“I didn’t know I was going to graduate from WVU at the same time as my son Jimmy. It just happened that way. They wanted us to cross the stage together, but I didn’t want to steal his thunder—and I also wanted to be able to cheer for him—so I crossed the stage first and he went a little bit later.”
Amy graduated with an online Masters in Communication Studies and Jimmy graduated with an undergraduate degree in Multidisciplinary Studies. They also shared the day with Jimmy’s fiancée, Ashley Seum, who graduated with an undergraduate degree in Criminology and minors in Russian and Forensic and Investigative Science.
Getting across that stage was the last leg of a long journey for Amy.
“My fiancé, Danny, put on my card: ‘Congratulations, I’m glad WE made it through,’” she laughs. “He was my biggest support, followed by my family.”
Amy, a Morgantown native, has always been a nontraditional student. Her undergraduate degree from WVU was a Regent’s Bachelor of Arts, which she received ten years ago when she was 40.
“I actually started on my bachelor’s degree when I was younger,” she said. “But then life got in the way. I got married and had a son and then I got divorced. I knew I couldn’t work for minimum wage, so I finished my degree as an RBA.
“I really liked all the communications classes I took as an undergraduate, so I was interested in doing my master’s in communications. But I also had to work full-time, and that’s when I decided to do this online degree.”
WVU’s online Master of Arts in Communication Studies is designed for working professionals, with its emphasis on navigating organizational networks, becoming competent in one-on-one and group interactions, and learning the proper use of technology and social media to communicate effectively.
“I highly recommend the Board of Regents undergraduate program for anyone who has some college or life experience, but has never received a degree,” Amy said. “I also can’t say enough good things about my experience in the online Master of Communication Studies program.
“Dr. Matt Martin, the program coordinator and my advisor, was a huge part of my decision to get my master’s degree in Communication Studies, as well as a big part of my success in completing the program,” she said. “When I first emailed him to find out more about the program, he actually called me on the phone and said ‘Come and see me’ and that turned out to be life changing for me.”
Amy had never taken online classes before and it took a while for her to get used to the new technology.
She laughs about it now, because before too long, she was doing all kinds of things online. It became second nature and that was a tremendous growth experience for her.
“I think the online classes are awesome for non-traditional students, those who are a little older, or for people who may have anxiety about going to class,” she said. “And especially for people who work full-time.”
Amy is Administrative Associate with WV-INBRE at WVU’s Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center.
“We bring in college students from all over West Virginia during the summer to do biomedical research projects,” Amy said. “Usually it’s for nine weeks and it’s very intense.”
She said her degree is valuable to her in her work because it helps her to interact with students and teachers from all walks of life.
“Just being able to communicate, whether it be in writing or in person, on the phone, the internet, or whatever, is something we need more of in the world today. People don’t talk face-to-face as much anymore, so communicating effectively is a challenge.”
During her online studies, Amy especially enjoyed the discussions with other students, which are required in each course.
“We had to do a certain amount of online discussion, but I always wanted more dialogue,” Amy said. “I would post and then ask a question to see who would answer.
“I would be like ‘OK, you do it this way, but has anyone ever thought about doing it THIS way.’ I wanted to put new ideas out there.”
Amy’s son Jimmy is also a non-traditional student. He started out studying athletic training at a private college in West Virginia, where he played on the baseball team. It turned out to be very expensive and he decided to transfer to another school.
“But a lot of the courses he was taking there didn’t transfer to other programs,” Amy said. “He was like ‘I don’t know what to do, Mom.’
“So we decided on the MDS program at WVU, which was one of the places where his credits would transfer. His three minors are Sports and Exercise Psychology, Strength and Conditioning, and Leadership Studies.
“Now he is figuring out what he wants to do next and he’s thinking about going to grad school.”
WVU students can earn their Multidisciplinary Studies degree either on-campus, or online.
Amy says the benefits of getting an online degree include being able to do the work on your own time.
“I worked on my classes every weekend and I could do the work through the week if I had an hour here, or an hour there, such as sitting in the doctor’s office.
“It’s the perfect balance to be able to go in, log on, and work on a class in the comfort of your own home. “You can even wear pajamas if you want to,” she laughs. “They don’t care!”