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Virtual College

Hammond Hall 201
600 Park Street
Hays, KS 67601
Phone: 785-628-4291
Toll Free: 800-628-FHSU
Fax: 785-628-4037 

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Police investigator finds FHSU right choice

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By Randy Gonzales
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- To further his career, Eric Bremner had to look no further than Fort Hays State University.

Bremner, a supervising investigator for the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office in San Bernardino, Calif., was looking for a college where he could get his master’s degree online, with the hope of earning a promotion upon completion.

“As time progressed, I realized by the time I was promoted to sergeant in 2002 with no degree, it was the end of the line,” Bremner said. “I wouldn’t go any further unless I finalized my education.”

Bremner finished his bachelor’s degree in less than a year in 2014. He then focused on finding a school to get his master’s. A member of an FBI task force that Bremner supervised had attended FHSU and mentioned the university to Bremner.

“He said it was a good program and affordable,” Bremner said.

Bremner checked it out, and he liked what he saw. He enrolled for the spring 2015 semester, seeking a Master’s of Professional Studies in Criminal Justice, and he graduated last month.

“I completed my bachelor’s degree and went straight into the Fort Hays State program so I would be in position to promote up to an administrative position by the end of my career,” Bremner said.

Bremner said the online course work at FHSU was extensive, the same as if he was in a classroom -- which he appreciated.

“This was the first experience I had with a true online program,” Bremner said. “The setup there was very good.

“I liked the interaction; I liked the assignments,” he added. “The instructors didn’t hold back. You’ve got to work -- they don’t hold back.”

Dr. John Raacke, chair of FHSU’s Department of Criminal Justice, said online students receive the same quality education as those on campus.

“We have the same level of expectations, the same amount of course work -- you name it, it’s in there,” he said. “It’s just done through virtual means.”

Raacke said Bremner was an exceptional and dedicated student.

“Eric was very inquisitive, had good questions,” Raacke said. “He was what you would expect from somebody who had a lot going on. Eric was really easy as a student.”

Bremner, who lives outside San Bernardino in Norco, Calif., completed his master’s degree in three semesters -- while working full time and helping raise three young children.

Dennis King, assistant vice president for student affairs at FHSU, said Bremner’s decision to further his education will not only help him but also his children.

“One of the things that’s truly rewarding about the Virtual College is the family members,” King said. “Think about those kids seeing their dad go through that program, studying online.

“They witness somebody working hard to better themselves and their family,” he added. “It’s going to be rewarding, because we know (his children) are going to expect to go to college, do everything they can to get there.”

With costs a factor, Bremner also appreciated FHSU’s low tuition -- especially compared to other schools he was considering. Bremner’s tuition at another institution to finish his bachelor’s degree cost $15,000, while tuition for his master’s degree at FHSU was $8,000.

“You’re not going to be one of those people that come out of college $40,000 to $50,000 in debt, because the tuition is so reasonable and the education you get is as good or better,” he said. “That’s why I tell people in my line of work to look at Fort Hays State. You just can’t beat it.”

King said maintaining high standards of excellence -- while at the same time providing an affordable, quality education -- is important.

“We know we’re offering challenging academic programs and making sure the students meet the outcomes of the programs,” King said. “When we talk about replicating the same program online as on campus, the cost of tuition has to do with it as well. Our access to quality and getting an affordable education is our focus both on campus and off.”

With FHSU degree in hand, Bremner, 48, now looks at a brighter future.

“My goal, within the next year or two, is to move up into a management position,” he said. “I’m in a good position now to compete for that spot and hopefully get it. Without this master’s degree I would not be as competitive with the other people in our office.”

Bremner has been in law enforcement for 25 years. Times have changed, he said. Bremner realized that these days, to further your career, you need that piece of paper hanging on the wall. He’s proud to be a Fort Hays State graduate.

“The quality of education I received and the tuition I paid made this by far the best deal out there,” Bremner said. “There’s no comparison.”

Adjunct Spotlight for Philosophy

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 Adjunct Spotlight: Jason Southworth

Department of Philosophy

Jason Southworth teaches IDS 400 Bioethics and PHIL 100 General Logic, for the philosophy department. While he has been teaching for FHSU since 2007, Southworth has also taught at the University of Oklahoma, in Norman, OK; and Barry University, in Miami Shores, FL. In sum, he has been teaching college courses for about a decade.

Southworth holds bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and political science from Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA, as well as a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Oklahoma, where he is currently ABD.
Southworth researches the philosophy of language and applied ethics. He explains his interest in learning about how language shapes “the way we understand ourselves and our world, which overlaps with applied ethics in that harmful language; for example, homophobic speech, can contribute to a damaging self-image and a diminished sense of self-worth for members of the LBGTQ community.”

Southworth describes himself as a “professional philosopher,” in that he is committed to a life of teaching and writing philosophy. His days involve teaching students, in both online and face-to-face courses and he points out that, like other adjuncts, his typical day is “more uncertain than that of regular faculty,” as adjunct contracts are issued one semester at a time. So, from one semester to the next, he is never entirely sure what his job description and income will look like a few months into the future.

Southworth finds teaching for FHSU Virtual College to be quite enjoyable, explaining that he is “continually fascinated by the depth and diversity of perspectives that students logging on literally from all over the world” bring to his virtual classroom. He describes teaching online as “invigorating and deeply rewarding.”

When asked about the most challenging aspect of teaching online, Southworth cited the lack of a face-to-face academic community to see and interact with on a daily basis. He explains, “I often don’t get to have contact with my colleagues unless there’s a problem to be solved. This can be isolating.”

Ultimately, philosophy is more than a career for Southworth. His partner, Ruth Tallman, is a philosopher as well, and he describes philosophy as “way of life” for them. The couple enjoys co-writing articles about popular culture and philosophy, and co-authored Under the Covers with the Underwoods: The Politics of the Underwood Marriage, a chapter in the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series volume, House of Cards and Philosophy: Underwoods’ Republic (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015) . Finally, they enjoy spending time with their cat, Hepzibah, and aquatic turtle, Penelope.

Adjunct Spotlight for History

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Adjunct Spotlight: Dr. Doug Harvey

Department of History

Doug Harvey teaches a number of courses within the history department, including U.S. History surveys  and Modern World Civilization, as well as upper-level courses on Colonial and Revolutionary America; Early American Republic; and The Atlantic World, 1450-1800. Occasionally, he also teaches Historiography.

Harvey has been at FHSU since 2009, teaching on-campus during Spring 2009, as well as the entire academic year of 2011-12. Along with teaching at FHSU, he also teaches for KU, Johnson County Community College, and Metropolitan Community College – Blue River campus (KC). In the past, he has also taught for Washburn, Emporia State, Friends, and Donnelly College in Kansas City, KS.

Harvey earned his BA at Missouri State, his MA at Wichita State, and his PhD at KU.

He researches cultural and intellectual history of the late colonial, revolutionary, and early republic periods. He explains that he is “particularly interested in understanding why people think what they think and don’t know they’re thinking it – the history of assumptions, in other words.”

Harvey has one book out, The Theatre of Empire: Frontier Performances in America, 1750-1860 (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2010 – now owned by Routledge), and is currently working on a biography of Herman Husband, an 18th century revolutionary figure whom he considers, “under-remembered.” In addition, Harvey has partnered with an illustrator on a series of graphic novels on The Whiskey Rebellion, an event in the early 1790s in the new republic.  At present he is teaching a number of face to face courses in the KC area, so he finds himself giving history lectures often.

Within the Virtual College, Harvey enjoys teaching students from a variety of backgrounds and world views, all from home. He feels that the most challenging part of teaching online is “making up for the loss of face-to-face interaction,” and he uses online discussions and a slightly meatier, more rigorous reading component in his online courses, to help ensure a rich interactive experience for his students.

Harvey and his wife, Kathleen Hoff, were both born and raised in Hays. They enjoy gardening and are active in the Kansas City Food Circle, although they are not currently growing anything commercially. They also visit art museums throughout the Midwest and enjoy taking pictures in the countryside. Hoff is a landscape artist, which provides Harvey the opportunity “to be surrounded by art all the time.” Finally, Harvey is also a musician and has been working on a solo recording project, a concept album on various aspects of the Great Plains. In the past, he played in the Celtic band, Rowan.  




Adjunct Spotlight

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Adjunct Spotlight:

Chelsea Schnabelrauch Arndt 

Department of Psychology

Chelsea Schnabelrauch Arndt began teaching for the FHSU Department of Psychology in Spring 2015, and has also taught courses for Kansas State University for about four years. Currently, she teaches PSY 415 Adolescence at FHSU.
Schnabelrauch Arndt earned her baccalaureate degree in Psychology from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, and her masters in Experimental Psychology (emphasis in Social Psychology) from K-State. She recently defended her dissertation, and will be awarded her PhD in Experimental Psychology (emphasis in Social Psychology) from K-State in May.

Schnabelrauch Arndt’s research, in broad terms, focuses on attitudes and persuasion. She has done specific research on employing persuasion techniques to encourage individuals to reduce their consumption of meat. Her dissertation focused on personalizing messages to investigate whether such messages are more effective at persuading people to consume less meat. 

Schnabelrauch Arndt explains, “It’s a very interesting area of research that hasn’t really been explored yet. I love how applicable my research is... Everyone that I talk to about my research is interested in it to some extent and has some previous knowledge about the topic, so everyone loves discussing it. It’s great seeing how my research interests non-academics and non-researchers.”

Describing her experience teaching for the Virtual College, Schnabelrauch Arndt says, “I enjoy having students who are overall so motivated to succeed. Many of the FHSU Virtual College students are non-traditional students with families and jobs who are wanting to go back to school. It always amazes me how so many of them work so hard and juggle so many different things in their lives. And many of them do this so well. It’s empowering to see these individuals take charge and own their education. They’re driven and excited about learning. It’s really a pleasure teaching these types of students and getting to know them over the course of the semester.”

When not grading projects and papers, or engaging in other career and education aspirations, Schnabelrauch Arndt enjoys watching a movie or Netflix with her husband, David. She shares, “As a graduate student, I haven’t had that much free time over the last five years, so whatever free time I do have, I like to spend it relaxing as much as possible. Lounging on a couch and watching movies and TV shows is certainly a great way to do that .”



An online tutoring service helps a virtual college dramatically increase enrollment

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In 1999, Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in Hays, Kansas, created the Virtual College, which offers over forty online degrees. One of FHSU’s goals in launching the Virtual College was to give adult learners the opportunity to go back to school.

Within five years, student enrollment in the Virtual College more than doubled, increasing from 839 students in 1999 to 1,920 in 2004. As the distance education program rapidly grew, FHSU needed to find an effective way to support virtual students. Its goal was to offer the same high-quality services for students off campus as it did for students on campus. To that end, FHSU implemented Smarthinking, Pearson’s online tutoring service, in 2002.

Rachel Dolechek, the MBA graduate coordinator, College of Business and Entrepreneurship, includes Smarthinking in her advising process. Of the 160 to 165 MBA students in the College of Business and Entrepreneurship, approximately 100 are virtual students. When Dolechek meets with distance education students, she makes sure they know the resource is available to them, and she mentions it in a newsletter she sends out to her advisees every semester.

At times, students who are struggling come to Dolechek and say, “I don’t know what to do. Should I drop this class?” “One of the first things I ask,” Dolechek remarked, “is ‘have you tried Smarthinking?’”

Dolechek estimates that between 15 to 20 percent of the virtual MBA students in her program use the tutoring services. Within the first few weeks, they tend to realize they need extra help in a foundation course.

For students, the most helpful feature of the online tutoring service is its flexibility. Students have anywhere, anytime access and the ability to schedule live sessions when it is convenient for them, a great asset for adult learners who may be juggling family and job responsibilities along with their academic work. Students can sign up to work with particular tutors, which personalizes the experience for distance education students.

“Smarthinking’s flexibility, the ease of use, and the power of the technology have really been the key to its success.”
—Dennis King, Director of the Virtual College

The online tutoring service offers support in the key areas where students need it, another one of its main benefits. “Most of our courses can fit somewhere into the content areas,” commented Kathleen Cook, the Virtual College online student communication strategist. When there has been a class that is not covered by the service, Pearson has helped the Virtual College find a solution.

In the course of sixteen years, enrollment in the Virtual College has grown more than sevenfold, from 839 students in 1999 to 6,323 students in the fall of 2015. Dennis King, the director of the Virtual College, commented, “Many people make Fort Hays State their destination of choice because of our people of excellence and our programs of distinction. As the tremendous growth in the Virtual College demonstrates, that applies to both our distance education students and our on-campus students.” He added: Smarthinking “helped us grow the Virtual College,” since online tutoring is a service that prospective students find attractive.

Students clearly value the service. From January through August 2015, 778 tutoring sessions were held for a total of 505 hours. On an exit survey covering the period of September 2014 through September 2015, 97 percent of student respondents rated tutor feedback and the tutoring process favorably, and 96 percent said they would recommend Smarthinking to a friend.


Fort Hays re-inventing itself

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By MICHAEL STRAND Salina Journal

 After 15 months as president of Fort Hays State University, Mirta Martin has had plenty of surprises.

But one of the most profound surprises was talking to a person in Dodge City — just 100 miles away — who hadn’t heard about the school.

It should be hard to not know about, considering:

• It set a record enrollment of 14,210 students this fall, up 385 from last year — even as the total enrollment for all five state universities declined by 890.

• It has the second-lowest tuition of any public university in the U.S., according to U.S. News and World Report.

• It’s preparing to set up colleges in Central and South America, similar to its long-standing operations in China.

• Has for years hosted the Kansas Math and Science Academy, where high school juniors and seniors can live on campus and study at the college.

• 100 percent of its nursing students typically pass their licensing exam on the first attempt.

• Is starting a three-year, $88 million campus improvement project.

• 80 percent of Kansas school superintendents were educated there.

What’s going on out there?

Martin is on an annual statewide tour — a practice inherited from her predecessor, Ed Hammond — to ensure more people know what’s happening out in western Kansas.

What she’s been focused on in her first year is ensuring Fort Hays is preparing students to contribute to the Kansas economy and moving from “a culture of access to a culture of completion.”

Recruiting students remains a priority, she said during a stop Wednesday in Salina, but it’s being joined by an emphasis on keeping students in school and seeing that they graduate with the skills they need — including being ready for jobs that don’t yet exist.

Much of the job of “re-engineering” the university, she said, was put into the hands of what she calls “rank-and-file staff, no deans, no supervisors — and that was deliberate. They know the holes and how things could be better.”

As a bonus, she said, “It’s not my vision, it’s our vision — I’m not the one driving the bus any more.”

Honors College started

Out of that process, this fall the university started an Honors College, open to students with high academic qualifications. It also is providing scholarships as high as full tuition and fees, room and board costs, and $450 a semester for books.

“We made the decision to do that in February, and by then most people have decided where they’re going,” she said.

The university set a “stretch” goal of eight students this fall, and ended up with 16 — with an average ACT score of 31.

Learn to run a business

Fort Hays is also completing an “Entrepreneurship Hall,” that includes housing for 32 students and a first-floor community room that Martin describes as a “great big play room,” with whiteboard walls that students can write on to share ideas.

“People think it’s for business majors, but that’s what we don’t want,” she said. “Artists, scientists, all kinds of people need to understand how to run a business.”

STEM school

The university is also in the process of splitting its College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences into two colleges, one for arts and humanities, and one focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.

“The STEM fields all rely on each other,” Martin said. “And there are only 13 STEM colleges in the U.S., with none in Kansas and none in the Midwest.”

Creating the separate colleges, which requires approval from the Board of Regents, will bring additional distinctiveness to the programs, she said, and will help the college attract more of graduates of its Math and Science Academy.

Recruiting more Hispanics

This summer, Fort Hays is hosting a three-day Hispanic College Institute, aimed at recruiting more Hispanic students — a group with traditionally low college attendance rates, Martin said.

And as attendance at Fort Hays campuses in China slowly has been dropping for several years, the university is looking to move into Central and South America, where demand for higher education is growing.

Demand is different there compared with China, and different from one country to another, she said. In China, the focus was on business education, while Latin American countries want English teachers, tourism and hospitality programs, agribusiness and nursing.

“We’re not going out into the world with a cookie-cutter approach of what we want to teach,” she said. “We’re finding out what they need.”

By MICHAEL STRAND Salina Journal

Feds Announce Move to Prior-Prior Year Income Data on the FAFSA

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In a victory for students and college-access advocates, President Barack Obama today announced that beginning with the 2017-18 school year, prior-prior year (PPY) tax information will be used on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
NASFAA -- along with higher education institutions, policy groups, and lawmakers -- have long advocated for PPY. Using two-years prior tax information on the FAFSA (as opposed to one-year prior information) will increase the form’s accuracy and give families an earlier and more accurate idea of their anticipated financial aid and college costs.
NASFAA has created two explanatory videos to help others understand this important policy change:
    ◦    a quick and simple video your office can share to help students and families better understand how PPY will benefit them; and
    ◦    a more in-depth video explaining why this move to PPY will not only allow students to have earlier information in order to make enrollment decisions, but will also give financial aid administrators some relief from mounting administrative burden and ensure they have more time to spend counseling students.
With the switch to PPY, students and families will be able to:
    ◦    File the FAFSA earlier. As you know, the FAFSA is made available January 1 of each calendar year, yet it is uncommon for a family or individual to be prepared to file an income tax return in the month of January. Under the new PPY system, the 2017-18 FAFSA will be available in October 2016, rather than January 1, 2017, and students can use the PPY’s completed income tax return.
    ◦    More easily submit a FAFSA. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which allows automatic population of a student’s FAFSA with tax return data and decreases the need for additional documentation, can be used by millions more students and families under PPY, since tax data from two-years prior would be readily available upon application.
    ◦    Receive earlier notification of financial aid packages. If students apply for aid earlier, colleges can in turn provide financial aid notifications to students earlier, ensuring that students and families have more time to prepare for college costs. Notifying students earlier of their financial aid packages will also leave more time for one-on-one counseling with students and families.

To maximize the benefits of PPY, NASFAA will be encouraging schools and state grant agencies to also use PPY data on any financial aid application they require. NASFAA urges member institutions to demonstrate support for President Obama’s move to PPY by signing onto a commitment to align their own processes to match the use of PPY on institutional forms.
Moving to PPY has been a fundamental precept of NASFAA’s larger advocacy platform for many years, as it is a single change that will create a ripple of positive implications for students.
NASFAA has already taken actions to begin working with schools, the U.S. Department of Education, state grant agencies, and others to align practices and work toward a smooth transition. Within a few days we will be soliciting volunteers to serve on a PPY Implementation Task Force to work with members in identifying implementation issues, including what processes and procedures throughout the campus will be affected, what consumer information will need to be updated, and how this will affect our financial aid management systems. We are committed to doing all we can to ensure a smooth transition to PPY for schools and students.
Stay tuned to Today's News for PPY developments and updates.
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