Rural Montana Magazine – Aug 18, 2011
Rural Montana Women Find Online learning A Perfect Fit
Thanks to online learning it is possible to earn a college degree in disciplines like counseling, social work or nursing with little or no time spent on an actual college campus. This may be one way to assist with the shortage of health care and mental health workers in Montana’s rural communities.
According to Kristi Golik, director of marketing and public relations at the University of Great Falls, during fall semester 2010, 36 percent of the UGF’s distance-learning students where from rural Montana. In fact, in the last five years, 43.5 percent of the degrees awarded in UGF’s online degree programs went to people calling rural Montana home. Many of those people can now work in Montana’s health industry.
“It is easy to do. It works with my life. I love it,” said Elizabeth Bruchez, referring to the addictions counseling degree she recently completed through UGF’s distance-learning program. Bruchez was drawn to counseling, but a busy life with her husband and three children made commuting to school from her Lewistown home unworkable. Now employed by the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch at the Lewistown branch as a youth and family support worker, Bruchez plans to continue her online learning. The ultimate goal is to earn a master’s degree in counseling.
Passionate about horses and healing, Sarah Hereim found the perfect fit with the Touched by a Horse program in Longmont, Colo., which combines experiential psychotherapy and horses.
“I have a family and a ranch that I’m not willing to walk away from,” said Hereim, who lives near Judith Gap with her husband and three children. “But I really wanted a career, something more for myself and my family.”
Hereim attends online classes one night per week as well as a couple of other times throughout the month. Her homework is submitted via fax or email; sessions with her advisor are conducted over the phone, and throughout the next two years, Hereim will travel to Colorado eight times in order to experience hands-on training. In the end, Hereim will graduate as a fully certified Gestalt therapy practitioner, able to use horses in her own healing practice.
“I prefer the online environment to a classroom,” said Heather Harrison, who makes her home on a ranch 30 miles north of Lewistown with her husband and daughter. “I find that I actually interact with my professors more than I did my first time around at Montana State University-Bozeman.”
Harrison completed her pharmacy technician degree through Montana State University-Great Falls College of Technology’s distance-learning program and is employed by Osco Pharmacy in Lewistown.
“Now that I have a job with more solid benefits and hours, I can go on to finish my undergraduate degree online,” said Harrison.
Harrison and Bruchez both feel that three classes (nine credits) per semester are optimal. “Any less and I don’t feel challenged, but any more and I feel burned out with my other obligations,” Harrison said. All three women encourage others to take the leap into online learning. “This has really made a difference in my life,” said Hereim.
“It has allowed me to go back to school and still take care of my ranch and my family.”
Lisa Gilbert is a freelance writer from Moore. She enjoys writing about country living.
Sarah Hereim – Guest speaker at the Harlowton Kwanis Club – Spring 2013
I spoke about our new business Horses N Courage, LLC. We were invited to share about our new and upcoming business in the community