Saturday, May 16, 2009

Online graduates experience UIS campus during online brunch

By Courtney Westlake

Joy McCulloch moved from Springfield to Anchorage, Alaska in 2002, and wasn't able to complete the master's degree she had begun at UIS. So she was thrilled when she found out in 2007 that UIS was offering a master's degree in legal studies online.

"For me, it worked out really well," she said. "I work fulltime so I was able to be at home and do my studying at home. Lots of times, that was early in the morning or late at night, and with the three-hour time difference, it worked out great."

Dozens of students and their families traveled from across the country, like McCulloch, to participate in UIS' commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 16. Before the ceremony, however, graduating online students, many of whom had never stepped foot on campus before, were able to see the UIS campus in the morning during a celebratory online brunch in the Public Affairs Center.

Students ventured to UIS from all over Illinois and as far away as Florida and Pennsylvania over to California, down to Texas and up to Minnesota. The graduates and their families, online coordinators and program faculty were all recognized during the brunch. The group was the largest in attendance in the years that the university has hosted the brunch.

"Congratulations to both the graduates and to the families who have persevered through this - we all applaud you," said Ray Schroeder, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service. "Those of us here are not alone. There are more than 1,200 online degree and certificate majors at UIS."

UIS has been the recipient of multiple awards for online learning in the past few years and has emerged as a leader in online learning and teaching, Schroeder said.

"Many other universities look to UIS for leadership and more particularly, quality, in online learning, so be proud of your degree," Schroeder told graduates. "Our online program is strong and growing, and we look forward to following your successes as you move forward in your careers."

Graduates were thrilled to meet many campus community members, especially online coordinators and faculty, for the first time and celebrate their achievements at UIS.

"The same faculty who taught you those online courses are teaching our on-campus courses," said Chancellor Richard Ringeisen. "That's our way of ensuring that high-quality degree offered on campus is the same high-quality degree you earn online. You should be proud to be a part of the great University of Illinois system."

Traveling to be a part of the Commencement celebrations was exciting for the graduates and their families who attended the brunch.

"I was actually notified by the department head that I was asked to be the Legal Studies graduate marshal, so knowing that I was getting that honor and would get to see my family, I wanted to be here and walk for Commencement," McCulloch said.

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