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Online Grads Proud to Wear Cap and Growns
They came from, West Virginia, South Carolina, Arizona, Michigan and Vermont to participate in Iowa Central’s commencement exercises last month.
They are Iowa Central graduates, in cap and gown, yet most of them had never before seen the Iowa Central campus, or Fort Dodge, or Iowa until then.
For the first time since building its online programs to a degree level and through its partnership with Barker Educational Services Team (BEST) of Phoenix, Ariz., online graduates of Iowa Central began showing up from points distant to collect their diplomas.
Les Brand came here from Phoenix, Ariz. with his wife Sue and infant daughter Chelsea to go through graduation exercises. Brand is an employee of BEST, so not only was he taking the classes, he was assessing them at the same time. He now has an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Networking Technology, the oldest of the online programs offered by Iowa Central.
"I started out wanting to do one course. I wound up doing the entire 64-credit program and it was a good course. Not an easy course, but very up to date and a good learning experience," said Brand, who is in a position to know. He’s already Director of Operations and Technology for BEST, with a long background in information technology.
Brand was one of six online students to attend commencement. Three received degrees in Criminal Justice, and one each in Computer Networking, Human Services and Business.
Elaine Eldridge made the trip from Vergennes, Ver. with her husband Ralph Muzzy to pick up her Associate of Science degree in Business. She did a little sight-seeing while she was here. "We went over to the Loess Hills and down to the Tulip Festival in Pella. I had never been farther west than Chicago in my life."
Eldridge picked the Iowa Central Business program because she was denied a job in which she was qualified because she didn’t have a degree. "I decided I wasn’t going to let that happen again," she said. Now she has her Associates degree, a full time job, and a photography business she runs with her husband on the side.
"I decided that since I went to the work of getting this degree, I’m going to go see the school and meet the people. I’ll tell you the support program that drew me to this program to begin with is just as good in person," Eldridge said. She even ate lunch in the cafeteria one day last week with all the other students who live on campus.
Brand, 62, is a native of England and spent 12 years in the Royal Air Force completing different levels of education. He has lived in this country since 1979 but this is his first American college degree. "It was kind of nice to have a ceremony where I could walk by and not salute anyone," he said with a grin.
Brand’s two-year journey through the CNT program wasn’t even sidetracked by the birth of his daughter Chelsea in April, 2008. "That was the biggest challenge of the program for me," he said. But it’s also the beauty of online classes, where students are able to work from wherever they have a computer. In Brand’s case, some of his Iowa Central work was done from London.
"Really, it’s like anything else. It becomes part of your daily routine. You know when you have to do a test. You get into a rhythm," Brand said. Brand spent about 20 hours per week on his college work. But he had a strong computer background when he started. Others might need more time. Brand’s wife Sue was taking classes at nearby Arizona State University, but when you factor in drive time, even that becomes more time consuming than the online delivery method he was using.
"The online programs appeal to the non-traditional students with a family. In years past these kinds of students never had the opportunity to go back to school unless they wanted to sacrifice nights and weekends," said T.J. Martin, Iowa Central’s director of distance learning.
Brand says that online classes can be just as hands-on as a face-to-face class. "When the instructor has a computer in his hand, same as you, it’s a hands-on class."
This may be the first time, online graduates have attended a spring commencement at Iowa Central, but judging by how much they enjoyed making Iowa their vacation destination, it won’t be the last.
In the photo are, front from left, Donna Thompson, West Columbia, S.C. (Human Services), Elaine Eldridge, Vergennes, Ver. (Business), Kim Childress, Wyoming, Mich. (Criminal Justice), and Jackie Clayton-Garcia, Fort Dodge (Criminal Justice). In back are Les Brand (L) Phoenix, Ariz. (Computer Networking) and Michael Millhollin, Cannelton, W.Va. (Criminal Justice).