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TECHNOLOGY BRINGS TOGETHER NAVY PERSONNEL FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY IN FIRST VIRTUAL COMMENCEMENT

How do you put a cap and gown on a television monitor? That will be the question when the first Navy nuclear officer graduates of Old Dominion University's unique Master's of Engineering Management (MEM) degree program take part - some in person on the Norfolk campus and several via broadcast from around the country - in the program's inaugural "virtual commencement" ceremony Sunday, Dec. 15.

Connecting the university's "TELETECHNET" and the Navy's "USN-USMC VTT" distance learning networks with two-way audio and video broadcast via satellite, Old Dominion President Roseann Runte will confer degrees upon 10 Navy officers present in the university's television studio and 14 other officers located from San Diego and Kings Bay, Ga., to Bangor, Wash., Newport, R.I., and points in between like Phoenix, Ariz., Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Greensboro, N.C. A Navy aircraft carrier at sea is also expected to be linked to the event. The remote graduates will be present via in-studio television monitors and able to fully participate in the entire ceremony by being seen and heard by campus attendees, with whom they can interact. The virtual graduation will be the first of its kind within Navy education.

"The MEM program for Navy officers was designed so that personnel could earn degrees at any time in any place," said Runte. "Likewise, our graduation for this program enables naval officers, their families and colleagues, to take part, wherever they may be, in this most significant occasion in their lives."

Beginning at 11 a.m., the ceremony will be held in the state-of-the-art television studio in Old Dominion's Gornto TELETECHNET Center. It will feature university administration and faculty in full academic regalia and videotaped remarks will be given by Adm. Frank L. Bowman, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. Vice Adm. John J. Grossenbacher, Commander, Naval Submarine Forces, will give remarks from the Old Dominion campus, and Vice Adm. Alfred G. Harms, Jr., Chief of Naval Education & Training, will offer remarks via satellite from his Pensacola headquarters.

The MEM program offers courses via CD-ROM, a critical component of the initiative, since a large number of Navy nuclear-qualified officers are stationed on submarines that cannot receive Old Dominion's standard distance learning broadcast signal while submerged. The Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE), subsidizes tuition for the nearly 600 Sailors participating aboard seagoing units, primarily nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers.
Students watch the pre-recorded CD-ROM instruction from the university's engineering faculty using personal computers onboard Navy vessels or ashore, interacting with professors via e-mail where possible.

Coupled with Old Dominion's program granting 12 credits toward master 's degree programs in the university's College of Engineering and Technology to graduates of the Navy's Officer Nuclear Propulsion Training Pipeline, the CD-ROM program allows officers to complete a graduate degree from the top-rated engineering management department in the country in about a year and a half.

In addition to the military sites taking part in the virtual commencement, sites outside the Navy television network at the University of Idaho, Virginia Tech, Lucent Labs and the Phoenix National Guard Armory are offering their video conferencing abilities, allowing Navy students on travel to new duty stations to participate in the special Commencement.

"This partnership opens the door to exciting advanced education opportunities for Navy personnel," said Bowman. "This is especially so for our nuclear-trained officers with Old Dominion University's formal academic recognition of the rigorous, technical training associated with Navy nuclear propulsion. Now our officers can earn a top-quality engineering master's degree anytime, anywhere, above or below the sea."

This article was posted on: December 4, 2002

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