Nicole Chatelain recently had the opportunity to meet people from Italy, Norway, the Middle East and all across the United States, including Hawaii, without leaving her native New Orleans.
The opportunity to “rub shoulders” with residents from around the globe came to her in 2010 when she began earning her master’s degree in mass media arts and journalism through Clarion University’s Virtual Campus.
For several years Chatelain had considered pursuing her master’s degree, but the closest schools offering the degree she wanted were an hour away.
“It just wasn’t feasible for me,” said Chatelain, who was employed full time in human resources at the time.
Though she appreciated the position she had, both her passion and her undergraduate degree are in communications.
“I love to write, love the PR aspect of it,” she said. “I really wanted to get back into communications. I was kind of stuck in career limbo.”
While doing some research for her human resources job in 2009, she stumbled across Clarion University’s online degree program, offering an MS in the field she desired.
“I never knew that a university offered this particular online degree,” said the 39-year-old. “And it is an accredited school, which is very important to me.”
She began her first online semester at Clarion in 2010, fitting a full-time load of three courses into her full-time employed life.
“The engagement that began on the first day of the semester lasted through to the last semester, with involvement by both the faculty and students,” she said. “I actually felt I absorbed more and learned more, because you had to actively participate in (online) discussions. In face-to-face classes, you can sit in the back and not engage, but these courses at Clarion required your responses.”
Students were required to respond to at least two discussion board posts per week, which encouraged interaction among classmates and with professors.
“Even though I wasn’t physically there, it felt like a class because of the interaction,” Chatelain said. “In fact, I had more personalized interaction with my professors than when I was in a classroom setting.”
She also enjoyed the viewpoints of the other students from around the globe who were her classmates, and the perspective they brought to discussions.
Any concerns of not getting enough interaction from her professors evaporated within a few weeks.
“One of the professors I had several times for my public relations class, Dr. (Andy) Lingwall, would pull real world examples into our discussions, and we discussed them in class, in depth,” Chatelain said.
After two years of three classes per semester and one per summer, she graduated in December 2012 with her master’s degree and was recently employed in her current position as the special projects manager of Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.
“I was a little concerned about being asked about getting an online master’s degree, because schools here are just starting to offer online degree programs, but I didn’t need to be concerned at all. It wasn’t a problem,” she said.
Her advice to potential online students is to be sure you really want the degree.
“This can’t be casual. You need to make sure you can make time for the class work,” said Chatelain, who put in 10-15 hours per week. “An online degree takes a lot of commitment and focus. I enjoyed my classes, but going to school full time and working full time was very exhausting.”
Exhausting as it was, Chatelain said Clarion’s online program is an excellent way to earn a degree without disrupting one’s life.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
For more information
Anyone interested in finding out more about online degree or certificate programs at Clarion University can call 1-866-272-5612, option 2, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also visit the Clarion University's Online Campus.