Our History

Photo: Aerial view of WSU Pullman Campus centered on Holland Library.

Decades of Online Learning Expertise

Since 1890, WSU has been working to fulfill its land-grant mission and provide top-tier higher education to students in Washington State. Today, WSU has expanded its reach around the world, delivering the same education directly into students’ homes through cutting-edge academic technology.

The timeline below lays out the history of Global Campus, demonstrating how WSU was among the first public universities to fully embrace distance degree programs and online learning.

Meet students from across Global Campus’ 30-year history!

Over our long history, the experiences of Global Campus students have evolved as new technologies and learning innovations have become available. As part of our 30th Anniversary Celebration in 2022, we reached out to students who’ve attended Global Campus since it was founded as WSU Extended Degree Programs in 1992, asking them to share their unique stories and memories. Below are some of these recent testimonials that illustrate the richness of student experiences throughout the years. We hope you enjoy the journey!

Shasta Pettijohn ’96

“Having completed my AA degree at community colleges in California, I planned to continue and get my bachelor’s degree. However, life changes, and I moved to northeastern Washington to homestead and start a family.

When my two children were aged one and three, I decided it was time to go back to school. I lived two hours from the nearest college campus and wasn’t willing to give up time with my children to commute. My grandfather, a retired geology professor with Johns Hopkins University, suggested I try correspondence courses.

My search led me to WSU’s Extended Degree Program (EDP), which was just starting in 1992. Viewing videotaped lectures at home, I was able to rewind to take notes to study. I used mail to send my assignments to my instructors and used a toll free 800 number to leave messages for the instructors or fellow students.

I’m so grateful that I had this opportunity. EDP was the only way I would have been able to complete my degree in a timely manner. It also gave me a connection to the academic world while I was homebound with an infant and toddler. It also connected me with my community as I was required to do in-person projects with community members related to rural sociology. My WSU advisor was supportive and sent me swag to help me feel connected to the university.

EDP expanded my horizons, helped me develop critical thinking skills, and led to a career as an instructor at a Washington State technical college. I attended graduation on campus with my family. This was a triumphant moment for me!”

Pam Loughlin ’00

“Global Campus was called the DDP (Distance Degree Programs) when I started to attend in Spring 1997. I was 40 years old, working full-time in a field that no longer interested me. So, with the full support of my husband, an educator, I returned to college—this time to earn my bachelor’s degree. I had previously earned two Associate’s degrees. It took me three years of working part-time, raising our son, and working on my classes. This was back in the day when our lectures came in the form of a box of VHS tapes! My son’s elementary school principal proctored my exams and mailed them back to Pullman. I graduated in May 2001 with my bachelor of arts in Social Science. I then went on to earned by Masters of Education in School Counseling. I served in the K-12 school system for 8 years as a high school counselor before returning to the Cougar fold as an Academic Coordinator/Advisor for the Engineering Programs starting up in what is now WSU Everett. I am starting my 11th year working for the Cougar Family and I love helping other place-bound students achieve their goal of earning a bachelor’s degree through WSU Global Campus!”

Susie Beador ’01

“My journey at WSU began in Pullman as a freshman in September 1968. It was a wonderful time and I found community, direction, and a purpose I needed at that time in my life. Unfortunately, after 2 1/2 years, my journey ended as I had to return home to help take care of my siblings. However, I promised myself that one day I would return to WSU and complete my degree and in September 1998 that dream came true when I enrolled in the WSU Extended Degree Program.

In the interim, from January 1971 to September 1998, I took care of my siblings, attended a vocational school, and became a Certified Dental Assistant working in Dentistry for 18 years. I married, had two beautiful daughters, attended a community college taking business classes and then went to work for a municipality as the Utility Billing Supervisor for 11 years. In 1997 I decided it was time to complete my degree, but because I was working full time, had one daughter in college and another who would soon be graduating from high school and heading to college, I knew I was going to have to complete my degree online. That’s when I found out about WSU’s online program and my next journey at WSU began.

While working toward my degree, I continued to work fulltime, and I was a Senator and the Secretary for the EDP/DDP student government for two years. It was an extremely busy time, and my journey was not always easy, however I stayed on course taking two classes each semester fall and spring, and one class during the summer semesters. Keeping focused, on task and with the support of my husband and daughters, I completed my BA in Social Science with Business Minor in May 2001.

Upon completion of my degree, we moved from the westside to central Washington, and I went to work at Central Washington University. I was able to advance my career at Central Washington University giving me the opportunity to guide students on their quest to complete their degrees. The most rewarding of these was being hired as the first Director of the Veterans Center at Central Washington University. When I retired in July 2015, I was awarded the
Distinguished Service Recognition for Superlative Retirees, which was quite an honor. My youngest daughter graduated with her MBA through the online MBA program at WSU in 2011.

And this fall (2023), my granddaughter will be attending WSU Pullman as a freshman. Thank you, WSU, and EDP/DDP/Global Campus, for making it possible for me to complete the journey I started in 1968 to become a WSU graduate. GO COUGS!”

Karen Whalen ’02

“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.”

Pamela Griffin ’04

“Graduating at 55 years of age from California with WSU Online was a heartfelt moment. I had completed my first three years at WSU Pullman, Stephenson East, then left after my junior year to marry. I struggled over the years to complete my degree at various colleges from George Washington University, to USF, to California State Hayward, but even though my intentions were good, my work and life stifled my dream of graduating. WSU Online gave me a lifeline with a way to graduate and—I did! My mother died a month before I went to Pullman for the graduation ceremony, but she knew I had completed her lifelong dream for me. The telling of that brings tears to my eyes.

After WSU graduation, I earned my Masters of English literature at Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont, California. With my education and my life of writing, I went on to publish two novels and poetry. I’m working on a new novel about life in Nairobi, Kenya during the 1960s. My formative years were spent in Tripoli, Libya, teenage years in Nairobi, Kenya, New Delhi, India, Karachi, Pakistan, and Ankara, Turkey.

WSU is my alma mater in heart and soul. I will be eternally grateful for the online program that seemingly magically propelled me into the life where I belonged.”

Debby Poris ’09

“I had attended WSU for a year after high school, but life got in the way, and I wasn’t able to finish. I always regretted that. It was always a dream of mine to go back and finish, but I never thought it would happen. As the years went by though, I finally decided that I needed to take the plunge and try again.

So I went to community college, and after that was over, I knew I wanted to be a Coug again. It was a no brainer for me. It was a heart thing.

My son has Cystic Fibrosis and my parents were ill at the time. Taking care of them was priority number one, so I had to stay on the western side of the Cascade Mountains. When I found out it was possible for me to still be a Coug and earn my degree online, I was ecstatic. I could take care of my family and still work full time, and that’s exactly what I needed.

I has worried about being on the older side, and if I was going to be able to relate and work well with younger people. The concept of fully-online learning was also still relatively new at the time, and I wasn’t sure how well it would work for me.

I loved the interactions I had with my fellow online students, and I just wanted to get more and more involved with this great community. I found that many students had families and jobs, like me, with a wide variety of life experiences. It led to robust discussions, and I could relate to the people I was learned alongside.

The staff at WSU was so helpful and supportive, and I adjusted to learning online pretty quickly. The advisors were outstanding, and their connectivity and accessibility was wonderful.

I got to meet so many great people and help provide some amazing engagement opportunities, both virtually and through in-person meet ups. I also got to spend time in Pullman advocating for online students as a part of student government. It was very satisfying and a lot of fun.

Some fellow students in my local area and I set up a support group, and we met up in person regularly. It felt so good to share experiences with people who were going through the same things as me. I’m still friends with many people I met through WSU to this day.

My husband and my whole family were so supportive. My dad was so proud that his daughter was earning a degree, and we had that in common. I always let my dad read my papers. It was a highlight for me, and it brought us very close as we discussed various topics. Those times were so special.

It felt so great to graduate in 2009. It was my goal to graduate before I turned 55, and I did it! My dad also passed away a few years afterward, and I am so glad he got to see me graduate. He was very proud, and that meant a lot to me.

After I graduated, my salary went up by fifteen to twenty thousand dollars, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t gone back to school. It was hard work at times, but I had so much fun learning and being part of the WSU community. It was so worth it!

Earning my degree online at WSU was such an important part of my journey. I love being a Coug, and I’m so glad I could do it from home, on my own terms. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”

Gary Fox ’11

“I started at WSU in 1976 after a stint in the military. While in Pullman, I met someone who would later become my wife. She graduated in 1978 and when she left WSU, I decided to follow her back to the west side of the state. I had always regretted not completing my degree, so after many years I decided to try the Distance Degree Program.

When the economy slowed back in 2008 and a lot of jobs were in jeopardy, I thought that not having a degree was typically the first throw-out criteria for employers looking at new applicants. If I were to need to find other work, it might be best for me to get a diploma. Fortunately, I didn’t happen to lose my job—but I felt I still needed a degree—if I only for my own satisfaction.

I didn’t realize how hard it would be trying to complete a class or two each semester while still trying to advance my career with a full-time job. In 2011, after what seemed like a lifetime, I finally finished a got my degree. I’m proud of myself and proud to be a Coug.”

Photo: Andrew Zander

Andrew Zander ’13

“When I chose to pursue higher education, I was active-duty military and not able to relocate to a city that had a four-year college or university. WSU was one of the few universities that embraced distance education and truly cared about the online educational experience. They offered a level of connection that other educational institutions overlooked—a sense of community. This is one of the quintessential aspects of the college experience that WSU offers to each and every online student. WSU’s online degree program translated to many opportunities for me to develop my character, leadership, and research skills.

Many online students feel anonymous. While they may be receiving a good education in their chosen field, they often don’t feel any sense of community or connection with their peers or the institution they are attending. This is where WSU excels and certainly exceeded my expectations. As an online student, I was encouraged to participate in student government. As a result, I took on the responsibility of representing the online student body as a Senator and then as President. A student government dedicated to representing the online student body is something that I had never come across when I was looking at other distance degree programs. This was an indicator of how serious WSU took its responsibility of offering a world class education to all of its students, whether they be in-person in Pullman or online. This rewarding experience allowed me to advance online student interests in collaboration with the WSU administration, including then president, Elson S. Floyd. These leadership opportunities allowed me to earn the WSU President’s award twice (2006 and 2008).

The opportunities didn’t end there. National honor societies included online students, allowing them to participate in induction ceremonies and activities to the greatest extent possible. I was able to enter my research into the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA), for which I won the WSU Global Campus Scholar Award. I was later asked to come back and serve as a judge in SURCA as well as for the Graduate and Professional Student Association’s Wiley Expo. Other opportunities to connect included Coug Day at the Capitol, which allowed students to meet with elected representatives and advocate on behalf of their fellow students. The activities available to students also included trips to museums, zoos, and sporting events. All of these events served to promote a sense of community that is often missing in online education.

Through WSU, not only was I able to earn a bachelor’s degree, I was able to gain a community of which I will always be a part. This is an aspect of higher education that WSU understands. Academics certainly come first, but there are also many other paths to gain enrichment—and that is what sets their online program apart from the rest. Being able to attend WSU not only set me up for success professionally, but it also helped me grow as an individual and become a better person. For that, I am forever grateful to be a WSU Alum. Go Cougs!”

Photo: Mary Senter

Mary Senter ’15

“My story begins like so many others. I started college after high school but couldn’t find my stride. I joined the military, started a family, and got busy with life. After many years of working in backbreaking construction and facility maintenance, I was working as a corrections officer at the county jail when I decided I finally needed to go back and finish my degree in order to get somewhere in this life. As a full-time worker and full-time single parent, attending school in a physical classroom was not an option for me.

I found the social sciences program at the WSU Distance Degree Program (DDP) that would give me the credentials I needed for a desired promotion. I enrolled full-time and went straight through for five semesters and graduated, with honors, in fall of 2009, at 39 years old. During that time, I studied during the day and worked at the jail until midnight. I didn’t clean the house or wash the car or hang out with friends or do any of things that aren’t necessary to sustain life. There wasn’t time for anything else. The sacrifices were many, but it was worth it in the end.

I took my family to Pullman to attend graduation and got some peculiar looks when I asked for directions to the CUB while wearing graduation regalia. It was my first time on the WSU campus.

In the meantime, the 2008 economic downturn eliminated the job I was hoping to get and I’d decided I no longer wanted to work in corrections, anyway. I kept seeing postings for jobs that involved digital design, social media, public relations, publishing, and other creative activities and I knew that’s what I wanted to do since I’ve always been creative and artistic and am happiest when making something. But I didn’t have the skills to apply for those jobs.

I was notified about the brand new Strategic Communication MA through WSU DDP and at first I didn’t pay much attention (because, in truth, I didn’t even know what it was!). Later, I looked closer and realized it was just what I needed to get where I wanted to go.

I was accepted three days before classes began. I went full-time for three semesters plus two half-time summers and was a part of the second graduating class in summer, 2015. I attended commencement the following December. WSU Online hosted a lovely reception for the Cyber Cougs and I had the pleasure of meeting my classmates face-to-face for the first time.

We were invited to say a few words to those in attendance. I stood in front of my family and new friends and bawled—and I am horrified by public crying! I cried because I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the accomplishment of earning a master’s degree—something I never dreamed I would do. I cried because I was so grateful to WSU DDP, to the veterans’ grant that allowed me to afford it, to my family who sacrificed, to my professors who taught me so much, and to the eclectic cohort of wonderful students who supported and encouraged me. I am beyond proud to say that I hold a Master’s in Strategic Communication from WSU!

I now work in communications and design in the public sector. I am writer of fiction and nonfiction, the graphic designer for a Seattle literary journal, and recently started a small press. I’m not yet where I want to be, but I’m well on my way, and it wouldn’t have been possible without WSU Global Campus!”

Lynn Strub ’16

“I received my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the WSU Pullman campus in 2006, but after advancing to a technical lead as a software developer with The Boeing Company I was looking to move into a people management position. The Master’s of Engineering and Technology Management program seemed like the perfect match for adding some depth of business acumen to my technical background. The WSU Global Campus allowed for a better balance of returning to school while working full-time and managing family life. Since completing the METM program I have now been working as a Software Engineering Manager for several years.”

Tim Bridgham, left, and his wife

Tim Bridgham ’17

“For some, figuring out exactly what you want to do with your life can be a challenge and can take some time. In August of 2013, I found myself in the situation where I finally figured out what I wanted to do, be a User Experience Researcher—but now I needed to take the steps to pursue my goal. Finishing my undergrad was one big hurdle that I needed to overcome. WSU’s Global Campus was instrumental in helping me achieve my goal, because it offered me the flexibility to continue living and working in Seattle while crafting a degree which would support my goal.

I remember how welcoming the admissions folks and my counselor were. They were excited to have me as a Coug and did everything they could do to help set me up for success. This was the complete opposite feeling I got from a local university that I looked into finishing my degree at.

In 2017, after two years of online classes, I drove across the state with my super supportive wife and attended my graduation ceremony. It felt incredible to finally check that step off! I started my undergrad journey way back in 2001 and never finishing my undergraduate degree had always weighed on me. After graduating, I was able to get into University of Washington’s User Centered Design graduate certificate program and upon completion of that, I landed that long-awaited user experience researcher role.”