Karen Whalen

Our “Global Campus Legends” series celebrates the 30th anniversary of WSU Global Campus by putting a spotlight on the unique experiences and journeys of Global Campus students throughout the years. Each legend features a quote from student who graduated from Global Campus since it was founded as WSU Extended Degree Programs in 1992.   

“I had gone to college after high school, starting in Fall 1979. I kept changing my major and after 195 credits and no degree, I faded out of school and into married life.

In 1997, life changed again and I was entering a new, unanticipated phase of life—single and starting over in a new town. I moved to Las Vegas and quickly found that making a living on my own there was going to be challenging. I had always wanted to be a lawyer, but that was a dream so far from my current situation—working at Starbucks and selling cellular phones—that I could not see a path. I decided to start with getting a Paralegal Certification at the local community college.

While I did that, I decided no dream was too big and planned to complete my undergraduate degree. It was during that time that I discovered some schools were offering distance programs. I actually went to the library and found books and guides and a small amount of information online. After comparing schools and programs that offered the distance format, it was clear to me that WSU’s program was miles ahead of the others.

I applied and was accepted in 2000 at the age of 39.

The distance format at that time was largely self-study offline. Every semester a big black crate arrived with all of the VCR tapes of the lectures for my classes. There were some threaded discussions online, but very little was live. I snail-mailed in my papers and assignments and they were snail-mailed back with comments. All of my tests were monitored at the local community college by my former director of Paralegal Studies. I felt like it was a solid and legit program. I was going to have to work just as hard as if I were attending in-person classes in Pullman.

I had to learn a lot of discipline to make this work. I made actual class times each semester to watch my lectures and study time for the assignments. This process ended up being priceless in making adjustments to law school later. I credit my two years of distance learning with my later successes in law school!

I graduated in August of 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Sciences. Two weeks later I started law school. My only regrets were not being able to travel to Pullman to attend graduation ceremonies, and that I have NEVER actually been on campus!

The Extended Degree Program, as it was known then, was the platform that changed my life. It launched me into a legal career where I served in the Special Prosecutions Unit and Federal Habeas Units of the Nevada Attorney General’s Office where I was Rookie of the Year, made arguments in front of The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and was selected as an International Fellow by the National Association of Attorneys General. I have traveled the world, hiking to Mount Everest Base Camp and Machu Picchu.

I love being a Coug and would not trade my distance learning experience for anything! I still remember those nights at my desk watching VCR tapes and smile knowing that, but for this program the last 22 years of my life would have been far less fulfilling.”

-Karen Whelan, ‘02

Karen Whalen