Some Grads Earned Degrees From a Distance

Representing the UA's commitment to expanding statewide access to higher education, the Class of 2015 includes students who completed their coursework online.
April 29, 2015
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Among the thousands of graduates earning a University of Arizona degree this spring are students who have completed their programs from a distance.

For years, the UA has offered graduate-level programs and certificates online. For students such as Ryan Vincent, who lives in Mesa, Arizona, such programs allowed him access to the UA’s world-class education with no alteration to his lifestyle.

"It gave me the flexibility to complete a degree without having to worry about missing work or having to move to a different location," said Vincent, who is completing his master's degree in international security studies. 

Online learning is an important component of the institution's Never Settle plan, which calls for an expansion of access to the University’s faculty, research and educational programs.

"The University of Arizona has long been a leader in distance education, developing online courses that provide students flexibility to complete their degrees on the main campus and UA South, and also through a number of our distance learning centers," said Vincent J. Del Casino Jr., vice provost of Digital Learning and Student Engagement.

Earlier this year, the University launched the UA Online campus, a fully online campus offering 21 undergraduate degree programs. The new undergraduate degree programs join more than 40 online graduate school degrees and certificates the UA has offered.

"The expansion of our offerings to a fully online, four-year format through UA Online supports another opportunity for students to access our amazing programs, and to complete a UA undergraduate degree," Del Casino said.

Vincent's interests are in the Middle East and North Africa. After graduating, he will be studying abroad in Amman, Jordan, and eventually plans to pursue a position with the federal government or private sector working with international communities.

"I value the experience and knowledge that I gained from completing the program. It opened my eyes to issues that I never really considered before," he said.

Another UA student, John McSpadden, completed the UA's international security studies program, which targets military and civilian personnel, preparing them for careers related to intelligence, foreign policy analysis and the Foreign Service. Ultimately, McSpadden wants to work for the government.

An Oklahoma native, he now lives in Mesa and works for a Phoenix-based health care analytics company, Symphony Health Solution. He and his wife, Katie Komar McSpadden, are planning to live abroad with their new daughter, Josephine Jean, and he said the degree has prepared him for that move.  

"My family and wife, by far, gave me the most support during the program," McSpadden said, noting that his wife already had earned a master's degree.

"She knew how strongly I wanted mine. Education is important to both of us as well as my family," he said. "There were certainly difficult nights and weekends which I had to spend studying at the expense of spending time with my family. But this was mitigated by the online approach."

In addition to fully online degrees, the UA has expanded higher-education access by offering specific courses online.

Los Angeles native Semi Hastain found it difficult to complete a degree program as she served in the U.S. Army for a 10-year period beginning in 2003, completing deployments and stateside assignments.

"The University of Arizona has been the eighth school I have attended since I have tried to complete my bachelor's degree. Taking online courses was the only way that I could complete my education because I was in the military," said Hastain, who now lives in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. "With all the constant moving and deployments, this was the only way."

In addition to the UA, Hastain also attended the University of Maryland, Fayetteville Technical Community College and Cochise Community College, but everything came together for her after she enrolled through UA South.

Hastain is receiving her undergraduate degree from UA South in psychology. During her studies, she served as the Associated Students of the University of Arizona South president, and was named a 2014 Centennial Achievement Undergraduate Award recipient. She took courses at UA South in addition to online and hybrid.

She said it is important that students remain self-motivated and be efficient in managing their time if they are to be successful in online coursework. She credits her husband, faculty and staff at UA South, and her religious practice for her success.

"I'm excited that I completed the program with the University of Arizona," said Hastain, who will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army on May 15 and will move to North Carolina.

"It has obviously been a long road. It took a lot of perseverance and dedication. And of all the schools that I have been a part of, UA South is the only school that has been helpful throughout my educational career."