December 12, 2008

SIUC’s off-campus military programs honored

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The success of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s military programs in providing off-campus educational opportunities to the nation’s military is attracting national attention.

Military Advanced Education magazine lists SIUC as one of the nation’s 2008 top 20 military friendly colleges and universities in its December 2008 issue. Because of ties, 22 schools are in the top 20 in the publication’s second annual list of rankings. According to the magazine, an independent panel of judges from education and the military based the selections on “each institution’s favorable policies toward our men and women in uniform.”

The award shows “that we are absolutely doing things the right way with our students out there, and the people who work for us are treating our students the right way,” said Thomas H. Beebe, director of SIUC’s Office of Military Programs.

“Every one of the people who works for us is committed to do what they do, and each and every one of them is dedicated to the student -- not only in the field, but also here on campus,” he said.

SIUC’s Office of Military Programs coordinates the activities of the University’s three colleges that offer bachelor degrees to active duty military and reserve personnel, their families, retirees, and at some locations, community members. Started in 1973 at Scott Air Force Base, the program is now at 39 military and civilian locations in 16 states. The program is in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

“SIUC has a proud history of providing outstanding educational opportunities to men and women in uniform. We are pleased that we can be of service to our military personnel as they serve our country,” Interim Chancellor Samuel Goldman said.

SIUC was among the first universities to offer off-campus academic programs to military personnel, said Beebe, who has directed the program since September 1996. Prior to arriving at SIUC, Beebe coordinated SIUC’s degree program at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., for five years.

There are 1,542 students enrolled in the six degree programs via three of SIUC’s colleges. The College of Applied Sciences and Arts offers degrees in health care management, aviation management, electronic systems technologies and fire service management. The College of Engineering offers a degree in industrial technology, and the College of Education and Human Services offers a degree in workforce education and development.

Each college appoints a director to oversee the day-to-day academic matters.

Beebe emphasizes that while students may never step foot on the Carbondale campus, the degrees they earn are every bit as valued as for students living in residence halls on campus. The off-campus students typically enroll as full-time students unless military obligations require a part-time class schedule.

Programs take from 12 to 16 months to complete, and include on-site and online instruction. In May 2005, a U.S. Air Force master sergeant serving in Baghdad, Iraq, took part in commencement ceremonies via satellite after earning his bachelor’s degree in information systems technologies. He was able to complete his degree requirements through various long-distance learning programs.

Off-campus program graduates continue to become doctors, attorneys, corporate trainers in various industries, senior upper-level managers, or advance in the military, including reaching the rank of admiral, Beebe said.

Beebe notes he typically travels wearing an SIUC shirt or jacket because “that’s some of the best advertising I can do when I’m traveling to a site.”

“Invariably no matter where I go I run into an SIU graduate -- whether they are from our off-campus programs or whether they have graduated from SIUC,” he said.

One of Beebe’s more meaningful encounters occurred about nine years ago when he was in South Carolina. An elderly woman saw Beebe wearing his jacket, and excitedly told him of her grandson, who was in the U.S. Air Force and earned his bachelor’s degree through SIUC. He was the first family member to obtain a college degree.

“She never could understand how he could go to Southern Illinois University where he was stationed. She was so proud of him and she could not say enough about SIU and how fantastic we were,” he said.

Students are also an integral component in the program’s success, Beebe said. Many of the students, typically in their 30s and 40s, dedicate every other weekend to attending classes. Sometimes that means valuable time away from their families. The students want to learn, he said.

“It’s not one of those things where you can say, ‘I don’t want to go to school this weekend’,” Beebe said. “The time, the commitment; they know what they want. They know what the degree is worth, they know what they want and they have a goal in sight.”

SIUC’s Office of Military Programs also provides the internal and external liaison with the federal government, military, state governments, the Veteran’s Administration and state-approving agencies for the University, Beebe said.

More information on SIUC’s Office of Military Programs is available at