Famous Distance Learners part 2

Chief Cyber Spook: Howard A Schmidt

3 tours of duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Police Officer (SWAT Team). Supervisory Special Agent and Director of Air Force Office of Special Investigations Computer Forensic Lab and Computer Crime and Information Warfare Division. Special Agent, Criminal Investigation Division, US Army Reserves. Director of Information Security, Chief Information Security Officer and Chief Security Officer of Microsoft. Appointed by President Bush as Special Advisor for Cyberspace Security for The White House after 9/11. Retired from public service to become VP Chief Information Security Officer and Chief Security Strategist for eBay. Called back after retirement by President Obama to serve as Cyber-Security Coordinator of the Obama Administration, part of the Executive Office of the President of the United States.

Schmidt has taught courses for the FBI and the DEA. He is a professor of research at Idaho State University, adjunct distinguished fellow with Carnegie Mellon's CyLab, and professor of practice at the Georgia Institute of Technology's GTISC. And where did he get his degrees? He got his BS Business Administration in 1994 and his Master of Arts in organizational management from University of Phoenix, both while running the Computer Exploitation Team at the FBI’s National Drug Intelligence Center.5

Hollywood’s Renaissance Man: James Franco

If anyone on our list seems to fit the negative perception some have of distance learners, it’s James Franco. He’s had his brushes with the law and admitted to drug use. He dropped out of UCLA after his freshman year rather than wait 2 years to audition for the prestigious UCLA acting program. Two of his most popular roles were in the “stoner comedies” Pineapple Express and Your Highness.

Appearances can be deceiving. Only 33 years old, Franco is an actor, director, screenwriter, producer, documentary filmmaker, author, painter, performance artist, poet, and next year, a professor.

And what about Franco’s education? In 2006 Franco reenrolled at UCLA, getting special permission to take up to 62 credits per quarter (compared to the normal limit of 19) and received his BA in 2008 with a GPA over 3.5. He then attended grad school at both Columba (MFA Writing Program), NYU Tisch School of the Arts (Filmmaking), and Brooklyn College (Fiction Writing). He’s also attending Warren Wilson College in North Carolina (Poetry). Oh yea, and he’s studying for his Ph.D. in English at Yale University and planning to attend Rhode Island School of Design and has been accepted to University of Houston for a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing in 2012.

Just how, you may wonder, has he managed to rack up the diplomas while simultaneously appearing in 32 movies and short films, having a regular role on General Hospital, writing books and hosting the Oscars? How else? He completed his BA at UCLA with online classes and his Masters at Columbia in 2010 via their Distance Learning Program.6

Before Distance Learning, There Was Correspondence School

Long before the existence of the Internet, people did their distance learning through correspondence schools. And although correspondence schools were universally regarded as even less desirable than today’s online education providers, the reality is that correspondence schools had a few illustrious graduates of their own:

  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Walter Cronkite (former CBS News Anchor)
  • Walter P. Chrysler (Founder of Chrysler Motors)
  • Senator Barry Goldwater
  • Captain Eddie Rickenbacker (WWI Ace and founder of Eastern Airlines)
  • Cartoonist Charles Schultz (Peanuts)
  • South African President Nelson Mandela
  • Playwright Clifford Odets
  • and millions of other men, women and children.7

Distance Learning Is Not for Everyone

Of course distance learning has had its share of people who didn’t make it. People who bought the myth that distance learning is easy, and that anyone can do it. It turns out that quite the opposite is true: distance learning is for highly motivated individuals who want to make something of their lives and won’t let anything stand in their way.

And the next time you hear someone dismiss distance learning, online education, or correspondence courses, tell them to talk to The Governator.

5 Howard Schmidt, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Schmidt

6 Stacy Dymalski, 8 Celebrities Who Went To College Online, Education Today, 4/28/11 http://www.classesandcareers.com/education/2011/04/28/8-celebrities-who-went-to-college-online/

James Franco, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Franco

7 The Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) http://www.detc.org/theassociation.html#history http://www.detc.org/frequentlyQust.html