News & Bulletins

September 2016

Online student successfully juggles natural disasters, growing family, classes

When the creeks rise, you’ve got basically one of three options: You can build walls to keep the water out; you can accommodate it by creating channels; or you can retreat.

Last fall a ribbon of tropical moisture from Hurricane Joaquin interacted with a massive, slow-moving, front, producing unprecedented rains that pummeled much of South Carolina. Sgt. Stephen Stockham with the North Carolina National Guard got the call that his fellow Guardsmen to the south needed help battling the aftermath of this moisture-laden tentacle that had swept over the Carolinas. 

The creeks were rising, and much of South Carolina’s aging infrastructure needed urgent repair. Pressure was rising for Stockham as well. His wife was nine months pregnant with their second child. Deadlines loomed in his classes at Appalachian State University, where he was in first semester majoring in communications through the school’s online Distance Education program.

Stockham didn’t retreat from the pressure. He didn’t build walls. He accommodated it. As a result, the father of now two children will graduate in a few years on a path he didn’t think was possible just a few years ago.

“Every step that I have taken thus far with the Distance Education program has been met with welcoming encouragement,” Stockham, 29, said. “In my professional life, I was stuck in my career with little light at the end of the tunnel. ASU has offered me the opportunity to dig myself out of my rut and proceed with the pursuits that interest me.”

Stockham has been serving in the National Guard for 10 years, and has experienced deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and El Salvador, where he helped reconstruct schools devastated by floods in 2011.

Stockham answered the call in October 2015 to help clear South Carolina roads and restore drainage systems to areas built on volatile, sandy marshes and tidal creeks. With his pregnant wife and 3-year-old toddler at home, as well as his undergraduate classes, on his mind, he joined his battalion in supporting relief efforts.

Thanks to the flexibility of online classes, Stockham was able to maintain his studies while serving his country. The response from the Appalachian community, he said, couldn’t have been better.

“Each instructor was more accommodating than the next when it came to completing late or missed assignments due to my military obligation,” the Morganton resident said. “It was such a relief for me and my family to know that I did not have to drop a class or take an incomplete grade for a circumstance that I had no control over.”

The mission, Stockham said, was successful with no injuries and no loss of equipment. Not only was he able to keep up with his classes, he was home in time to see the birth of his second son.

Stockham is thankful for the new opportunities afforded to him through online education.

“I will always remember how helpful the distance education program and the faculty and staff have been at Appalachian State University. I truly believe that if this program had not been introduced to a university that I had already admired, I would never have been able to earn my bachelor’s degree,” he said. “The workload is rigorous, sure, but those with the drive and dedication can easily succeed in the Distance Education program at ASU.”

- Matt Tate, Distance Education

August 2016

SECU Appalachian Partnership Scholarship first class of recipients begins teaching this fall

BOONE – As the new school year begins, there will be many new teachers in the classroom. Twenty-nine of those new teachers were part of the first graduating class for the State Employees’ Credit Union Appalachian Partnership Scholarship at Appalachian State University.

Through a generous grant from the State Employees’ Credit Union, students enrolled in Appalachian’s elementary education, middle grades education or special education degree programs are eligible for the scholarship that will cover most of the tuition during their program.

“This scholarship allowed me to pay for student teaching and finish the rest of my undergraduate degree,” said Emily Jones, an elementary education graduate.

The SECU Appalachian Partnership Scholarship is designed to assist students who are completing their bachelor’s degree at one of Appalachian’s Distance Education off-campus sites in Burke, Caldwell, Catawba and Wilkes counties. This assistance comes in the form of both financial assistance – the scholarship – and programming assistance, such as career development workshops. The ultimate goal of the scholarship and program is to produce highly prepared teachers to teach in their home counties.

Special education graduate Misty Barrett said, “It was not an easy decision to go back to school with a family and sacrifices were made on each member’s account. As I begin my career as a teacher, all the sacrifice will have paid off.”

The new graduates have secured teaching positions in the following school systems: Caldwell County, McDowell County, Lincoln County, Rutherford County, Forsyth County, Newton-Conover, Gaston County and Hickory City Schools.

For the 2015-2016 academic year, 81 students received a SECU Appalachian Partnership Scholarship for a total of $109,700.

For more information on applying to one of the Distance Education programs, email For more information on the SECU Appalachian Partnership Scholarship, contact Rebekah Saylors,, or click here to learn more. 

-Rebekah Saylors, Reich College of Education