Saturday, May 10, 2008

Online students enjoy UIS campus before commencement

By Courtney Westlake

Beth Trimble and Susan Greene became fast friends after Trimble was searching for a "study buddy" while she completed her bachelor's degree in math online at UIS. Years of support, encouragement and friendship ensued, and the two met face-to-face for the first time in 2007 when Greene traveled from her home in Lawrenceville, Ill. to see her online friend graduate.

On Saturday, May 10, it was Trimble's turn to make the trip from her home in California to celebrate as Greene received her degree in math with a minor in teacher education from UIS.

"I couldn't have asked for anything better on my graduation than for her to be here," Greene said. "I feel like my day is complete since she is here. She has been a major support system for me, along with my husband Tony."

Dozens of students and their families, many of whom had never set foot on the UIS campus before, traveled from near and far to participate in UIS' commencement ceremony on Saturday. Before the ceremony, however, graduating online students were able to be a part of the campus in the morning during a celebratory brunch in the Public Affairs Center.

Students hailed from all over Illinois and from as far away as California, Delaware, New Jersey and Florida. The graduates, online coordinators and program faculty were all recognized during the brunch.

"As graduates, you represent much of all that is good and great about the university," said Chuck Schrage, vice president of alumni relations. "Your accomplishments as students, your future achievements, the way in which you live and the values by which you live will have a significant impact on UIS. It's true what many have said: alumni are the truest measure of a great university."

Online graduates from UIS live and work throughout all 50 states and many other countries internationally.

"We have a wide reach with these programs," said Chancellor Richard Ringeisen. "I really want to congratulate you and thank you for choosing this university. We are very proud of these programs."

There was a wide mix of emotions during the brunch as the graduates met many campus community members for the first time and celebrated with their families and friends.

"I'm relieved, excited. It's been a long road," Greene said.

Both Trimble and Greene said they will always feel a connection with UIS, and especially with each other and their programs. Being teachers will also continue to keep them close, Trimble said.

"I don't think we'll ever lose that connection," Greene said.