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DISTANCE EDUCATION

FIRST VISIT TO OREGON: Sandra McCarron of San Antonio has her graduation cap and gown adjusted by her husband, Brady, and daughter, Taylor, on Friday prior to Saturday's commencement at Eastern Oregon University. Sandra earned a degree in physical education and health via EOU's distance education program. She had never been in Oregon before last week. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
FIRST VISIT TO OREGON: Sandra McCarron of San Antonio has her graduation cap and gown adjusted by her husband, Brady, and daughter, Taylor, on Friday prior to Saturday's commencement at Eastern Oregon University. Sandra earned a degree in physical education and health via EOU's distance education program. She had never been in Oregon before last week. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Sandra McCarron of San Antonio, Texas, flew about 1,500 miles and drove another 150 miles late last week — all for the opportunity to make the walk of a lifetime on Saturday.

McCarron was among about 370 students who walked across a commencement stage to receive their diplomas at Saturday's Eastern Oregon University graduation.

McCarron's appearance was noteworthy on two counts. Not only had she traveled a great distance, but she was also in Oregon for the first time in her life.

McCarron earned her degree through EOU's distance education program. She completed her requirements for a bachelor's degree in physical education and health while living in Iceland and in San Antonio.

McCarron's husband, Brady, made sure that his wife made it to La Grande for Saturday's ceremony.

"She has worked so hard. It's absolutely incredible what she has done. I was determined to get her up here,'' Brady McCarron said.

Brady and the couple's 8-year-old daughter, Taylor, were in La Grande for Saturday's graduation.

Brady McCarron is in the U.S. Air Force. His family has made many moves over the past decade, making it difficult for his wife to be any place long enough to earn a college degree. Sandra McCarron attended colleges and universities in Alaska, Arizona and Tennessee before enrolling in EOU's program.

She enrolled in EOU's distance degree program in 1999 while she and her family were in Iceland. She had no trouble staying in the program when her husband was transferred to San Antonio in 2001.

McCarron does not know what she would have done if she had not found out about EOU.

"When I found out that (schools in) Iceland did not have the degree program I needed, I thought I might have to give up my plans for school,'' McCarron said.

She did most of her correspondence with EOU on the Internet. Through the Internet she got her class assignments, had questions answered by teachers, took tests and even ordered textbooks.

"When we moved to San Antonio (from Iceland) I had a suitcase full of textbooks,'' McCarron said.

McCarron did not do everything via the Internet. In one class she had to demonstrate Tai Chi exercises. McCarron made a videotape of herself doing the exercises and mailed it to EOU.

McCarron also had to complete a practicum for her degree. She did hers at an Air Force base gymnasium in Iceland.

McCarron now works for a corporate fitness center in San Antonio, where she is a manager and teaches yoga and aerobics.

"I would've been able to get the job without my degree,'' she said.

McCarron credits EOU's professors with being extremely responsive whenever she had a problem.

"They were great when I had questions,'' she said.

McCarron said the one downside of the program is that she was not able to talk to other students in her classes.

"It's hard when you have a difficult class and you are alone,'' she said.

McCarron's husband is following her lead and has enrolled in an Eastern distance education degree program in business.

Brady said that his wife did a remarkable job of juggling many responsibilities to earn her degree.

"She is an inspiration. ... To be a full-time mom and do all that she did, she is a superwoman,'' Brady McCarron said. "I don't think I can speak highly enough of her.''

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