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College of Human Ecology

Husband and wife both earn degrees through K-State Distance Education

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

MANHATTAN -- Kevin McLain, Jefferson City, Mo., has always been a huge Kansas State University fan.

When he decided to get his master's degree, his first choice was K-State, where he had earned his undergraduate degree. He finished his master's degree in civil engineering, with a specialization in geotechnical engineering, in December 2003. His wife, Ellen, then followed his lead, earning a personal financial planning certificate from K-State in January 2005.

To earn their degrees, the McClains didn't have to move to Manhattan. Instead, K-State came to them with distance education classes offered through the university's Division of Continuing Education.

Both McLains decided to go back to school while still working full time and living in Jefferson City. Kevin McLain is a geotechnical engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation. He was recently honored with K-State's College of Engineering Professional Progress Award. Ellen McLain works for the office of gift planning and endowments at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

The McLains said they had several reasons for going back to school.

"Most of the geotechnical engineers I deal with in consulting and design firms have master's degrees," Kevin McLain said. "I wanted to be on par with them and at the same level. Plus, I wanted to increase my knowledge in the field."

Ellen McLain said one of the main reasons she decided to go back to school was because of her husband's support and encouragement. "He gave me information on distance education and told me I'd like it," she said. "I knew the courses would teach me areas in financial planning in which I didn't have experience."

Although Kevin McLain knew a master's degree was a good career move and an investment in his future, he found that a traditional on-campus program wasn't the best option for him.

"I knew I wouldn't have to miss work if I went through K-State distance education," he said. "It was wonderful because I didn't have to use my vacation time or leave work in the middle of the day to go to class. This gave me the opportunity to do the schoolwork on my own time and not have to rearrange my schedule."

Ellen McLain agreed that K-State distance education was the best option for her while she was still working full time. "It was a great option for me because I travel a lot, and it enabled me to participate in the class from many different time zones," she said. "I can remember taking a quiz in California while I was there for work."

Ellen McLain said the practical knowledge she gained has helped her in her career by giving her a more in-depth view of the principles of financial planning. Kevin McLain said he has been able to apply his knowledge every day in his job.

"The classes really helped me to understand and teach others about construction and retaining structures," he said. "The course work also has helped me to do a better job in my position and has helped me diagnose problems more efficiently."

While companies and institutions that offer online learning seem to spring up every day, K-State is a fully accredited, bricks-and-mortar university established in 1863. That history and the fact that Kevin McLain already was a K-State alum affected his decision.

"The biggest reason I chose K-State was because of my loyalty to the school and because of the courses the university offered," he said. "I'm a loyal K-Stater and known as the 'K-State guy.'"

Although working at a computer is usually not a group activity, Ellen McLain said she was surprised at all the opportunities for interaction with both classmates and instructors that her K-State distance courses provided.

"We had a chat room that was very helpful, so we could live-chat with everyone," she said. "The instructors also used slides and PowerPoint. It helped a lot because the slides came from the teacher's mind instead of a textbook."

Kevin McLain said he is always recommending K-State to other working adults who are interested in distance education programs. "I'm always telling people about K-State. It's a great program for people like myself who can't afford to take off time in the middle of their career," he said.

"I even encouraged a Nebraska grad to go to K-State. I told him to make
sure and start wearing purple."

Ellen McClain said she, too, recommends K-State distance education. "The program is ideal for working professionals like myself. I'd highly recommend it," she said. "It's really given me a better understanding of the things to do in my job."

For more information about programs available at K-State through distance education, contact the Division of Continuing Education at 1-800-432-8222 or visit http://www.dce.k-state.edu

This article was posted on Wednesday, September 13, 2006, and is filed under College News.