As most graduates said goodbye to Colorado State University’s campus last weekend, a number were just becoming acquainted with it. Graduates of CSU’s online and distance programs — many of whom had never set foot in Fort Collins before — came to walk in the commencement ceremony and get a glimpse of what is now their alma mater.
Those who graduated from online programs this fall, 145 in all, hail from 33 U.S. states, American Samoa, Canada and the United Arab Emirates. “People who wouldn’t normally be able to attend CSU are now able to study in our programs, with our faculty, thanks to the online format,” said Bruce Trameri, manager of student success services at CSU Online.
To give the students a chance to celebrate with their peers and meet the faculty who taught them, CSU Online hosts a graduation brunch and campus tour each spring and fall prior to commencement ceremonies.
“It’s important for our online students to have the experience of coming to campus, walking in graduation, and meeting the students, faculty and staff they have corresponded with over the course of months and even years,” Trameri said. “Online students are a part of the CSU family, and we want them to feel welcome here.”
The brunch also provides an opportunity to honor the CSU faculty who teach in online programs. Graduates are asked to nominate an instructor for the CSU Online Innovative Educator Award, which is presented to a faculty member who exemplifies outstanding instruction and relationship-building in an online program. This fall’s recipient was Sharon Anderson, Ph.D., of CSU’s School of Education.
Anderson teaches in CSU’s online Higher Education Leadership Ph.D. program and was nominated for her dedication and excellence in advising students for their dissertations. In her acceptance speech, Anderson said, “Teaching online has helped me become a better faculty member.”
CSU’s Online students
Nearly 10 percent of CSU’s undergraduate and graduate degree-seeking students study in an online program, and their numbers are growing. This is reflective of the higher education landscape as a whole. A 2014 study found that about 13 percent of students in the nation study fully online.