Meet Julie Kelly, 2011 Graduate - Bachelor of General Studies, concentrations in Leadership Studies and Human Services
1. Tell us a little about your background...help alumni get to know you.
I am a military child and bride, daughter of a United States Army Soldier of 30 years and married to one who has now served 26 years. Married 21 years to Lance, who I met in Fulda, Germany right after the fall of Die Grenze, "The Wall" in early 1990.
We have four children, Brenden, age 19, Sandy, age 18, Nick and Graham age 15. Currently living in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles due to military orders.
2. Tell us why you chose Fort Hays State University
To be honest, it boiled down to accessibility and money. We had been assigned to Fort McCoy Wisconsin right after I started back to college and there was not a local college to attend that offered any programs remotely like what I needed or wanted. I began looking for SOCAD schools that would be able to work with our continued moves while I completed my degree and Ft Hays came up. When I saw the tuition rate for online learning compared to some other "online" schools, I was amazed. Better yet, there was no need to deal with in or out of state tuition, which has always been a huge obstacle for military families and service members.
Then I learned that this program began years before, geared toward helping military members earn their degree while in the field, deployed, etc. It was a perfect fit, since as a spouse, I often didn't have my husband to watch kids for me to attend a physical classroom, let alone the stability to stay at one college until I was done. FHSU changed that. We moved several times while I was working on my BGS and the one thing I didn't have to worry about was my college education getting kinked up.
3. Tell us some of the experiences with your classes and or instructors at FHSU.
Wow, where do I begin? I kind of 'fell' into the Organizational Leadership program for my emphasis, it seemed to make sense for me but I didn't really know what it was. With amazing professors like Dr.'s Curt and Christie Brudgardt and Kathy Nordyke, who mentored and challenged, I grew quite passionate about leadership studies. More importantly, the discussions in classes were passionate and memorable.
Weekly posts were not just a bland post, but involved small groups that became very animated and at times, verbose, about topics, going well beyond the assignment to really become a true life learning lesson.
It felt great to find the same names after a few classes, where I began to notice, hey, that person was in my last class. I began to 'know' their personalities and could actually begin to joke with them some. We all 'learned' each others 'tone' which is important in online learning.
Some of those friendships transcended blackboard and I ended up Facebook friends with a few leadership students as well as a few professors after I finished my degree. In fact, Christie and I still hash things out on fb- and I am so grateful for a friendship that allows us to be really passionate while still respecting each other, especially when we disagree.
I think my fondest memories though, were teaming up with a particularly passionate group of leadership students to create the leadership mentoring program. I ended up good friends with my mentee the following semester and I must say, I really valued the chance to actively learn and help others learn too.
Of course there are sometimes glitches with online learning too- and when taking physical science, I ended up needing a tutor- I just could not understand the material in a way that I could memorize. The best part was that my professor was patient and suggestive of ways to make things work for my style of learning.
Along the same lines, I discovered in Philosophy class that I am a kinesthetic learner. Watching the lectures, I decided to mess with some yarn one day. Next thing I knew, I understood and remembered what was on the lecture video- so now knitting is part of every lecture video for me! This taught me about the importance of understanding our learning styles- and that while online learning may not be ideal for everyone, knowing your overall learning style is important for the best success.
4. Are there any particular memories you wish to share?
Ha! Driving across country to "walk" for my degree. I had worked six years for that and felt it was really important to have the physical connection with my professors. I also really wanted to meet my friends from class. Some of them weren't going to attend, but when I mentioned that I wanted to meet them, we decided it was a must! We walked and celebrated together that day and it was so neat to put their personality together with a live body and action. I expected not to be 'recognized' by faculty or staff when we arrived for the graduation social, but that is just not the way FHSU works. The moment I introduced myself, they were enthused and greeted me like old friends, immediately connecting stories and personal details, so I knew they were authentic.
Of course, I also graduated on my birthday- so yay! Happy Birthday to me, right? Except it almost wasn't. On our drive, I missed a step off a curb at one of our stopovers (3 days drive from New York!) and ended up severly spraining my foot, ankle, and knee. I couldn't even put my leg down for balance, how was I going to walk? FHSU jumped to though and before I knew it, a wheelchair was arranged for processional and when it came time to walk, they had my crutches at the stage, per my request, so I "walked" (crutched) across that stage after all. It made my day!
The best memory of all though is realizing that my attending FHSU opened a door for my husband to obtain his degree too. When he was struggling at another online school, I looked at the website and was floored at how unintuitive it was; totally unorganized and his professors were unresponsive. Then I showed him mine- and even had him do the physical steps of logging in for me, and posting a transcribed assignment. He was so excited at how easy it was to find his was around the site. Before I knew it, he was doing Leadership Studies too and ended up graduating one year after me. Of course, we moved to Los Angeles in between, so we have literally driven across our entire great nation for 2 graduations at Ft Hays!
5. What are you doing now?
I went straight from one online program into another! I am now almost done with my Master of Divinity graduate studies at Luther Seminary. I begin my hospital chaplaincy (CPE) in February, followed by internship next fall and graduation in May of 2016.
Housed in St Paul Minnesota, it is a distributed learning program that requires two intensives a year for two weeks each and the remainder of my program is online. I am absolutely convinced my experience with FHSU online prepared me fully for graduate studies online. In fact, I have to say, it was still a new program at Luther, and I came in asking all kinds of questions and making constant suggestions to the Tech department- I am pretty sure they had me on the "Oh No, she is calling again" list but it was amazing to be able to encourage new ideas for them as they grew. Now the program is very intuitive like FHSU Tiger Tracks and also very interactive.
I am serving on the board of a suicide pre/inter/post-vention group that specializes in advocacy for military families and service members.
Additionally, I am an Army Family Programs trainer for Master Resiliency out of Penn State, and several other initiatives as well as and the Family Readiness Group Leader for my husband's current unit. In those roles, I earned the volunteer of the year from the local AUSA which gifted our program $250 to continue supporting our military families. Last December, I was also given the Army Patriotic Civilian Service Award for over 1,000 hours of volunteer service in the past couple of years.
6. How has obtaining your degree at FHSU enriched your life?
To limit it to particular events is difficult. It has certainly left me with friends and mentors in new places, a passion for leadership studies, a passion for online learning and for the concept that we can do old and traditional things in new ways. It encourages me to look outside the box, to think laterally and discover options before assuming what is tried and true is the only way forward.
It has increased my pride in a little town I never lived in, and even for my children, it has made a difference. Bringing them to Lance's graduation in 2012 opened their eyes to college as more than an option, but now as a goal. In fact, two of them are considering attending FHSU as well.
It brought passionate discussion into my marriage and a new common ground for my husband and myself (he got fired up about Leadership Studies too!).