Staying connected after almost 30 years of distance education
In 1989, Jeanne Beckley interviewed a candidate for an open position at her company. As the human resources manager for Intertape Polymer Group, this activity was commonplace for Beckley, and she expected to receive routine answers to her questions. But on this particular day, Beckley heard something new: information about distance learning.
At that time, distance learning was gaining in popularity but was still uncommon in comparison to the traditional college route. The job candidate had just received a degree from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Distance Learning Center through print-based correspondence courses.
“It was always a personal goal of mine to get a degree,” Beckley said, recounting the thoughts she had that day. “And distance learning seemed perfect.”
In 1991, Beckley finally got up the nerve to learn more about the program, and a quick phone call connected her to the DLC’s current executive director, Dawn Drake, who at the time was an advisor for the division.
“I can’t say enough good about Dawn Drake,” Beckley said. “I am really impressed with the way she’s grown the program all by herself.”
The first thing Drake recommended Beckley do was submit her high school transcripts. Though it was a long process to get transcripts from 1959, Beckley was on her way to starting her college career–until school took a backseat to the sudden death of her younger sister. Beckley had to put her plans on hold while she settled her sister’s estate and provided a home for her niece.
“It was three years later when I decided to give it another try,” she said. “I called up Dawn and said, ‘Do you still have my stuff?’ She said, ‘yes,’ and I immediately went down to visit with her.”
Drake laid out a detailed plan for Beckley and got her started with her first course BUSADMIN 2630 Introduction to Marketing. Throughout her college career, Beckley implemented course lessons into her work. “Even though I already had years of experience, I put my learning to use,” she said. “I kept all of the books, and I referred to a lot of things in them over the years.”
"Even though I already had years of experience, I put my learning to use."
By the time her last semester rolled around, the DLC was just making the jump to online learning, and Beckley took her last course on the internet. “Online has to make it just so much easier for the students,” she said thinking back on her own academic journey.
In 2005, she and her husband, Peter, made the three-hour trek from Appleton, Wisconsin, to Platteville to attend her graduation. The night before the ceremony, they celebrated her commencement at a local bar.
“Some students from the college who were at the bar asked my husband if he had a grandchild graduating,” she said with a laugh. “And he said, ‘No. My wife is.’ They were so excited and proud of me for graduating that they bought us all shots of Jagermeister and we did a cheers to my graduating.”
Following graduation, Beckley wanted to remain involved in the institution that helped her make her dream come true. In 2006 she joined the DLC Alumni Board and was an active member until 2012, the same year she retired from Intertape Polymer Group.
“Being on the alumni board helped me feel more connected to the university,” she said. “The group on the board was so diverse and located all over the United States, and it was so much fun to work with everyone.”
Beckley said she looks back on her educational experience and time served on the alumni board as two of the most rewarding experiences of her life.
“I can’t say enough about the Platteville Distance Learning Center program,” she said. “I am proud to have an online degree that means something.”
Beckley came to campus for the first time to attend the 2005 commencement ceremony.
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