Success Stories - Online Degree Programs

Success Stories

Tim Whitham, MS, EFO

Bachelor of Applied Science, Fire and Emergency Management Services

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Fire and Emergency Response Management graduate Tim Whitham, MS, EFO is teaching a pair of Core Education courses at Fire-Rescue International, the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Conference and Expo, this weekend (Aug. 7-10, 2019) in Atlanta.

Whitham has been the Fire Chief in Edwardsville, Kan., since 2015 and also serves as an Adjunct Faculty Member in the College of Safety and Emergency Services at Columbia Southern University.

Whitham’s courses at Fire-Rescue International (FRI) will concentrate on developing best practices for fire department leadership and helping fire departments of all sizes implement fire prevention strategies in a variety of settings.

“My first [session at FRI] investigates leadership rules of engagement for officers,” Whitham said. “It is designed to give participants a guide or a template to work from. Twenty-eight different leadership styles have been identified, but most of the fire officer handbooks for certification purposes only cover about four. None of [the text books] teach you what to do or what not to do.

“The class really focuses on traits that have been successful for company officers when out talking to people, but you have to do the same thing with your employees when you’re in the firehouse. You can’t just bark orders because you have that rank and title to go with it.”

The next course on Whitham’s FRI 2019 schedule will discuss how departments of all sizes can initiate programs to carry out inspections.

“The second class I’m teaching is about conducting fire prevention services for company officers,” Whitham said. “It is geared toward introducing how to establish a program and how you develop those company officers to become responsible for performing those inspections when you don’t have a fire prevention branch.

“[Fire and emergency response personnel] can’t go out and buy a book to understand how the prevention model and fire codes work, not to mention what needs to be done to start an inspection.”

Whitham highlighted two major factors of UW Oshkosh online degree programs that helped him become regarded as an expert in the field, the first being the asynchronous course structure.

“My experience at UW Oshkosh was great,” Whitham said. “I could complete my UW Oshkosh undergraduate work while I was going through the Executive Fire Officer program at the National Fire Academy.

“I flourished academically and professionally with UW Oshkosh because I could set my own schedule. Online learning was a great platform for me because it allowed flexibility of life to occur.”

Whitham praised the responsive and influential faculty of all UW Oshkosh online courses as the second factor.

“I had professors who pushed me to think outside of the box. It didn’t matter if it was the general education requirements or the core requirements for my degree. The professors were top-notch and pushed me to succeed. Some of them even pushed me to keep going in higher education.”

After completing his undergraduate coursework at UWO, Whitham went on to obtain a master’s degree in Disaster Preparedness and Executive Fire Leadership from Grand Canyon University.

“I was prepared for my graduate degree experience at the master’s level. I couldn’t have done it if I didn’t get that encouragement from the UW Oshkosh professors.”

When asked about his favorite UW Oshkosh course, Whitham could not pick one in particular.

“I even enjoyed the difficult math courses because I had good professors who explained the process to us. There really was not a bad course that I had. I was there to learn and really tried to take away everything that I could from each course. The courses are what you make of them.”

To learn more about the bachelor of applied science degree in Fire and Emergency Response Management at UW Oshkosh, please visit https://uwosh.edu/go/ferm.

Dennis Martinson and Katherine Langdon

No Time Limit to Earn A Red, White and Blue Cord

Two veterans earned UWO online degrees in Fall 2018 after extensive service time.

“I’ve been waiting 25 years for this!”

Dennis Martinson milled about Room 158 of Kolf Fieldhouse to pick up the red, white and blue striped cord he was to wear when walking in the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh 2018 Mid-Year Commencement ceremony, an addition to his cap and gown he earned with his veteran status.

Two veterans who received their online degrees and traveled to campus to participate in the proceedings that day — Martinson and Katherine Langdon — both waited at least 20 years between starting college and receiving their respective diplomas.

Between balancing family responsibilities, extensive service time in the armed forces and chasing down professional endeavors, Martinson and Langdon agreed it was well worth the wait to have the red, white and blue cord draped around their neck.

Katherine Langdon ’18 · Bachelor of Liberal Studies

       

Langdon began her military career in the Army Reserves when she was 18, but her unit was later shut down by executive order. With a changing family dynamic and no job prospects on the horizon, her best option was to continue her service.

“I had a small child and I couldn’t find a good job so I joined the Navy and it provided me with a trade, electronic technician,” Langdon said.

Langdon showed her penchant for leadership by working her way through the ranks as an Electronics Technician.

“Being in the Navy gave me the discipline, knowledge and confidence to keep pushing forward,” Langdon said. “[My experience] has definitely helped get me to where I am today.”

After her service, Langdon has established herself as a project management consultant.

“I’ve been in the technical field for 20 years now and my bachelor’s degree from the UW Oshkosh Division of Online and Continuing Education will allow me to continue moving up in my career and develop into a leadership role.”

And she has no plans to slow down at any point in the near future.

“I’m hoping that my experience, bachelor’s degree and continuing with school will lead to even bigger things. I’m starting on my M.B.A. at UWO in February. I’m hoping once I have that done, I’ll be able to open my own business.” 

Dennis Martinson ’18 ·  Bachelor of Liberal StudiesOrganizational Administration

Martinson marveled at the evolution of higher education as he progresses toward his degree.

“I first started taking college courses when I was in the military,” Martinson said. “I moved every three years so I had to stop and find another college and gather all of my transcripts when I arrived on campus.

By the time I got to UWO, I had attended five different colleges over a period of more than 20 years so I was able to go where I needed to go and be able to stick with the same college and actually finish my degree.”

The Transfer Credit and Credit for Prior Learning standards and procedures implemented by the Student Services Staff at UWO eased Martinson’s transition.

“I’m very grateful to UW Oshkosh because I arrived on campus with at least 100 credits and no degree. They offered me a path to finally finish my degree and I was able to finish in just over a year. Now I have my bachelor’s degree that I started 25 years ago.”

Martinson now enjoys a career as a Maintenance Leader at Proctor & Gamble in Martinsburg, W.V.

“The biggest benefit I received was that a lot of the courses I took applied to my current field as a contractor,” Martinson said. “I was able to complete some assignments at work because I could use some of the courses on the job, like project management.”

100% Access to Veteran’s Resource Center for UWO Online Students

Students looking to go back to school after service in the armed forces may not know where to begin the process. That is where the UW Oshkosh Veterans Resource Center can help.

“Everything we offer on campus is open to online students,” UWO Veterans Resource Coordinator Timber Smith said. “We have several online students from the Fox Valley area who come in to our office every single day to use the center and take their classes. Plus, they like the free coffee.”

Other than the free-flowing java in the lounge, the Veterans Resource Center provides an inviting atmosphere where veterans can connect with colleagues who are facing similar challenges.

“We provide more of an informal support system,” UWO Veterans Education Benefits Coordinator Michelle Munns said. “We have done buddy programs, peer mentoring and things like that before with more of a formal setup, but vets really click with those who have had similar experiences.”

Regardless of where veterans may find themselves, UW Oshkosh has the tools to help them along the path to their red, white and blue cord.

Prior to the 2019 Spring Commencement on Saturday, May 18, veteran graduates are invited to pick up their cords at the Military Recognition Graduation Reception sponsored by the UW Oshkosh Student Veteran Association at the Pollock House (765 Algoma Blvd.). The event will begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue until 15 minutes after the second ceremony starts (approximately 2:45 p.m.).

To learn more about online degrees from UW Oshkosh, ‘Like’ @UWOOnlineDegrees on Facebook and visit uwosh.edu/online.