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Life doesn't stop for ASU online students who want to better themselves

ASU Online students earn degrees at their own pace
More than 100 degree programs available online through ASU.
Dedication to education characterizes ASU Online students
October 22, 2015

ASU online students enhancing their education on their own timetable

Editor's note: This feature is part of a series profiling different slices of ASU's diverse population. Find more stories here.

Students finishing a college career later in life have a lot to contend with. Many have full-time jobs. Others have family obligations. 

ASU Online student Tony Bothwell has to juggle both, and also watch out for the occasional freeze ray attack.

Bothwell spends part of his days keeping an eye on his 3-year-old son, Lucas, whom he describes as “a fussy toddler,” while his wife is at work. That has led to something of a non-traditional soundtrack to his educational career.

“This semester so far, statistics and (web site design) have been to the tune of ‘Hotel Transylvania’ and ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ …” Bothwell said, referencing the popular children’s films. “Psychology 101 and graphic communications were both Spring A session, I remember those specifically always had either ‘Frozen’ or ‘Despicable Me’ in the background.”

Hence the freeze raysA photo of Felonius Gru, from the Universal Pictures Movie Despicable MeIn the Universal Pictures movie "Despicable Me," the freeze ray is the signature weapon of a character named Felonius Gru. It causes the people it is used upon to be temporarily frozen in their tracks. , which, during imagination time, Lucas will sometimes employ upon his unsuspecting father, causing a delay in studying.

“It’s worked out though,” Bothwell said with a laugh.

It continues to work out for Bothwell.

He’s a senior solution developer for Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization, in Sacramento, California. At age 39 he decided to complete his undergraduate work. Now he is the equivalent of a junior, earning his degree in graphic information technology online.

A picture of Tony Bothwell and his son, Lucas, in their California home

Tony Bothwell with his son,

Photo courtesy Tony Bothwell

Bothwell is very successful — he writes highly valued automation software for Kaiser — but the lack of a bachelor’s degree has put a ceiling on his career trajectory.

“Not having a degree is literally the stopping point,” he said. “That will be a roadblock everywhere I turn from this point.”

In a couple of semesters that roadblock will be cleared for Bothwell.

ASU Online clears many roadblocks for its students. The program now has more than 19,000 students enrolled, and offers more than 100 degreesThe top degrees in the ASU Online program are psychology, criminal justice, electrical engineering, organizational leadership and health sciences..

"As a university, we're committed to helping learners everywhere achieve a quality education, said Phil Regier, University Dean for Education Initiatives at ASU and CEO of EdPlus. "We've designed our digitally-enabled courses and degree programs with the student experience in mind, ensuring that students have the tools they need to succeed from anywhere in the world.”

Those digitally-enabled courses place reading, videos, tutorials and coursework online in an easily accessible environment for students. Assignments typically are due once per week, giving students in various places — and timezones — plenty of time to complete each task no matter their personal schedules.

The flexibility is key. For Bothwell it means being able to work on his couch with his son nearby.

For Mi Young Lee, the flexibility allows her to balance the 12-hour shifts that come with a busy nursing job on a military base. She logs into ASU Online from Seoul, Korea, 16 hours ahead of Bothwell on the clock.

Lee, who is 38, is a nurse at the Brian Allgood Amry Community Hospital on the Yongsan Garrison, an American military installationBecause of its location, the hospital in which she works is considered a combat hospital. Should shots ever be fired on the Korean peninsula, it would be the main hospital for U.S. troops..

She is Korean and earned her nursing degree in her home country. But her goal is to become a nurse practitioner. 

A photograph of Mi Young Lee, at the hopsital in which she works, in Seoul, Korea.

For Mi Young Lee, the flexibility of online classes allows her to balance the 12-hour shifts that come with a busy nursing job on a military base. Photo courtesy Mi Young Lee.

“We don’t have that program in Korea,” she said.  As a result, her degree won’t get her into American nurse practitioner programs.

“This is my stepping stone so I can get ready and prepare myself.”

Because of the varied hours of a nurse, ASU Online allows her to work when she is free to do so. And Lee is not limiting herself to nursing classes. While enrolled at ASU, she is challenging herself to take full advantage of the breadth of offerings online, including a class she took this summer on world faiths. 

“It helps me open my eyes to understand different religions,” said Lee, who is Buddhist. 

A typical ASU Online student — if there is such thing — is not as physically far away as Lee. Forty-six percent of ASU Online students are in Arizona; another 25 percent live in California.  There are more women than men enrolled (a roughly 60/40 split) and about a quarter are working on graduate degrees.

Jerome Tennille plans to become one of them — right after he finishes his undergraduate degree this fall.

For Tennille, a Navy veteran and ultra marathoner who usually starts his day with a 5 a.m. run, ASU Online allows him the flexibility to get his education while serving a community for whom he has a passion.

He’s in line for a degree in operations management from ASU Online, and he’s already using the skills from his virtual classroom in his day job: coordinating volunteer efforts for a Washington, D.C.-based organization called TAPS, which helps what they call military survivors — the loved ones and friends of service members who have died while serving in the military.

“You can be a battle buddy, you can be a sibling, a fiancé, a spouse …” Tennille, 29, said. “We provide the services beyond the standard issuance of life insurance that a family might get from the government. We provide the emotional service.”

A draining job, to be sure. 

But after his day at work, he digs into his class assignments — this semester he’s taking a quality assurance class and working on his senior project — and sustains his focus for another couple of hours.

A photograph of Jerome Tennille

Jerome Tennille is a Navy veteran and ultra marathoner who usually starts his day with a 5 a.m. run. ASU Online allows him the flexibility to get his education while serving a community for whom he has a passion. Photo courtesy Jerome Tennile.

He admits that that can be tough, but he knows something about tough. Tennille postponed his studies to join the Navy three years after 9/11, at age 19.

After eight years in the military, including two deployments to the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Iwo Jima, Tennille turned, as many veterans do, to ASU for his college education.

“I wanted to be a part of a school that valued veterans …” Tennille said. “They embrace us, and I want to be a part of a school that would understand the culture and embrace that and provide the education that I wanted.”

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ASU Police welcome community in first-ever citizen academy

First-ever ASU Police Academy brings community together.
ASU Police Department makes effort to promote transparency.
Free ASU class a test program for possible criminology course.
October 22, 2015

They may patrol the campus mall. They may bust some sweet Segway moves. But don’t mistake them for mall cops.

The Arizona State University Police Department (ASUPD) is an independent, fully functional arm of the greater Arizona police force. It’s been in operation since 1948, but for the first time, the department opened its doors Oct. 14 and 21 to host a two-day course detailing the inner workings of the university’s peacekeeping agency.

As the public’s demand for transparency and accountability from the law enforcement agencies that serve them has grown, ASUPD’s top officials decided that a community police academy would be the best way to clear up the cloud of mystery that can surround law enforcement agencies, especially at a college university.

“The whole concept of people not understanding what we do for our community was really driven home to me about five years ago,” said Michele Rourke, commander of the West campus. “I was in the elevator at Computing Commons going up to meet someone and a lady gets on and a gentleman gets on. The lady looks at me and says ‘Is something going on?’ I said, ‘No, I’m just going to meet somebody and talk about an issue.’”

“So, are you with Tempe [PD]?”

“No, ma’am, I’m with ASU. Are you new to the community?”

“No, I’ve worked here 12 years and I never knew we had a police department,” the lady replied.

To shed some light on the day-to-day operations of ASUPD, students, faculty and staff in attendance were greeted with presentations from every facet of the department’s operations including counselors, detectives and dispatchers.

Over the course of the two days, one of the biggest points the academy drove home was that the job of an officer entails a great deal more than just enforcing the law. For example, ASU hosts approximately 1600 special events a year — an average of more than four per day — all of which are reviewed by a two-man branch of the department that determines if an event requires a police presence.

“If we were to follow an officer around all day, you would probably find that a majority of their shift has nothing to do with law enforcement,” said ASUPD police chief Michael Thompson. “It’s to do with assisting our community members, making contacts on campus, taking a report, helping somebody work through an issue, especially on a university campus.

“When I would sit down with police officers that had just been hired on to the department, I would tell them, 'Look, if you have some delusion or some aspiration of rappelling down a helicopter with a machine gun on, then this is not going to be the environment for you to do that in.'”

Thompson emphasized that his department has the tactical resources at its disposal if necessary, but doesn’t see the need for full-time use.

One of those tactical resources isn’t an it, but a she: Officer Disney, a highly trained munitions detection and disposal expert with years of experience working high-profile events across the country like Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas. She also sniffed out a key piece of evidence in a local bank robbery last month.

Disney is, without a doubt, the most popular officer in the entire department. But because she is a yellow Labrador who won’t hesitate to kiss everyone she meets, she tends to have a couple legs up on her colleagues. She is one of the few bomb-sniffing dogs in the area and frequently lends her services to police departments around the state. Her partner, detective Parker Dunwoody gave a demonstration of Disney’s bomb-detecting capabilities during the second day of the academy.

Shortly afterwards, attendees received a completion certificate and a newfound understanding of the stresses, motivations and methods that drive ASU’s peace officers.

“I thought it was very helpful and very informative. I definitely got information I don’t think I would’ve sought out otherwise,” said 19-year-old interdisciplinary studies major Alexa Jimenez. One of her concentrations is homeland security, and she hopes to work for a government law enforcement agency in the future. “It opened up my eyes to a lot of opportunities. I feel very secure about my career and what I want to do.”

The police department is now working on developing an expanded, seven-week version of the academy in partnership with the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. It’s all a part of including the community and increased transparency, said police chief Thompson.

“What transparency leads to is trust, what trust leads to is cooperation, cooperation then leads to involvement,” Thompson said. “The closer I can get to my community the happier I am. I think that’s how we — as a country, and law enforcement agencies in general — will make progress."

Reporter , ASU Now