May 10, 2005
Live via satellite from Baghdad, Iraq on Saturday, May 14 Serviceman to receive degree during ceremonyCARBONDALE, Ill. -- Though he is 6,700 miles away, Air Force Master Sgt. Tracy A. Senstock will be part of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 14. Enrolled through various long-distance learning programs, Senstock has never stepped foot on SIUC’s campus, but modern technology will beam his voice and image into the center of campus.
In addition to performing his military duties in Baghdad, Iraq, the 42-year-old Nebraska native will join 617 other graduates from the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, including 55, who like Senstock, will receive bachelor of science degrees in information systems technologies.
The college’s ceremony begins at 11 a.m. in the SIU Arena, where, thanks to satellite and other technological advances, the audience will see and hear the 20-year serviceman receive his degree from Army Major Mitchell McKinney.
Members of the media can access the live feed of Master Sgt. Senstock receiving his degree in Baghdad via the following satellite coordinates:
74 degrees west
Downlink frequency – 11921.000 H
A test of the feed will take place between 10:45 and 11 a.m. CDT, and the satellite window will remain open until 12:15 p.m. CDT. The uplink phone number is 618/525-0782.
“I am really honored to be blessed enough to graduate with the Class of 2005,” Senstock wrote in a recent e-mail.
The College of Applied Sciences and Arts has 18 off-campus academic program sites throughout the United States offering degrees in health care management, aviation management, electronic systems technologies and fire science management. The information systems technologies online degree program is available in conjunction with the University’s Division of Continuing Education.
“Faculty and staff from our college are doing all we can to provide place-bound students, including those in the military, the opportunity to complete their college degree,” CASA Dean Paul D. Sarvela said.
Sarvela notes there are more than 100 CASA students deployed as a result of the war in Iraq, as well as instructors from both on- and off-campus.
SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler will confer Senstock’s degree on Saturday.
“We are proud of our servicemen and women, and I am glad that we will be able to confer Master Sgt. Senstock’s degree directly via satellite,” Wendler said. “It takes a special kind of person to continue to pursue the opportunity a college degree offers even while actively serving abroad. We are very proud of him and we are very proud of all our students serving in the armed forces.”
Offering progressive education and promoting excellence in undergraduate education are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.
Senstock, a graduate of Harvard High School in Harvard, Neb., is deployed out of Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. He previously earned an associates degree in electronic systems technology from the Community College of the Air Force.
In Iraq since January, Senstock is a liaison between agencies and provides technical and tactical communications guidance within the theater of operations. Senstock is due home sometime toward the end of May, and will become a senior master sergeant in August. Senstock plans to visit his alma mater for the first time when he returns to the States. When he arrives, many on campus hope to give him a guided tour.
“We know he’ll let us know when he’s coming so we can give him a great tour,” Sarvela said. “Until then, we’ll keep him and the rest of our sons and daughters serving abroad in our thoughts.”
Senstock and his wife, Michelle, have two sons – Matt, a freshman at the University of Nebraska, and Brad, an eighth-grade student in San Angelo. His graduation party in Baghdad could be as small as two people, or as large as 20 to 40 people.
“Unfortunately we all still have a job to do here and missions will continue in this war,” he said.
Senstock is one of 57 IST majors at SIUC pursuing degrees online, said William R. Devenport, chair of the information management systems department and director of the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies. Senstock is “a very professional student,” he said.
“Online programming requires a student to be self-disciplined, good time managers and goal-oriented,” he said. “If you are a procrastinator, it’s the worst thing you can do. It seems like our military students do very, very well because of those attributes.”
The online program offered Senstock flexibility, availability and versatility.
The “greatest part about the program” is completing his coursework at home after working his usual 11-hour days, he said. Because of “the flexibility and the great professors working with me,” Senstock continued his education while meeting military commitments for months at a time in Mississippi, Virginia and Alabama.
“The professors worked with me when situations came up and ensured I had the opportunity to succeed,” Senstock said.
Several soldiers in Iraq are now taking online classes, and that can be a challenge, Senstock said. Study time is difficult due to long work hours and privacy, and tests also are problematic because of the nine-hour time difference, Internet availability and computer access.
“This is where the SIUC professors excelled, when I was on temporary duty away from home; flexibility is the key to success and the professors would work miracles to ensure the opportunity to succeed exists,” Senstock said.
(Caption: Graduating from 6,700 miles away – U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Tracy A. Senstock is among the 618 graduates in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s College of Applied Sciences and Arts receiving his degree during commencement exercises Saturday, May 14. Senstock, shown here in the palace of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, is graduating through the University’s online distance education program. Senstock has been in Iraq since January and is participating in commencement ceremonies via satellite.)