The 2017 Northwestern College commencement ceremony was certainly one for the archives. For the first time since 1996, Master of Educations students walked across the graduation stage. Although preceded by two graduate cohorts, these students collectively marked Northwestern history as the first Master’s students to complete their advanced degree entirely online. Forty-six Master of Education students and four RN to BSN program graduates earning their Bachelors of Science in Nursing completed their Northwestern degrees online this year. As online programs increasingly grow in availability and popularity, Northwestern seeks to serve working professionals with quality continuing education opportunities rooted in faith and community.
Building online programs that encourage working students to develop relationships with fellow students and faculty without meeting face-to-face or even online at the same time is not an easy task. It takes a common purpose and a lot of dedication for students and faculty to have the best experience. In observing the commencement ceremony and reception, it was obvious how impactful these online programs are in the lives of both students and staff. Their touch points had remained on either side of computer screens until the celebration, which allowed faculty to finally meet their student’s newborn or hug their student who battled and beat heart surgery. For all – it was more than celebrating academic accomplishments but acknowledging life’s journey.
“We [the Graduate School and Adult Learning faculty and staff] were ecstatic to meet the graduates who attended graduation. The online environment at NWC allows faculty to get to know these students so personally, however, the opportunity to give them a hug and see their joy in being hooded was unforgettable. In addition, the reception after the ceremony was an awesome time to spend with our graduates and their families while honoring their accomplishment, “said Master of Education Director Sara Waring-Tiedeman.
As President Greg Christy encourages all graduates, “Northwestern has been part of God’s will for your life, and I pray what you learned here enables you to eagerly and skillfully respond to God’s call in your work, faith and family life.” Northwestern College is now an influence for student eighteen years of age or fifty-five, but regardless empowering them to follow Christ and pursue God’s redeeming work in the world.