WSU Global Campus (formerly Distance Degree Programs) has changed and evolved since my time as an online student. What hasn’t changed, however, is the complexity students face in their day-to-day scheduling and the demands life places on them.
My big message, as a WSU Online graduate and now one of your Virtual Mentors, is this: Hang in there and do reach out when in need. When I first enrolled, I had a toddler with immunodeficiencies and sensory issues, so attendance on campus was not possible for me. A bouncy kiddo demanded my attention in the daytime, and I was working in social services during evenings and weekends when my husband was home to take care of our daughter. I hadn’t written an academic paper or taken a multiple-choice test in over eight years, was suffering from sleep deprivation, financial concerns, and a chronic lack of time. That very first week of fall semester, once I had figured out how to actually post in a class and respond to classmates, my daughter ended up ill and hospitalized. At the time, I did not own a laptop, so I sent a quick email to my instructors and took care of my kiddo in the hospital. When we returned home, the first round of demanding deadlines in several very taxing classes had passed, and I thought I would have to give up on higher education before even getting started.
Luckily, I was wrong. My instructors were understanding and supportive and helped me catch up without shortchanging my academic experience. Classmates with whom I had bonded during initial introductions checked in, shared study guides, cheered me on, and mentioned how they had overcome hardships. Several returned to initial discussions past the deadline and, without receiving credit, engaged me in discussions so I could grow and also obtain points. That support was invaluable and gave me the motivation to keep trying. I became a fan of online learning, even if sometimes, my daughter’s naps were just ten minutes too short for me to finish a quiz or if I had to recite definitions while pushing a stroller. Turns out I was pretty good at this online-learning thing and was asked to fill an open position with the ASWSU student government. I ended up having an amazing experience at Rendezvous (with my kiddo in tow), running the PR Committee, organizing a community service project for online students, and helping set up a scholarship committee. To top it off, I won a scholarship designed for non-traditional students.
During my last semester, the going got tough again. Our second baby was supposed to be born a couple of weeks after graduation – we thought we had it all planned out! I ended up with a high-risk pregnancy, a looming early delivery, and bed rest restriction. During that semester, my then-advisor Craig Stephens and one of my committed and flexible instructors, Dr. Nancy McKee, had my and our baby’s backs. I was given an exemption to take exams and other assignments ahead of schedule and had a go-to person at the University to process my separate submissions. I owe them all my sanity and thanks because I took the final the night before I was induced with my son, and he was born three weeks before my graduation date. I never made it to Pullman for the celebration, but I had a toddler who was reading and studying “just like Mama,” a healthy new baby, a 4.0 GPA, and an invitation to participate in the Virtual Mentor workshop to join WSU’s one-of-a-kind support team. And yes, I mastered that workshop with an infant on my lap and a preschooler in a tutu dancing circles around me. It was quite the ride.
Why am I telling you something so personal? I want you to know that you are not alone, even when you feel you are rolling virtual boulders uphill. Lean on your instructors, teaching assistants, academic advisors, department heads, and – definitely – your fellow students and helpful virtual mentors. If you encounter a problem or face a personal struggle, reach out to your instructors and advisor as soon as possible to plan for success and receive needed support. They are there for you like they were for me. Online learning affords great opportunities, and just because you are not in a room with people doesn’t mean you can’t create strong connections. On the flipside of that, do put yourself out there. You reap what you sow, so extend support to a classmate who is struggling, say yes to new challenges, and participate in additional adventures and offerings, like seminars, student government, and social gatherings. Who knows what wonderful things might happen.
See you in the course spaces!
Alina, Your WSU VM
Some important connections and resources you may want to consider at WSU Global: