May 16, 2003 —
A Distant Commencement at USC Engineering
Distance Learning Student Makes First Visit to Campus to
Receive a Diploma
On Friday May 16, David Rocheleau will do something he has never done in his
three years as a graduate student in the University of Southern California School
of Engineering. He will set foot on the USC campus.
Rocheleau, an employee of the Boeing Company, will be flying in to Los Angeles
from his home in Mesa, AZ to put on the traditional mortarboard and gown and walk
in commencement ceremonies at USC's University Park C campus to receive a Masters
Degree in System Architecture and Engineering.
"I'm coming because my family is coming out and wants to see me get my degree,"
said the 27-year-old father of two.
Rocheleau did all the work for the degree back home in Mesa, attending lectures
placed on the World Wide Web via a computer browser, turning in homework by e-mail,
conferring with fellow students via chatrooms and phone, and sitting for proctored
examinations at his Arizona workplace.
He is one of more than 100 USC engineering students who will receive advanced
degree programs Friday for studies pursued through the School's Distance Education
Network (DEN), one of the most successful programs of its kind in the nation.
Under Dean C.L. Max Nikias, USC Engineering has been expanding DEN. Now, more
than 800 students, most of them employees of well-known companies including, Aerojet,
Aerospace Corp., Ericsson, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Intel, JPL, Lockheed Martin,
Motorola, NASA, Northrop Grumman (including the former TRW corporation), Qualcomm,
Raytheon, SAIC and United Technologies Corp, in addition to Boeing, are studying
for advanced degrees.
"Students can learn at a top-10 Engineering School, while continuing their careers,"
said Nikias. "It's good for the students, and good for their employers, who can
improve the skills of their work force."
Last May, 99 students earned USC Masters Degrees via DEN. The exact number this
year will not be known until Friday, but more than 100 degrees are set to be awarded
- mostly to students who will only watch the ceremony via the Internet, the same
way they took their classes.
As of the semester that just concluded, DEN offered 14 master’s degree programs
in engineering, with more than 75 classes available via the Internet. In fall,
the School will add six more, including a program in computer security, one of
the first of its kind in the nation. The School will also open the Internet classes
to on-campus graduate students.
"We're going to offer free access to all the DEN classes to our on-campus graduate
students," said Nikias. "Students have been asking for this access. It is a great
way for them to review lectures."
DEN Executive Director Kelly Goulis emphasizes that DEN degrees have the full
faith and credit of USC Engineering, ranked number eight in the nation in the
most recent US News & World Report rankings.
"All DEN students must meet the same requirements as on-campus students. They
must complete the same class assignments in the same time period. They must pass
proctored examinations administered in their cities simultaneously with exams
Goulis said the success of the program has been due to a number of factors, including
USC's heavy investment in both technology and personnel. Apart from faculty, DEN
has 20 employees dedicated to all aspects of the process, from technical staff
who ensure classes are on the web on time, to counselors who work with students
on their educational programs and if necessary act as their representatives with
USC administration and financial aid.
"We have made DEN a priority," said Nikias, "and we believe it is now working
for USC, for our students like David, and for employers like Boeing."
What does Rocheleau think? "It was excellent. Between my responsibilities on
the job, my business travel and my family, it was the only way I could have done
His main worry now? "I've never been on campus. I'm afraid I'm going to get lost."
* * *
Editor’s Note: The ceremony for USC School of Engineering Master’s and Doctoral
degree candidates takes place in Archimedes Plaza beginning at 2:30 p.m. and running
until approximately 4 p.m.