Tag Archives: BLS Program

BLS Student Featured on UNCG Home Page

by Jay Parr

Nargiza Kiger featured on the UNCG home page. Photo: Brian Kiger

Nargiza Kiger featured on the UNCG home page.

I generally like to keep this blog about things other than the BLS Program, lest we be accused of navel-gazing. This is going to be one of those exceptions.

If you open the UNCG Home Page in the next two weeks, the first thing you’re going to see is our very own BLS student Nargiza Kiger smiling at you from a field in West Africa. Though she’s technically an in-state student (she and her husband live here in the Triad), I know of no other student who brings a more international perspective to the BLS Program. A native of Uzbekistan in central Asia, where relatively few women manage to achieve higher education, Nargiza traveled to neighboring Kyrgyzstan to attend a university. It was there that she met her husband Brian, and after finishing her Associate of Arts at Forsyth Tech, she had to reconcile her desire to continue her own education with Brian’s career in international development. The BLS Program allowed her to do just that, continuing her education at an American university while stationed with him in Nigeria and then in Ghana. She’s on track to graduate in December.

Nargiza greeting an elephant in Ghana.

Nargiza greeting an elephant in Ghana.

Nargiza came to my attention last fall, shortly after she had moved to Ghana (one downside of my mostly-administrative role is that I’m not as in touch with all our students as I was when I was their academic advisor). I think it may have been infrastructure issues—unreliable power and internet connections—that brought her to my attention. Always on the lookout for BLS students who lead interesting lives, I asked her if she would be interested in writing a post for our blog. Given her history, which you can read in her cover story, I expected her to write about her own experiences. Boy, did she ever turn that on its head.

The post she gave me starts out on the frustrations of being an online student in an African city with tentative infrastructure—with the nerve-wracking image of taking an online test with a glitchy internet connection and having the power go out (yet again) in the middle of it. But then, after getting the reader sucked into her frustrating circumstances, she immediately turns around and points out that in Ghana, she is the privileged one. In a country with a per-capita income of roughly $2.00 a day, where education beyond 9th grade costs real money, and where placement into professional programs is rife with corruption, she can afford tuition at an American institution that costs more than most of her neighbors will make in a year. And yet, despite all these challenges—her own and others’—the post she gave me is ultimately the inspirational story of a security guard who is paying for his siblings to go to school, and who aspires to become a nurse so he can help others.

Ibrahim and Nargiza under the mango tree where Ibrahim likes to read.

Nargiza and Ibrahim, the security guard.

I feel like our little online program is all grown up, out there on the front page of the university’s website. And I can’t think of many people to better represent us than Nargiza, wearing her UNCG colors in Tamale, Ghana, and constantly doing the little things she can do to make the world a better place.

Why I Do My Job: A Letter From a Graduate

by Jay Parr

I was recently cleaning out a pile of old papers in my office—going through each one, because anything with FERPA-protected information must be shredded—when I stumbled across this old email sent by an alumna just after she graduated in August 2011. It reminded me of why I do this job.

Dawn Humphrey (right), serving as a marshal at the May 2011 commencement.

Dawn Humphrey (right), serving as a marshal at the May 2011 commencement.

Dear Jay,

For decades I called myself a high school graduate. Today I call myself a graduate student. What a change the BLS program has made in my life!

Three years ago I made a courageous decision to complete my bachelor’s degree, although I was in what some would consider my “golden years.” I sought your advice and you recommended I complete my Associates degree. I subsequently enrolled at a community college in the fall of 2009 and graduated with an AA degree in August of 2010, earning a 4.0 GPA.

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Last August, just one short year ago, I began my studies as a BLS student at UNCG while working full time. I managed to complete all the BLS requirements within one year, graduating on August 12, 2011, and again attaining a GPA of 4.0. I completed 3 hours more than was necessary in order to qualify for Latin Honors [summa cum laude] and the potential nod of Phi Beta Kappa.

As with most adult students, I was eager to complete the degree, yet I also juggled a career and a household and struggled with finances. Fortunately, the academic community has begun recognizing the needs of the online student, with time and convenience being paramount to address a work-life balance.

While I certainly have no desire to become a poster child, future candidates are inspired when they realize their dreams are so close to becoming a reality, thus hearing my story may provide the motivation to pursue their goal. I also had the pleasure of serving as a University Marshal, indicative of the BLS students who are becoming involved in more traditional campus activities and honors.

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While my time in the BLS program was swift, my educational experience was excellent, graced by exemplary professors and a robust curriculum. Hard work and late nights, blended with lively discussion boards and insightful professors, proved rewarding beyond all my expectations.

Just one month shy of my 55th birthday, I have fulfilled my dream thanks to the wonderful BLS program at UNCG and the guidance of their attentive staff. It is my hope that other potential students will see that via the BLS program, the end of the rainbow may be closer than they think.

On a closing note, please accept my sincere thanks for your advice and encouragement through the years. Our early conversations were the catalyst that sparked the inspiration and courage to return to UNCG after a 30 year hiatus.

Many thanks,
Dawn L. Humphrey
Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies Candidate

Dawn Humphrey receiving her Master of Arts from the chancellor one year after this letter.

Dawn Humphrey receiving her Master of Arts from the chancellor one year later.

Ms. Humphrey finished her Master of Arts in the MALS program one year later—faster than any previous MALS student, and with yet another perfect 4.0—and she now serves as a teaching and research assistant for Dr. Stephen Ruzicka, one of the senior faculty in that program (also a committee member and occasional teacher in the BLS Program). She writes that the pay is negligible (she still has another career), but that “it is the delight of interacting with students that calls me back to the MALS table each semester.”

Thank you Dawn!

Claude R. Tate, Jr.

Claude Tate, an indispensable teacher in the BLS Program since its inaugural semester, passed away suddenly this past Thursday, April 25. He was in Hendersonville, where he and his wife of 35 years, Suzanne, have a mountain getaway.

Claude came to the BLS Program by way of his enrollment in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (his second master’s degree), during which he studied under Dr. Stephen Ruzicka, who has been involved in the BLS Program since its conception. Claude’s love of learning and teaching, his humanitarian spirit, and his interests in widely varied topics of learning made him a perfect fit for the BLS Program from the beginning.

Originally a native of Ossipee, NC, Claude began his college career at Rockingham Community College just out of high school. He finished his Bachelor of Arts in history at Appalachian State, before coming to UNCG for his first Master of Arts, also in history, and education coursework toward his Advanced Competencies certification. He taught history at Southwestern Randolph High School for twenty-eight years before retiring in 2008. Meanwhile, he had completed his second Master of Arts, in liberal studies, and begun teaching online for the BLS Program. A lifelong learner and teacher, Claude enjoyed the opportunity to teach students at a higher level and in more esoteric subjects. After his retirement from SRHS, he also enjoyed the fact that teaching online allowed him the mobility to teach from his home in Asheboro, his mountain getaway in Hendersonville, or wherever else his family or interests took him.

Claude had a knack for engaging students in difficult subjects and for bringing struggling students to the joy of learning. He was a consummate teacher, even in retirement from a career as a teacher.

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Dr. Ruzicka, who taught Claude in the MALS Program and introduced him to the nascent BLS Program in 2004, remembers that Claude “was always simultaneously a learner and teacher,” and that he “pursued advanced degrees both for his own sake and for what he could add to his teaching.” He observes that Claude would take on developing and teaching new courses in order to broaden his own understanding of the world. As Dr. Ruzicka puts it, Claude was “a wonderful big thinker and relentless interpreter, who always sought and found links and interconnections among seemingly disparate ideas and events. His own intellectual vitality made long dead people, unseen places, and forgotten events come alive as part of a timeless web of meaning.  He gave himself over selflessly to students for nearly 40 years.”

Claude’s wide variety of interests is reflected in the posts he wrote after being conscripted as a contributor to the BLS Program blog. He immediately jumped on the rapidly rising cost of higher education, and wrote a few other posts on such political topics as (in no particular order) the resurgence of the American Right, the problem of explosive population growth, and the insidious power of congressional redistricting. But not all his posts were about political issues. He also wrote about excellent movies, gloriously bad movies, a rare little lightnin’ bug, and perhaps most telling of the wild diversity of his interests, a post in which he outs himself as an “old space nerd” and gives us the news from the final frontier. This is neither a complete nor a chronological list, but there are some links if you want to go back and read some of his posts.

Claude is survived by his wife of 35 years, Suzanne, by his adult son Matt and daughter-in-law Ashley, and by their children Mason and Adeline. He also has a surviving half-brother, a sister-in-law, a niece and nephews, great-nieces and a great-nephew.

There will be a Celebration of Life gathering this evening from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at The Exchange in Asheboro. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested memorials be made to Friends of DuPont State Forest, PO Box 2107, Brevard, NC 28712, or to a charity of the donor’s choice.