Nearly 300 online students from across the country join the 6,100 other graduates who can now proudly count themselves among the alumni of the University of Missouri. Mizzou's online commencement ceremony celebrates the accomplishments of students who have completed their undergraduate, graduate and education specialist degrees at a distance.

"These graduates are hard-working distance students, many of whom have family and career obligations to fulfill in addition to the many hours of study necessary to complete their degrees," says Stacy Snow, Mizzou Online spokesperson. "We created the online ceremony to honor these students who, against many odds, have made their education a priority. And we hope that the graduates will forward the commencement link to their friends and families so that many can celebrate their accomplishments."

The "ceremony" consists of video remarks from campus officials, much like the on-campus commencement exercises taking place this week. The virtual "Pomp and Circumstance" experience features speeches by and several campus leaders including Chancellor Brady Deaton, Vice Provost Jim Spain, Graduate School Dean George Justice and Mizzou Alumni Association Executive Director Todd McCubbin. At the site, well-wishers can leave congratulatory notes for individuals, school and college groups or all online graduates in the guest book; visitors can read inspiring messages written by others; and graduating students can even post photos of themselves in the photo gallery.

Friends, families and supporters of MU: Congratulate your graduate from wherever you're located. You can "attend" the spring 2013 online commencement ceremony anytime, day or night. We encourage you to add to your loved one's commencement experience by posting in the guest book.

For more information about the on-campus graduation ceremonies please visit the Registrar's commencement page.

The University of Missouri received two awards from the Great Plains Interactive and Distance Education Alliance (GP IDEA), a national consortium of degree-granting universities that provides inter-institutional access to online human sciences and agriculture courses through a collaborative distance education program model.

Tracy Kitchel, associate professor and director of graduate studies for MU's Agricultural Education and Leadership department, received the alliance's 2013 Faculty Excellence Award. "The Great Plains IDEA Cabinet created this award in 2010 to recognize faculty members who have made a significant contribution to the success of the academic programs in the alliance," says Carol Gould, GP IDEA executive director.

Kitchel oversees the new online agricultural education master's degree — now accepting applications for the fall 2013 semester. He also chairs the national group for agricultural education, called AG*IDEA, which combines online courses offered by MU and 19 other universities in the consortium (as part of GP IDEA) to provide the new fully online master's degree through Mizzou.

"I am very honored by being named a recipient of this award," says Kitchel. "As a national agricultural education group, we have worked hard to build our program. Participation in Great Plains and AG*IDEA has helped leverage resources in our local department so we can teach other courses while relying on the expertise of faculty from across the country. I really enjoy working with the staff at Great Plains IDEA and am thankful to have a great support system at Mizzou Online."

Jim Spain, vice provost for undergraduate studies at MU, shares Kitchel's enthusiasm toward the faculty and support system that Mizzou Online has in place in working with the GP IDEA consortium. "We are very fortunate to have a team that is committed to serving the campus as we help make MU more accessible to students across the state and country, as well as around the world," says Spain.

Supporting Kitchel in setting up the online courses to launch the new degree is Nita Smarr, Mizzou Online campus coordinator for GP IDEA programs. Smarr received the alliance's Rock 'n' Rolling Award for "her attention to detail and work ethic that ensures no rock goes unturned," according to Gould. "We are pleased to recognize the outstanding educators and the support staff who are so important to this organization."

Spain adds, "Mizzou Online's support of our faculty and their students has been critical to the sustained success MU has achieved in expanding our online distance programs."

Mizzou now offers 11 online degree and certificate programs through the GP IDEA consortium, including studies in agricultural education, family and community services, financial and housing counseling, geriatric care management, gerontology and youth development, and personal financial management. For more information about Kitchel's Faculty Excellence Award recognition and the AG*IDEA program, see the College of Agricultural, Food and Natural Resources news article.

RFP Announcement

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The University of Missouri will launch 16 online programs in an effort to respond to the demand for increased online learning opportunities and a more highly educated citizenry. MU officials said the $2.5 million investment is intended to increase access to higher education and enhance the number of graduates in specific industries.

Areas of study covered in the new initiative include hospitality management, public administration, nursing, education, energy efficiency, geospatial intelligence, public health, interactive media, health communication, architectural studies and biomedical sciences. The programs will be developed and taught by MU faculty. The funds awarded today will defray startup costs of developing the curriculum, including purchasing any software necessary to offer the courses.

"We are pleased to begin offering online programs in these in-demand subject areas," MU Provost Brian Foster said. "Producing graduates with the skill sets and preparation needed to advance these industries is at the core of our mission at the University of Missouri."

RFP Announcement Conversation

MU also is investing in more than 25 new undergraduate online courses that will make it possible to earn a bachelor's degree from a distance with little or no transfer credit.

"With the added online courses from the College of Arts & Science as well as the new online degrees from the College of Education and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, first-time college students and those with just a few transfer credits can earn their bachelor's degrees from Mizzou and stay in their hometowns," said Jim Spain, vice provost for undergraduate studies and interim vice provost for e-learning.

The new programs will increase the number of online degree offerings to nearly 90; with 8 undergraduate degree programs and 79 graduate certificate and degree programs that are either offered in part or completely online.

Demand for online learning is at an all-time high among students of all ages. Mizzou will continue to invest in online offerings by accepting another round of proposals from its schools and colleges; those awards will be announced in 2014.

"Mizzou has been offering distance education for more than 100 years as part of fulfilling our land-grant University mission," Spain said. "Our offerings have more than doubled and our enrollments have grown 78 percent in the last five years. However, Missourians and distance students everywhere continue to ask for quality, affordable online higher education. These new online programs will not only help students be more globally competitive, but also help meet our state leaders' goal of having a more highly educated Missouri."

MU's online commencement ceremony celebrates the accomplishments of more than 300 students who have completed their undergraduate, graduate and education specialist degrees online. The website features remarks from campus officials and keynote speaker Mizzou alumnus Kevin Gralen, BS BA '84.

Gralen, who came to Mizzou from Parkway Central High School in St. Louis, worked in sales and marketing at IBM and Siemens, and later moved into the Internet start-up business, including fantasy sports sites. His most recent venture, called ShopTab, evolved after Gralen noticed a business opportunity to serve vendors through Facebook.

Gralen lives in Phoenix with his wife, MJ, BS BA '88, and daughter, Addison. He visits MU annually and serves on the Trulaske College of Business Entrepreneurship Alliance Advisory Committee.

Gralen attributes his success to relationship building. "It's unbelievably important to make personal connections in life, whether that means in-person or through an online opportunity like one of these degree programs," Gralen said. "The networks you develop will make your life richer, and these graduates are now part of a big network that I hope they continue to tap into."

In addition to the remarks from Gralen, the virtual "Pomp and Circumstance" experience features speeches by several campus leaders including Provost Brian Foster, Vice Provost Jim Spain, Graduate School Dean George Justice and Mizzou Alumni Association Executive Director Todd McCubbin.

Master of Education candidate Trisha Carney, Lee's Summit, Mo., values the online ceremony because she is not able to be on campus this weekend. "What a neat idea," she said. "I appreciate the effort from MU to recognize our work and to showcase that online." Carney's focus was Literacy Education, and she hopes to use the degree to move into post-secondary teaching.

"Mizzou Online is excited to present the virtual commencement site for the online graduates, their friends and family, and all MU alumni," says Kim Siegenthaler, co-director of Mizzou Online. "The videos, photos and guest book messages are, in effect, a touchstone that reflects the spirit and dedication of these graduates who've accomplished so much."

No matter where you are located - you can "attend" the ceremony right now, post a congratulatory note on the guest book page and read inspiring messages written by others.

Two new online programs from the University of Missouri will add to the workforce of qualified professionals who can serve the elderly and families in need, thereby creating jobs and improving services for a growing population.

Classes for the new master of arts degree in human development and family studies with a focus in family and community services and the graduate certificate in geriatric care management begin in January.

The 36-credit-hour family and community services program was designed for those with varied community services backgrounds - including military support agencies - who want to help families and individuals seeking life resources or want to manage public/private programs designed to offer services. Graduates will be capable of directing agencies.

"We want to develop professionals who can better interpret the growing network of health and social service agencies in order to provide individualized action plans for each family and community they are trying to serve," said Larry Ganong, co-chair of Mizzou's Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

"We are providing a practical master's degree that professionals can use to understand the needs of families, deliver services to them, and manage agencies who provide services to families and communities," says Ganong.

Helping America's fastest-growing population
The 12-credit-hour online graduate certificate in geriatric care management was designed with working adults in mind and features courses that are 10 weeks long rather than the traditional 16-week semester. The certificate can be completed within a calendar year. The program prepares students to become nationally certified Geriatric Care Managers; some students will use it to build credentials in other fields, such as social services, case management or health-care social work.

"For many families, taking care of their older relatives is no longer an option, but a necessity," said Cynthia Reeser, director of the program. "Whether the elder person continues to live in the community or reside in more protected environment, it's their younger siblings or grown children who usually have to make the hard decisions about the elder's care and how to provide the right support.

"The Geriatric Care Manager can be called in to help. These managers will identify the overall concerns of care receivers and caregivers; gain a fuller understanding of which services are most appropriate; and then, provide care assessment and planning," Reeser said.

Mizzou's program is distinct from other academic offerings in this area because it "offers a holistic approach to managing elder services," Reeser said. "We cover the needs of the whole person, including their finances, interpersonal relationships and overall well-being and quality of life - not just their health concerns," she said. The courses in both the master's program and the graduate certificate are 100 percent online.

The University of Missouri recently received three honors from higher education organizations. The awards recognize two MU instructors and a degree program for their accomplishments in online learning.

"These honors recognize that Mizzou faculty are leaders in developing online curricula," said Jim Spain, interim vice provost for e-Learning at the University of Missouri. "The quality of instruction and the focus on student learning outcomes are the result of the faculty like these award recipients who are constantly working to effectively use instructional technology."

Excellence in Teaching: Shawna Strickland, Respiratory Therapy
The University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) Central Region recognized Shawna Strickland, clinical associate professor of Respiratory Therapy in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions, with the award for Excellence in Teaching at its September conference.

The award recognizes instructors for outstanding teaching and mentoring while delivering creative and innovative curriculum. Strickland teaches multiple clinical courses each semester in the respiratory therapy focused bachelor of health sciences online completion program and also serves as the program's faculty coordinator.

"We are so proud of Dr. Strickland and the leadership and innovation she has brought to the School of Health Professions and its students," said Richard Oliver, dean of the School of Health Professions. "This honor from UPCEA is formal recognition of the outstanding teaching and mentoring Dr. Strickland brings to the program and the school. This critical program is changing the standard of education in respiratory therapy and Dr. Strickland deserves much of the credit for this impressive accomplishment."

Mature Program Award: School of Information Science & Learning Technologies,
Educational Technology Master's Degree

MU's School of Information Science & Learning Technologies also was recognized by the UPCEA Central Region for its Educational Technology Master's Degree. The Outstanding Mature Program Award lauds for-credit online programming that has made sustained contributions to higher education in the form of impactful change in its associated industry.

The Educational Technology master's program has been helping teachers and school personnel incorporate technology into their classrooms since 1999. The program was one of the first fully online degree programs offered by Mizzou. The program's scope has evolved over the years and now teachers can pursue their master's or education specialist degrees in one of three areas: technology in schools, learning systems design and development, or online educator.

"The MU College of Education is pleased to be recognized for its continued focus on improving the use of technology in classrooms," says Daniel L. Clay, dean of the MU College of Education."Dr. John Wedman and his team have done an outstanding job building a strong program that encourages collaboration between educators. These teachers embrace becoming students again as they exchange best practices with their colleagues across the United States and in other parts of the world."

Helen Williams Award for Outstanding Course: Matthew Gordon, English
Matthew Gordon, associate professor of English in the Department of English, was honored by the Association for Distance Education and Independent Learning (ADEIL) with the Helen Williams Award for Outstanding Courses. Gordon's English 4610: History of the English Language is an online, self-paced course and features video, animated slide decks, engaging commentary and detailed instructor feedback.

This ADEIL recognition is named for Helen Williams, a distance education pioneer from the University of Iowa. The award recognizes the accomplishment of the course instructor, author and course developer in creating exemplary courses that focus on student learning outcomes and overall design and content.

"Professor Gordon is well ahead of his time in developing not only an online course but one at the advanced level. This is a boon to the curriculum offered by the College of Arts and Science," said Michael O'Brien, dean of the college.

For the fourth consecutive year, the University of Missouri has been awarded the Military Friendly School® title by Victory Media, a media company for military personnel transitioning into civilian life. The 2013 Military Friendly Schools® list names the country's top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools, recognized for doing the most to ensure the success of America's military service members, veterans and spouses as both on- and off-campus students. See Mizzou's profile on the website.

"MU was one of the first schools in the nation to create a full-service, one-stop shop to help our veterans transition from the military to academics," said Carol Fleisher, director of the MU Veterans Center. "We are very pleased to receive this award and to be recognized for our work in assisting our veterans."

In 2008, MU became one of four universities in the nation to have a dedicated Veterans Center for veterans, military personnel and veteran employees. The center has taken the lead in facilitating veterans' transition to and from active duty and from the military to academia.

"MU cares about our veterans and is honored by their presence on our campus," Fleisher added. "They bring tradition, focus, experience and a positive attitude that compliments MU's campus environment. We are intent in making their academic careers successful."

At the onset of the fall 2012 semester, Mizzou had 356 veterans enrolled—a 29 percent increase from the start of 2011. Dependents of veterans also served by the MU Veterans Center also brought the total number of military-affiliated students to nearly 650.

In addition to its on-campus services, MU's more than 80 degree and certificate programs available either entirely or partially online make the university an attractive option for many military personnel to study at a distance. The university plans to increase its online offerings by as many as 15 programs in 2013.

"Mizzou is adding to the already long list of degree and certificate programs resulting in more options for active duty and on-base personnel and veterans," said Gera Burton, Mizzou Online co-director. "The courses are taught by the same faculty who teach on campus, but the flexible format of online courses allows students to stay in their home communities and meet family and work commitments."

Air Force Reserves veteran Don DeMarco is one of many veterans pursuing an online bachelor's degree from Mizzou.

"The entire MU staff has really helped me through two deployments, getting my professors and advisers to work with me to ensure I get everything I can while deployed," DeMarco said. "I have been treated like a person instead of a number with MU, and I appreciate that more than anything. My advisers and professors are genuinely thoughtful and patient with me being in the military, and truly understand that we have hardships."

For more information about the MU Veterans Center and its services, visit

Last year, more than 9,100 students enrolled in courses supported by Mizzou Online, which is the administrative gateway for MU schools and colleges to offer their distance degrees, certificates and courses. Of those distance students, 74 percent were within Missouri borders, and more than 200 enrolled from countries around the world. The average age of undergraduate students in a distance degree program was 32 and degree-seeking graduate students averaged 36 years old. Read more statistics and learn how distance education is growing at Mizzou in our annual enrollment report.

The University of Missouri is investing $2.5 million in new distance degree programs. A request for proposals to all MU's schools and colleges seeks to add to the degree and certificate program options already online at the undergraduate through doctoral levels. Read how the initiative will provide more opportunities for distance students in this Mizzou Weekly story.

Learn more about the RFP process.

Best Buy rating by has released a new "best buy ranking" for 2012, in which the independent group listed the College of Education's "Master of Education in Career & Technical Education" as #30 overall in best buys for online masters of education options. biannually surveys accredited online schools and colleges to find the most "budget-friendly" degrees and previously has ranked other groups of online education degrees, in which the MU College of Education has earned four additional Best Buy listings, leading to an overall grade of "A-" in affordability for the college.

Each of the five College of Education's "Best Buy" degree program listings is available via the links below.