A few weeks ago was the fall-semester kick-off party… or ‘reception’ would be the more academic word for it. Being a part of an online college means that you get to know a lot of names, but not faces. When you find yourself in the trenches of a spring or summer semester, the ‘Discussion Boards’ become one of the local hangouts. It’s where you hear the opinions of others and proffer a few of your own.  You are forced into interaction (read: graded) with other students there. It is one of the key mechanisms that make this online thing work. In fact, I would dare to say that I interact more now with people then when I was in a traditional classroom. The way this program is set up is such that it groups you with people who are literally in the same boat as you.

The discussion board or ‘DB’ is actually a really good thing. It leaves little room for laziness as it can have a profound effect on your grade. However, one thing I noticed the other night was that as I meandered around the room I found myself looking at every name tag. I was trying to find some of the other scholars that I had rubbed shoulders with in the ‘virtual classroom’ but had never seen face to face. And, I did run into a few fellow students…also a few of my previous professors whom I had never met in person. I talked to Professor Ellen Smiley who was my instructor from the last summer session for Research Methods II. It was nice to be able to thank her in-person for the challenges that she put forth…and to thank her for the A. I also had the privilege to reacquaint myself with the 3 deans: Mogulescu, Otte and Peterson. I mentioned to Dean Mogulescu how much we had grown since our previous fall bash. Last fall, everyone fit into a smallish mid-town restaurant. This time, we occupied a huge ballroom. That is a testimony to the fact that this thing is working. As I scanned the room and interacted with different people it was easy to understand why. Most of us there had one thing in common: we were all hard-working professionals from various backgrounds who were succeeding at wrapping up our degrees. We were winning the race. I myself am finished after this fall. It’s been a long time coming, but well worth it.

It was a delight to finally match a name to the face with a lot of these people. That’s why these little get-togethers are so good. They put flesh and bones on our interactions. You get to hear more about the real person on the other side of the screen. Dean M gave a short speech on how the faculty is committed to our success. I knew that intuitively, but it is always good to hear. We are a real campus dealing with real people who are doing some extraordinary things to further their education. If you are new to this, or an old hat…take some pride in the fact that you are among such people who are poised to help you succeed. You are not in this alone. And take it from me…you can finish this thing. Keep on running.

Charlie Newell is in his last semester for the BA in Communications and Culture. He is presently working as a Project Manager for a firm on Wall St. He enjoys sports, outdoors, cooking, travelling and his wife.