Online Student Profiles
For Brian Hansen, a one and one-half hour round-trip commute to his 50-to-60-hour-per-week job as an industrial hygienist at a large construction corporation leaves him little time to pursue a master's degree. Add to the mix that he's married and a devoted father of two very young children - a two-year-old and a newborn - and the prospect of furthering his education seems almost impossible. Yet, regardless of such time eaters, Hansen has maintained a 4.0 GPA in eight courses thus far as a fully matriculated graduate student studying for a master's degree in environmental, health and safety management through RIT's online learning program.
"Higher education would not be otherwise available to me from my current geographical location if it were not for RIT," says Hansen who lives in New York State's North Country in Ogdensburg.
The 30-year-old Hansen admits that balancing his work, personal and educational responsibilities has been difficult, but he also says that earning a master's degree "is an essential building block to my future aspirations."
Hansen is no stranger to higher education. He has two bachelor's degrees, one in environmental science from Clarkson University and another in biology from Geneseo State. He says the online learning program is helping him at his current position at Morrison-Knudsen Corporation's Environmental Division, where he works on an environmental remediation project at the Alcoa plant in Massena, New York.
Many of the classes in the environmental, health and safety master's degree program utilize team assignments as a learning tool. Through chat rooms, phone conferencing, email, online library research and conventional modes of communication, students cultivate educational partnerships.
"Since students in the program come from a wide range of backgrounds, the team environment has encouraged me to help others where I may have more education or experience and has additionally allowed others to help me where my education and experience has been lacking," claims Hansen, who is at no loss for words to describe his distance learning experiences. "I have been fortunate to academically work with air/water/waste compliance professionals, industrial hygienists like myself and safety professionals employed across the entire spectrum of the occupational environment. Some work for industry, others work in academia, while others work within the regulatory arena. Having to work with these individuals, all with their own perspectives, beliefs and experiences, helps to broaden my level and breadth of understanding."
In addition to electronic-oriented team projects, students review course material via videotaped lectures that are mailed to them on a regular basis throughout the quarter. "The simple fact that lectures are captured on video cassette means that the student should never miss a class," says Hansen.
"Second, the availability of the instructors to provide regular and routine feedback on technical questions (via email, for instance) results in a greater degree of availability than that which could be provided by a classroom-based instructor."
"I was truly unaware of just what the Internet could do before enrolling into RIT," says Hansen.