Kristi Foust ended up being a pioneer for the master’s degree in risk control and safety management program at University of Wisconsin-Stout.
When Foust, of Rice Lake, started the program in the fall of 2019 she was the first student to attend classes as a distance learner. In-person classes met, and Foust joined them through her computer via a camera focused on the instructor and another camera on the instructor’s presentation. With her computer camera on, the other students could see Foust in the classroom as well.
Despite earning her degree at UW-Stout, Foust has never been on the campus. She had planned to attend in-person graduation on May 8, but because her daughter had a volleyball game in Webster decided to have a family celebration and watch the virtual commencement.
“It’s just been great,” Foust said of distance education. “It saved me the drive. I was truly part of the classes. Everyone knew who I was. I could talk to them and be part of the discussions. It was a huge selling point. It was the best of both worlds.”
Foust also credited the UW-Stout professors and their experience with her success and the fact classes were held in the evenings.
“The instructors were very knowledgeable about the field, and the assignments were practical applications to the industry,” Foust said. “There is no doubt the support and encouragement of the professors directly impacted my success at UW-Stout, and I am truly grateful for each and every one of them.”
Brian Finder, professor and M.S. risk control and safety management program director, said Foust was an excellent student.
“Kristi’s strong focus to complete the courses’ respective assignments on a timely basis and in a quality manner can reliably predict the effective consulting-based services that she will provide for future employers,” Finder said. “The task-oriented disposition that Kristi possesses will ensure that risk assessment activities are effectively performed and needed risk mitigation efforts are effectively implemented.
“As is the case with all of the M.S. risk control and safety management program’s alumni, Kristi’s horizons were expanded from a technical, management and communication standpoint, and there is no doubt that she is destined to be a highly respected professional. Kristi is definitely the caliber of individual that all of our UW-Stout alumni should aspire to be,” Finder said.
Foust is the director of facilities and procurement at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, serving 11 counties in northwestern Wisconsin. “One area the director of facilities and procurement oversees is safety,” Foust said. “After reviewing the UW-Stout risk control program, I felt it would provide me with valuable tools to be more successful in my career as well as earning the trust and respect of my colleagues as an expert in the safety field.”
Foust said risk management is about watching out for the safety of employees and risks employers can face. One class she enjoyed was on ergonomics, particularly as more people moved home to work. “It’s all about keeping workers safe,” she noted, adding facility and financial safety is also a factor. “It’s about assessing and preventing what can hurt people and what can hurt the institution.”
When she decided to return to college, Foust said she was nervous about the course load. As the mom of two children, Ethan, 14, and Jaelyn, 12, with husband Jay, and a full-time job she worried about balancing school, work and home life. Distance learning helped. She finished work and would go immediately to classes.
“I started the program only taking a couple of classes the first year to determine how the class load could fit in my home and work life,” she said. “Surprisingly, I completed the program in two years, which is much quicker than I thought it would be.”
Foust earned an associate degree in accounting from WITC in 2005. She earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Lakeland University in Sheboygan in 2009 taking classes virtually.
Her UW-Stout graduate capstone project was on occupational radiation exposure looking at the impact of radiation on such occupations as dentists, X-ray technicians and other hospital workers.
Her final semester was challenging after her father, Scotty Hotchkiss, passed away in December 2020. Family and colleagues provided support to help her finish the degree, Foust said.
Foust would encourage others thinking about returning to further their education to do so. “I found having years of experience in the workforce helped me in my degree,” she said, noting she was able to apply the knowledge she had from working at WITC to the classroom.