UW-Stout News Story

Online courses helped student in Afghanistan stay on track

October 30, 2012

Out of sight out of mind would have been an easy way for Senior Airman Jessica Dahlquist to approach her college education earlier this year.

Last March she left for Bagram Airfield, near Bagram, Afghanistan, as part of a four-month war mission with the Minnesota Air National Guard. The base is 6,800 miles away from University of Wisconsin-Stout, where she is a student.

Jessica Dahlquist working on cargo planeInstead of putting her education completely on hold during that time, Dahlquist marched on. She took two classes while in Afghanistan by enrolling in online courses at UW-Stout.

“Online courses are really helpful for people who don’t have a set schedule. I never knew when I would have free time,” Dahlquist said.

Life in a war zone can be unpredictable. Dahlquist typically worked 12-hour days in Afghanistan inspecting and maintaining C-130 Hercules cargo planes.

She was trained as an aircraft mechanic after joining the Air National Guard during her senior year at New Richmond High School. She is part of the 133rd Maintenance Squadron based in St. Paul.

Last spring Dahlquist started a Principles of Marketing course online before she left for Afghanistan; she finished the course while overseas. Then, she started the summer Biotechnology course online while in Afghanistan and finished shortly after she returned home.

Jessica DahlquistShe is an engineering technology major with a biomedical instrumentation concentration. “I brought my marketing book to Afghanistan and had a friend send me the book for Biotechnology,” Dahlquist said.

UW-Stout offers close to 700 courses online, about 300 more than any other UW System school. The classes can be taken by students who are on or off campus.

UW-Stout also offers 40 distance education programs, geared to students who are not on campus and may be living around the country or world. These include eight undergraduate and 10 graduate degree programs, along with many other certificate and certification programs.
National Distance Education week is Nov. 5-9.

Dahlquist was persistent about getting her homework done while in Afghanistan. Her unit also spent about the final month of the mission in Kuwait. “It worked really well. Both professors were really helpful,” she added, noting that the professors had to reformat class information especially for her so it would pass military security.

This fall she is a full-time student again on campus.

John Schultz, engineering technology program director, has been impressed with Dahlquist. “She should be complimented for her dedication to her country and her education. She contacted me prior to leaving so we could plan for any hiccups. I couldn’t ask for more from her,” Schultz said.

This year’s trip to Afghanistan was Dahlquist’s second. In 2010 she was deployed for about 2½ months, from July to September. She also took online courses that summer. She returned to campus two weeks after the start of the 2010 fall semester but said the on-campus professors “were very helpful and let me catch up, which was very nice. I didn’t expect that.”

UW-Stout was named a Military Friendly school this year for the third straight time by G.I. Jobs magazine.

Dahlquist, whose father and other family members have served in the military, said the responsibility of maintaining planes that support soldiers in the field was eye-opening and “a humbling experience. We were sending food, bullets and equipment to soldiers so they can be safe.”

UW-Stout Online

The number of online courses at UW-Stout has nearly tripled since 2008 to almost 700, according to Doug Stevens, director of UW-Stout Online.

Of the 40 distance education programs UW-Stout offers, 30 are completely online.

Many distance education students at UW-Stout are transfers. They pay a $44 application fee and must provide high school and postsecondary school transcripts. The transfer coordinator is Linda Young, 715-232-1787.

For more information, go to UW-Stout Online.

Across the country more than 3.5 million students are taking online courses or earning online degrees, according to the U.S. Distance Learning Association.

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