New York native and Durham resident, Wendell Barnwell II is a devoted husband, loving father and the embodiment of grit and determination associated with nontraditional students.
Barnwell pursued an online Master of Statistics degree from NC State College of Sciences while continuing to work full time as a mathematics teacher at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh. As if managing graduate school and family obligations while working full time are not hard enough, Barnwell was diagnosed and treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma — cancer of the lymphatic system — while pursuing his degree.
On May 11, 2019, Barnwell and his family will celebrate his graduation. He attributes the on-time completion of his degree to the help of his wife, the flexibility of NC State Online and Distance Education and his professor’s desire to see him succeed.
Below is a Q & A with Wendell Barnwell.
What factored into your choice of enrolling in the NC State Online Statistics program?
The reputation of statistics education at NC State, the cost, being able to work while getting my degree, courses and electives available and my wife’s approval were all factors that influenced my decision in enrolling in NC State Online’s Statistics program.
Where did you work while earning your degree? How did you manage to balance work and school and other responsibilities?
I am a mathematics teacher at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh, N.C. I have taught AP Statistics there since 2006. I took a couple of classes in the master’s program before formally applying to the NC State Graduate School. While taking those classes, I was able to see how classes were delivered, figure out how many courses I could take concurrently, and develop my plan of study.
During the semesters when I was teaching, I picked 2-3 days a week where I worked on my coursework. Time management is essential.
How do you see your degree helping you in your career after graduation or how has it helped you?
I have used a lot of the material I have learned in the AP Statistics courses I teach. It has also allowed me to help some of my colleagues to navigate through and analyze data. Teachers are asked to make data-driven decisions in their teaching, but that is hard to do if you do not know what data to focus on or look at. I am also very interested in pursuing careers in statistics outside of the field of education.
What is the one thing you would like people to know about how online graduate education worked for you?
I was a little apprehensive about taking master’s courses online instead of face-to-face. However, during the pursuit of my degree, I was faced with a diagnosis and treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Navigating through all that was not easy, yet, having access to online lectures, having the flexibility to dictate my schedule as I see fit to complete assignments, having access to my professors for extra help when I needed it when I struggled to keep up, having professors who are understanding and have a desire for everyone to be successful made my on-time degree completion a reality.
Do you have plans to celebrate your graduation?
I will be taking my wife to dinner at Angus Barn. We had our first born when I started pursuing my degree. My wife has done a lot to support me through everything and she kept our family focused on our goals. I did the work to obtain my degree, but the time she put in and the things she did for our family during my time in the program will be celebrated as well.
How was your overall online learning experience at NC State?
I thought the program was well-done and has prepared me for future careers as well as enhanced my knowledge as a teacher of statistics. “Test driving” a course would definitely help a student who is not sure how the online learning experience would work. When I was shopping for schools I was glad to find options for online courses from schools with a reputation.
It was very important to me to get my master’s degree from a school that can offer the degree both online and face-to-face. I also did not want a quote online unquote degree. I wanted the same degree as a regular student. I wanted my degree to come from a school that is established and where I would have confidence in the education I was receiving.
Many, if not all, of the NC State online Statistics professors I had teach both face-to-face and online courses. In most cases, the course provided lectures online of their face-to-face courses and that really helped me buy into the fact that my degree is the same as everyone else whether they were an online student or face-to-face student.
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This post was originally published in Online and Distance Education News.