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College of Human Ecology

Doll delivers diplomas to Alaska

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The ceremony had the pomp and circumstances associated with any graduation: professorial regalia, speeches, a procession, a wandering dog...

Well, maybe not any graduation. This one took place this summer against the backdrop of a log home and the blue Alaska sky, where two K-State distance education graduates marked the completion of their master's degrees with the help of Gayle Doll, K-State assistant professor in gerontology and director of the Center on Aging.

Sharon Wells and Sydney Eden, mother and daughter, earned master's degrees in gerontology through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance, of which K-State is a member. Doll flew 2,758 miles to Willow, Alaska, to hand over symbolic sheepskins.

"Sydney emailed in passing one day, ‘If someone from K-State would bring us our diplomas they could stay at our bed and breakfast.' It was too good a deal to pass up," Doll explained.

Eden and Wells rented hoods and gowns. A lectern, made of a section of tree trunk, stood behind bouquets heavy with sunflowers. The graduates descended a torch-lit path where, before taking their seats for Doll's address, they barbecued their least favorite course work in an open pit.

In attendance was Saucer, 13 ½-years-old, who "as a geriatric dog was actually the topic of many things we wrote about for our classes," Eden said.

"Sharon and Sydney were terrific on-line students, bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Great Plains IDEA online degree program," Doll said. "The benefit for me in going was that I got to sit down with them and get first hand feedback about their educational experience, information that will be implemented to improve the program."

Wells and Eden worked in Alaska's court-designated guardian program before beginning their master's curriculum, and their experiences often ran counter to some of the theorizing of the assignments.

"That's exactly the kind of student we look for," Doll said. "It makes for a richer classroom environment."

The Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance is a consortium of 11 universities that offer online degree, certificate and course-share programs. Students learn in a self-paced environment, but the curriculum ensures that they receive the same quality of education as through on-campus course work.

News release distributed by K-State Media Relations and Marketing.

This article was posted on Tuesday, September 30, 2008, and is filed under College News.