Archives For Student Stories

Through piles of paperwork and binders filled with course notes, you would never know Julie Daniels is an online student.

“I’m really weird, and I don’t like reading off the computer,” says Daniels. “I still have to print everything out because I like it in front of me.”

online learningLast semester, when Daniels took nine credit hours, this resulted in three binders full of PowerPoint presentations and class notes. If she has a paper due, Daniels writes it out first in hand, edits it, and then transcribes it into the computer.

“I don’t know how many other people this would work for, but I’m just used to paper and pencil,” says Daniels. “There’s still some old-fashioned in me.”

At 61, Julie Daniels is the ideal online student. She’s driven, works hard in her classes, completes assignments ahead of time, and gets As and Bs. However, that wasn’t always the case.

“I went to college when I first got out of high school, but I wasn’t serious. I was only going because my parents wanted me to, so I blew it off,” explains Daniels. “You know, boyfriends, frat parties, all that kind of stuff got in the way of school.”

A mother of five adult children and grandmother to 12 grand- and great-grandchildren, ages 3-25, all of that changed about four and half years ago.

“I wanted it for me, for a sense of accomplishment, but I wanted to show my parents that I could do it, “ says Daniels.

As an online graduate student in SHSU Online’s Sociology program, age is not an issue for Daniels nor her classmates; they come from as varied a background as she does, are diverse in age, and hail from far-flung places.

A resident of San Antonio, Texas, Daniels stayed local, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy at St. Mary’s in 2014. While there, Daniels received a Presidential Scholarship, and graduated with a 3.9 grade point average. Still, her journey was met with some adversity. Her parents passed away within a year of each other and she was often the oldest student in her face-to-face courses.

“I got teased a lot,” admits Daniels. “The kids would look at me, and they would say, why are you here? I told them, because when I was their age, I messed around and didn’t think school was important. But they would answer, No, why are you here, you’re too old.”

As an online graduate student in SHSU Online’s Sociology program, age is not an issue for Daniels nor her classmates; they come from as varied a background as she does, are diverse in age, and hail from far-flung places (at least from San Antonio’s perspective) like Japan, France, Puerto Rico, and closer to home, Houston.

“It’s very interesting, the amount of distance that was between some of us and then some of us were as close as Houston,” says Daniels.

While Daniels hasn’t completely embraced all the digital tools available to her, she still thrives in an online environment, utilizing group discussions in Blackboard and email to communicate with her classmates and to sort out questions and problems. It is this communication, Daniels believes, that is one of the keys to success in online classes.

“If you have good communication with your fellow classmates, you’ll do a lot better,” says Daniels.  “A lot of us could figure things out without involving the professor. What’s even nicer is when you have the same classmates a couple of times you get to know them. Hopefully, one day we all will get to see each other.”

If all goes according to plan, that could be Spring 2016 at graduation. She will also be 62 years old.

If you’re interested in returning to school, no matter what your age, visit Online Programs and Degrees Programs to find the right online educational opportunity for you.

The Sam Houston State University motto, “The Measure of a Life is Its Service,” resonates deeply with SHSU Online student Peary Perry.

Perry, 73, a Houston resident, has lived a full life. He served his country in the United States Army as a tank commander, worked in the Houston Police Department as an undercover vice squad officer, and acted as president of several successful companies across a multitude of industries.

When it comes to pursuing his online Master of Arts in History degree, Perry makes the case for online learning, coupled with hard work and dedication, to help individuals overcome adversity to achieve their goals.

“I hear a lot of people say ‘I’m too old to go back to school, or I should have gotten my degree but I didn’t,’ and what I’m trying to emphasize is that you’re never too old to learn, you’re never too old to get a degree, and there’s always an opportunity out here for you if you want to take advantage of it,” he says. “I’m not your normal master’s student, but this is a professional opportunity and a challenge for me to pass on to others that you’re never too old to learn.”

Admittedly, getting back into higher education was a transitional period for Perry. He received his undergraduate degree from St. Edward’s University in 2008, attending both online and on-campus courses. He enrolled in SHSU’s online master’s program in fall, 2014, and was pleasantly surprised to see the technological advancements in his online courses.

Perry says his courses are immersive, with a variety of classwork that utilizes several mediums.

“What brought me to SHSU was the ease of enrollment, the description of courses, and the references that I found from prior students made me think this was the place I needed to be,” he says, “But the style of learning is what got me hooked. Today there is more encouragement to participate in classes, which I enjoy much more because you are encouraged to express your feelings about certain subjects.”

SHSU has received numerous awards for their student engagement within online programs, promoting quality participation in courses, providing students opportunities to both readily interact with their instructors and classmates, and allowing students to complete their degrees in a reasonable amount of time.

Perry is not alone in his educational journey; in fact, his support system acts as an inspiration for him completing his degree.

“The reason this is important to me is because I have four sons, my oldest is 51 and my youngest is 39, and I have three granddaughters, 22, 10, and 2; I think it is very important for them to know they are never too old to learn, whether it’s cooking, history, or economics,” he says. “My experience has been, the more you exercise your brain, the more alive you are.”

SHSU offers over 40 fully online degree programs, including two doctoral programs, as well as 24 online certificate programs. For more information on any of SHSU’s online programs, visit distance.shsu.edu.

Sam Houston State University Online students come from many different places and life situations, and all face unique challenges as they work to earn their degrees. Angela Cravens, who just graduated this past week with a bachelor’s degree in general business administration, has successfully balanced work in the information technology sector and raising a young family while also earning her online B.B.A. at SHSU… and she intends to take her education even further.

Cravens had previously attended SHSU as a traditional student, but had discontinued her earlier studies due to financial constraints. She earned a Project Management Professional (PMP) designation while working at global software firm BMC in Houston, and her company also encouraged her to seek a bachelor’s business degree.

Cravens2She was quick to select SHSU’s online B.B.A. program. “I have attended many other state universities in the past, and SHSU by far offers more interaction and technology to accommodate the best online experience,” Cravens notes. “I also liked the fact that if needed, I could be advised via Skype or phone, or even drive to campus if absolutely necessary. Either way, there was always a way to get the guidance I needed.”

Flexibility was also very important to her. “I chose the SHSU Online degree program for convenience and well-rounded nature of the program,” she says. “As a full-time working professional with children and work-related travel, having the flexibility to do my studies was key.”

Another factor in favor of SHSU Online’s program for Cravens was her ability to transfer a generous number of hours from Lone Star Community College, and to take courses at the University Center. As she says, “I was able to maximize my hard-earned educational dollars.”

Though online learning by its nature involves a large amount of solo effort by students, Cravens was also able to make some important connections with fellow students as she approached the final year of her B.B.A. program. “It was in my final year of studies that the assignments required heavier collaboration in a team structure for projects, and I’m still in contact with several classmates outside of school as a result,” she notes. “There were many working adults, parents, and non-traditional students that I could identify with in the online program, and we inspired and encouraged each other along the way.” She also appreciated many professors in the online program, including Mrs. Cathy Lockwood (statistics), Dr. Robert “Chip” Matthews (entrepreneurship), and others who, she says, “inspired me to examine things from different angles and try my very best.” Cravens3

On May 8, Cravens celebrated her graduation with her husband, Aaron J. Cravens (SHSU ’11 and U.S. Army veteran), her two children, and her grandmother—who, she notes, grew up working on a cotton farm and did not have the chance to attend college. “Ever since I was a little girl, she has very much inspired me to become a woman in business,” she says.

While achieving her B.B.A. is an important milestone that she hopes will help advance her professional IT career, she already has a further goal – she hopes to return to SHSU to earn a master of business administration degree in the future. Cravens believes SHSU Online’s program is one of the best in the nation for both the quality of education and the ability to meet the needs of returning or continuing students.

Life can be complicated. Between professional responsibilities, family commitments, and financial obligations, it can be hard to find time for anyone to chase their dreams. This reasoning was dismissed by Terri Allison, who returned to school to pursue an undergraduate degree through SHSU Online despite an abundance of commitments.

Allison, a mother of three and case manager for the Aggie Honor System Office at Texas A&M University, is pursuing an online B.S. in Criminal Justice to explore her passions and to be an example for her children.

“Part of it is the feeling that you have to finish what you start, and trying to impart to my kids you’re not always going to have a straightforward path; you’re not always going to graduate high school, do four years of college, and begin your career,” she says. “Letting them see that, even at my age, I could go back and I could get my degree is important.”

Allison’s family, daughters Tegan and Kristen, son Charlie, and husband Randal, have been an essential support system for her online education, but a promise made to her stepfather, Don Wood, remains in the forefront of her mind years after his passing.

“My stepfather was dyslexic at a time when no one really knew how to treat the disease, so he dropped out of high school at 17; three days after his 18th birthday, he was at Pearl Harbor when the attack happened,” she says. “He never did any college credit, and that was why it was so important for all of his children to get their degree. I promised him I’d get my bachelor’s completed eventually, and he said ‘Don’t let it get away from you.’”

Allison was pursuing her Associate in Applied Science degree in Paralegal Studies at Blinn College at the time of his passing.

When it came to finding the right fit for her personal life and professional aspirations, she says SHSU was the clear choice for her.

“I looked at a lot of schools, and Sam Houston State University has by far the best reputation for criminal justice. It really dovetails with my paralegal background,” she says. “After taking one of my first classes, Corrections, I definitely knew this was for me. It’s a perfect setup. SHSU has everything I want right there.”

With an expected graduation term of Spring 2016, Allison says the journey that has taken her to this point gives her the conviction to succeed and continue to develop personally and professionally.

“I’ve been at my job for more than 20 years, and I could easily stay with my current job and retire comfortably, but that’s not where my passion lies,” she says. “I want to do more and give back to those who helped me. I want to continue my education for a Masters in Mediation and then work in Restorative Justice, a field I like and a field that’s changing. I want to be part of those changes.”


For many college students, the immediate choice to make following graduation is to either attend graduate school or to enter the workplace, but SHSU Class of 2010 graduate Brittany Wilbert decided to do both.

After obtaining her Bachelor of Science in Computing Science degree, Wilbert says she received two potentially life-changing messages on the same afternoon: an offer for a full-time position with an IT security company, and a letter of acceptance into the Master of Science in Information Assurance and Security program through SHSU Online.

“I knew that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree, but I was afraid if I waited, I would be too involved in my career and other aspects of my life, and I wouldn’t be able to go back,” she says. “I think that happens with a lot of students, and I didn’t want to second guess myself; I knew it was something I wanted to do, and SHSU Online made it possible for me.”

Wilbert received her undergraduate degree in May 2010, and began her online master’s degree in August 2010.

Wilbert says she was able to immediately apply information technology practices derived from her undergraduate degree into her work responsibilities, as well as advanced studies simultaneously while attending class online.

While pursuing her undergraduate degree on campus, Wilbert received personalized guidance from Dr. Lei Chen, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, and says the nature of Dr. Chen’s student communication assisted her in the transition to taking online courses.

“Dr. Chen was always someone who sent frequent notifications to his students, so there wasn’t much change, other than physically seeing him in class,” she says.  “I’ve been in his classes since my undergraduate degree, and now as a graduate student, he has led me through my master’s project by giving me advice and assisting me in submitting papers to conferences.”

Wilbert cites her parents, Mark and Alfrieda, as one of the driving forces encouraging her to further her education, but her experience as a young woman adapting to a 40-hour work week while taking full-time classes required her to adjust quickly.

“As a young woman in a career field that has a low representation of women in the industry, being able to use the knowledge I learned at SHSU has given me the strength to understand there will be difficulties, but earning this degree will show I can do computer science related work as well as any of my male colleagues,” she says.  “Understanding that you have to give yourself time beyond working to take care of your schoolwork and realizing the investment I made in myself keeps me wanting to continue to be successful.”

Wilbert is scheduled to graduate in the Summer 2014 term.

Visit http://distance.shsu.edu to find out more about the online Master of Science in Information Assurance and Security program offered through SHSU Online, and see what you can do to get started today!

When Rebecca Gay completed her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University in 2008, she did not realize the extent to which the university would influence her professional career.

Upon graduation, Gay took a position with the university as a transfer admissions counselor with the Undergraduate Admissions office.  Working in the office and regularly speaking with enthusiastic students eventually played a part in influencing her to pursue a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration.

rebecca gay

“In my position, I think getting a degree in higher education basically says that I believe in the values of the university,” she says. “Working for a university, it’s important that you feel everyone should further their education in some way. By pursuing a graduate degree, it helps instill that ambition in others and they see me making the effort to further my education.”

Gay, who is currently pursuing her graduate degree while also serving as a continuing education coordinator with SHSU Online, says her decision to pursue an online degree through SHSU Online is a testament to her confidence in the university’s educational philosophy.

Initially, she decided to try an online course to gauge her interest with the platform and found it to be beneficial to her lifestyle and study habits.

“Taking online courses helped me to stay focused on the program; I can just hop on a computer and easily turn in an assignment and I’m not required to go to a classroom or an office to submit work,” she says. “I’m a huge procrastinator, and what’s nice about the online program is that if an assignment is due at midnight, I have until 11:30 p.m. to keep working on it before I turn it in,” she says.

Continuing her education is a personal motivator for Gay, who is the first in her family to pursue a graduate degree, and she says the online platform allowed her to follow her ambitions while maintaining a demanding, full-time job.

She said in addition to the ease and accessibility of online courses, the platform helped her grow as a student.

“I think people don’t realize that online and classroom courses are very much alike in that there is a lot of student interaction. One of the most beneficial things for me was when professors used discussion boards.  Typically, I would have been a student in a classroom that probably would not have spoken up about a topic, whereas online you are required to write on a discussion board and put your opinion out there and critically think about the topic.”

SHSU Online utilizes the Blackboard Learn format, allowing students and professors to participate in a variety of communication applications.

Visit http://distance.shsu.edu to find out more about the online Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration offered through SHSU Online, and see what you can do to get started today!

Returning to college after spending 20 years in the professional field may sound intimidating, but the quest for knowledge and opportunity to further her career brought a SHSU graduate back to pursue an online graduate degree.

Karolyn Williams, a regional collections specialist for the Office of Court Administration, graduated from Sam Houston State University in 1988, but returned in 2011 to enroll in the online Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management program.

Williams says nearly 20 years of working in various capacities in the court system has exposed her to a variety of policies and procedures—but  by taking online classes with the College of Criminal Justice, she has built on her professional foundation.

“This program has given me a broader perspective of the processing side of criminal justice, from policing laws, statutes, organizational context, and structure, which are all covered in the online courses,” she says. “I do a lot of studying on the weekend and at night, and thanks to technology, I’m able to listen to my lectures when I’m driving in the car, which is really helpful.”

In her current position, Williams says she spends a considerable amount of time in her car driving to various jurisdictions within her territory of 29 counties along the Gulf coast to consult, audit, and train staff on a state mandate to improve the collection of criminal court ordered fines and fees.

Williams’ time with the Texas courts system has set a historic precedent. In her previous role as a manager of criminal courts with the Harris County District Clerk’s Office, and her current position as regional collections specialist for the Office of Court Administration, she is the first African American female in both the county and state to hold these positions. Williams was also employed through the Harris County District Clerk’s Office as a district criminal court clerk, criminal collector, and supervisor of criminal collections department.

She says her personal and professional conviction served her well through the process of attending online classes amidst her busy schedule.

“Looking back from when I started classes, I can see my tenacity—when I’ve overcome, when I was self-doubting, when I needed the power to see it through and the will to keep going through the work, the travel, and everything else in my life,” she says. “Taking online courses has been very beneficial to me, especially with regard to time management. The biggest hurdle for me in a traditional classroom setting would be the time factor.”

A central theme throughout her life has been the importance of family. Williams says her primary influence for returning to higher education is her father, Charles Drisdale, an educator who taught in the Houston Independent School District for 40 years and served as he emotional anchor to Williams throughout her life. By taking classes online, Williams will receive her degree in May, simultaneously while her son Kristopher, niece Brianna, and nephew Miles, currently attend class on campus.

WilliamsOutside

Williams says she is ready to further utilize her degree in the professional field and would recommend pursuing an online degree to anyone willing to develop their skills and education.

“I found the process of obtaining an online degree to be very challenging, but also very rewarding, and I’ve loved it,” she says. “I feel the online program has prepared me for the next level of my career.”

Visit http://distance.shsu.edu to find out more about the online Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management offered through SHSU Online, and see what you can do to get started today!

In a world full of opportunity, SHSU Online student Cathrine Henson is proof that a quality education is always available at Sam Houston State University.

Henson, who is currently taking online courses in higher education administration, has walked an unconventional path to achieve her educational goals. That path included two years of service in the United States Air Force as a jet engine mechanic, which she completed before returning to finish her undergraduate degree. Continue reading

Rebecca Cunio (Courtesy of William Betancourt, Tyler, TX)

After talking for two hours about ongoing sexual abuse at the trusted hands of her stepfather, a precious seven-year old girl handed Forensic Interviewer Rebecca Cunio a drawing of a large heart encircled by smaller ones. It read “I love you for what you do.” For Cunio, it was a defining moment in her career.“

Rebecca Cunio, an online Masters student at SHSU, is a forensic interviewer for the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) for Anderson and Cherokee counties. The center is one of 64 CAC’s in the state of Texas, and among 700 others across the country that provide a single place where children alleged to have been abused or neglected are interviewed for criminal cases and civil actions by Child Protective Services. As a forensic interviewer, Cunio conducts forensic interviews with children at the request of law enforcement and/or Child Protective Services.

Read Rebecca’s story at SHSU’s College of Criminal Justice blog!

Sam Houston Online Student Timothy Flanders named Southland Player of the Year for the second year in a row.

Congratulations to Sam Houston Online student Timothy Flanders for winning the Southland Conference Player of the Year award for the second consecutive year.  Check out our Student Story on Flanders to learn more about this stunning student athlete.

The athletic achievements of Timothy Flanders are spoken as common knowledge across the campus of Sam Houston State University and recognized in various media outlets online. An impromptu Google search of “Timothy Flanders” will deliver a catalog of scouting reports, video highlights, and statistics dating back to his career at Midwest City High School.

From the outside looking in, it is understandable to think Flanders’ thoughts are consumed by all things football, but a familiar voice inside his head delivers a contrary message.
Continue reading

SHSU Online Student and Sam Houston Bearkat Running Back Timothy Flanders Touchdown Run Against SE Louisiana

Congratulations to SHSU Online student Timothy Flanders, and the rest of the Sam Houston State Bearkats on their 70-0 shut out victory over Southeastern Louisiana Saturday afternoon. Eat ‘Em Up Kats!

Charles Henson (SHSU Online Video Producer) Filming SHSU Online's December Student Story

The SHSU Online video team was out Tuesday morning filming for our next Student Story that will release in our SHSU Online Newsletter in December. If you’re a student and would like to share your story, please contact Dianne Lloyd at dlloyd@shsu.edu

Timothy Flanders - SHSU Online Student Stories

In the October edition of the SHSU Online newsletter we visit with Sam Houston State University running back Timothy Flanders. Yes, that Timothy FlandersRead more about Timothy Flanders, his experience at Sam Houston State University, and what’s next for the all-time leading scorer in Bearkat football history. > http://bit.ly/FlandersStudentStory

Finishing what you start is important to many people, and Katie Halbert is no exception. Katie began her college education 10 years ago when she graduated from high school and will be receiving her Bachelor of Business Administration and General Business degree in August, 2012.

One thing that helped her realize this dream was being able to take online classes. “Being able to take online classes really helped,” Katie said. “At the time I was looking for a new job and I could take online classes from anywhere.” She partially credits the flexibility of online courses for her success.

Like many non-traditional students, Katie had family obligations to balance with her studies. Katie got married six years ago and recently had a daughter, Molly. Her family has also moved several times.  Continue reading