Family Ties Strengthen Online Student’s Bond to K-State

After returning home from visiting Kansas for the first time last May, Rhode Island resident Racheal Roy visited her grandmother, Mary Jane Zimmerman, to tell her about her trip.

Roy had been in Kansas to attend her graduation from Kansas State University. While talking with her grandmother, who is suffering from dementia, Roy just happened to show Zimmerman the business card of her K-State academic coordinator, Rosemary Boggs.

Hearing or seeing the name “Kansas State University” seemed to flip a switch. Zimmerman, in a rare moment of clarity, volunteered that her mother, Helen Curtis, had lived in Kansas and attended K-State in Manhattan in 1900 — a fact that Roy had never known throughout the time she had been taking classes online through the University.

Now while the K-State Alumni Association hasn’t been able to verify Curtis’s enrollment, the family is pretty sure it is true.  Zimmerman’s memory is much more accurate about events from long ago than things occurring in present day.

“It was a great moment, and we were very pleased to share that connection,” she said. “It was a nice way to wrap up my experience.”

Roy earned her master’s degree online through K-State’s distance education program as part of her goal to become an academic advisor. Throughout her year and a half (four academic terms) as a student at K-State, she never visited the campus. Curious what Kansas would be like, she flew out to the Midwest for her graduation in May and spent a week travelling and staying with friends.

“When I came back, I told everyone it is not what you think it is,” Roy said. “Kansas is beautiful — very much like Rhode Island. I hope to come back to see it again.”

After receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Maine, Roy had worked as an event planner at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., but wanted to work more with students and make a difference in their lives.

“I wanted to help students discover their inner strengths and bridge their academic careers with their future goals,” Roy said.

As part of her journey, she decided to take an administrative assistant job in a new academic advising center at Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI. This position gave her a taste of what it was like to work in an academic advising office on a daily basis. She learned about K-State’s program in academic advising from her supervisor, Susan Hammond, who knew about K-State’s program because K-State is home to the executive office of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). That organization partners with K-State to offer a master’s and certificate program in academic advising.

Roy joined NACADA to learn more about the field. While attending a regional conference, she got to meet several NACADA associates, as well as meet and build a face-to-face relationship with her advisor, Dr. Charlie Nutt.

“The conference allowed me to build a connection with Charlie just as I was starting the master’s program, and now my membership in NACADA will allow me to continue this relationship into the future,” Roy said.

Roy had previously taken an online course during her undergraduate studies, so the idea of taking classes online wasn’t intimidating.

“In fact, I thought (K-State’s distance learning program) was wonderful. The courses had structure, but allowed me to work at my own pace, which is what made it doable while working 40 hours per week. I was able to do all my school work on the weekends or after work,” she said.

Working in an advising center allowed her to apply immediately much of what she learned in class.

“It wasn’t just a benefit to me,” she said. “I was able to apply the theory I was learning directly with students while I was going to school.”

She compressed the program into four semesters and graduated in May 2010. She is still working for Roger Williams University, and hopes to soon be promoted into an academic advising position.

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