP changes affecting financial aid.

We at WSU Online are honored to help celebrate these everyday heroes, and to share their stories. We’re inspired by their strength. We marvel at their resilience. And, as we approach a new year, we find comfort in seeing the world become a better place, one graduate at a time.

Monday, December 12, 2011

‘I do not wish you an easy journey’

Gerry Ebalaroza-TunnellOne highlight of Friday night’s pregraduation reception was a speech by WSU Online grad Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell, who kept studying in the face of incredible adversity. Below are excerpts:

For me, it took over 22 years to complete something that I started. My scholastic journey began in 1989 after I joined the Navy. But because of the demands of the military and being a wife and mother of two sons (who are now 25 and 26 years old and here with me tonight) I had an 18-year sabbatical.
     But the thought of completing my degree never faltered and I owe that to my sons. Every time I looked at my boys, I knew I wanted to better myself, not only for me but for them. I thank you Eddie and Ryan for standing next to me and keeping me strong through our own personal challenges. I love you guys!
     Nearly three years ago in January 2009 and during my first semester at WSU, my husband and I were struck by the economic downfall. We were forced to close our business in Bellingham, Wash.; we gave up our home and sold all of our belongings.
     With those changes taking place, I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. Despite that discovery, we took what little money we had, purchased a little travel trailer that we hooked up to the back of our truck, loaded up our two dogs, whatever gear we could fit, and left our home, family and friends and traveled the Southwest for four months to try and ride out the recession.
     My first thought was, “Darn it, I just figured out how to conveniently complete my degree from home and now I have to figure out how to do it while on the road?” More...      Well, I did it with the help of my faithful laptop, and a supportive husband who would drive everywhere in search of free Internet so that I could get my assignments in on time.
     We were technically “homeless” and “jobless” at the time but we ensured my aspiration to complete my degree would never cease. We were not going to quit or give up following our dreams because of circumstances.
     After our journey through the mountains, forests and deserts, we returned to Bothell in time to witness the birth of our first grandson, Lyric, and to watch my son, my little boy, bloom from being the first born son in my arms to a father holding his own son. This occurrence took place two days before my 43rd birthday and it was the most transcendent gift that anyone could ask for.
     During this time, Jeremy and I still had not found a place to live. We stayed with friends and started to seek out jobs. I knew that whatever work I found would only be temporary. My career would not begin until after I was done with school.
     In August 2009, calamity struck my family once again.
     My youngest son, Ryan, was convicted of a crime that would incarcerate him for a year. For a mother, the most difficult thing to endure besides the death of her child is watching him get taken away in chains.
     I spent the rest of my weekends for the next 12 months visiting my son and encouraging him to stand above his affliction. I needed him to know that he had control over his destiny and he must believe that although he would be judged for his choices, he could still rise above it all.
     One week ago, Ryan received a letter congratulating him that he was just accepted into the bachelor’s program in graphic design at the Seattle Art Institute. I am so proud of the man he is becoming.
     My family and I definitely endured some crazy challenges in this past couple of years. Last October, my house flooded and we lived in chaos for five months as our floors were torn up.
     In the midst of that chaos, exactly one year ago tonight, I received a call from my sister Michelle, who is with me tonight, that our mother was critically ill and admitted into the hospital. My oldest sister and I immediately flew out to Hawaii to be by our mother’s side.
     While holding myself together with every prayer and every drop of hope that I could summon, my siblings and other family members sat with our mother until she passed away two days later, on December 11, 2010.
     It is ironic on how a memory can flood back into your mind and place you inches from the time that memory was created. Even though it’s been a year, it seems yesterday. I remember sitting in the waiting room with my family the night before she passed and I was on my computer finishing up one of my final papers in sociology. That night I wrote a paper about my mom, probably one of my best.
     She was so proud of her children and worked so hard to ensure that we had all the opportunities that she never had.
     My family and I faced our latest challenge and probably not the last this past April. I found myself debilitated and constantly lethargic. My right kidney was now in complete atrophy. It was slowly killing me and had to be removed.
     I’m healing just fine and I do not need to go through dialysis. I have to say, thank goodness for Wi-Fi in hospitals because I was able to still complete my assignments and meet the midnight deadline. I told you, I was not going to let circumstances stop me!
     As I share my story with you tonight, it is apparent that the challenges—or what I see as opportunities to change—will continue. Change is the only constant, it is where growth lies and new miracles begin. I have learned to not fear change, but to embrace it. Sir Edmund Hilary once said that “It’s not the mountain that we conquer, it’s ourselves.”
     I would like to reiterate that despite any mountain that I needed to climb, I did not, and could not, have done it alone. Without the support of my family and friends, my faithful computer, the advantages of Wi-Fi, our virtual mentors, advisor and understanding professors, I would not have been able to successfully complete my degree and be standing here with you tonight.
     As I conclude my speech, I want you to know that I do not wish you an easy journey, because—trust me—you would become quickly bored by it.
     Instead, I wish you a path that overflows with obstacles to overcome and uncertainties that will force you to question and seek answers not outside of yourself, but within your heart.
     I wish you plenty of time to be alone to listen to that inside voice, and then lots of time to be with others to share your insight and take what you have learned in your solitude and apply it to the world in the most compassionate way.
     I hope that your path has as many twists and turns as it does straightaways. I hope that it is as rough and interesting as it is smooth and predictable.
     I hope that life satisfies you and I also hope that it astonishes you. I hope that for all your life, your spirit continues to grow.
     Congratulations to us, the 2011 graduates of Washington State University’s Online Degree Program and thank you everyone who’s been there supporting us every step of the way.

For the full text of Gerry's speech, select this link.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Councilman picked ‘the most reputable
and user-friendly online program’

Mike Urban needed only two courses to certify into his major. But they were offered at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. He had a job, he had a 30-minute commute. So he took a Mike Urbanquarter off from college. Then another, then another.
     Nineteen years went by. The Mount Vernon, Wash., resident became a planning commissioner, fire commissioner, Rotary Club president, and YMCA board member. He owns an equipment rental store and is in his second term as a city councilman.
     “Not finishing my degree had been weighing on me for years,” Urban said. “I wanted to set a better example to my children and gain knowledge to better manage my business.” 
     Because he’s a busy person, Urban wanted an online program. In 2008, he chose WSU Online. He’s glad he did.
     “WSU has created the most reputable and user-friendly online program available,” said Urban, who graduated cum laude in 2011 with an accounting degree. “The courses were rigorous and practical, and provided an education that far exceeded my expectations.” More...      Along the way, Urban got plenty of help, both from his family, to whom he gives extensive credit, and from WSU.
     “The support system of advisors, professors, mentors and fellow students is simply remarkable,” he said, but one person really stands out:
     “I could never have accomplished this without the efforts and encouragement of my WSU Online advisor, Chrisi Kincaid,” he said. “She represents all that is possible when you take a leap into the unknown, but know you have an expert dedicated to your success. To me, Chrisi Kincaid is the face of WSU.” 
     Kincaid said she felt “a bit humbled” by the praise, but it’s clear she’s also a bit proud when her students succeed.
     “I feel much of the time that I am the lucky one here,” she said. “I get to work with all these folks who inspire me with all they do and the obstacles they overcome—both big and small—on a daily basis.”
     Now that he has his degree, Urban plans to take the CPA exam in January. Judging from his opinion of WSU, he’ll be the guy wearing crimson and gray.
     “I hold the University and, most importantly, its people in the absolute highest regard,” Urban said, “which makes me even prouder to be a Coug.”