Colorado State University-Pueblo Continuing Education student Nancy Farrell carries a book wherever she goes, which at the moment includes her office at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.
A work order supervisor for the Facilities Engineering, Maintenance & Construction (FEMC)
United States Antarctic Program, Farrell is taking an Independent Study (correspondence) Program course through Continuing Education while maintaining an equipment maintenance database for South Pole (800 miles South of McMurdo), McMurdo, and Palmer Stations. This is the 13th season she has been deployed to Antarctica from October through February. When not deployed, she works in Centennial at Raytheon Polar Services Company.
Each year, the Division of Continuing Education enrolls more than 1500 students from all over the world in 110 academic correspondence courses. Of those, about 350 of these students are enrolled in the Continuing Education Division's External Degree Completion Program, in which they can earn a bachelor's degree in Sociology, Sociology with a criminology emphasis or Social Science. Other students are taking courses for personal development, to help earn a promotion, or to transfer coursework to degree programs at other institutions. About 500 students are connected with the military as either service members or spouses. More than 100 of these students were able to serve their country and continue working on their bachelor’s degree by taking correspondence courses while deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, England, and Germany.
Because of the convenience of correspondence course offerings, Farrell realized there was no reason for her to stop taking classes while deployed to Antarctica. She has taken courses via email, fax or internet from various universities, and in this case, selected her class, registered, bought books, and received the syllabus for ENG355 (Women Mystery Writers) via email before her deployment.
Farrell said CSU-Pueblo Professor Margaret Senatore corresponds every few days so she never lacks for feedback. She has about five classes remaining to complete a bachelor’s degree in business administration with University of Colorado-Denver, but has been drawn to women's studies courses, and already is considering a graduate degree.
A typical day for Farrell begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends from 5:30-7 p.m., when she starts her homework. She shares a room with one roommate and a bathroom/shower with two additional staff members. While Extreme Cold Weather gear (ECW) of a down coat, bunny boots, and gloves/hats/sunglasses are provided by the company, but she surprisingly spends most of her days in hiking boots, pants, t-shirt and a fleece jacket since she works indoors.
Fresh fruit is sparse as is her studying time so she takes a book with her everywhere she goes and grabs every possible opportunity to read. With a required work week of 6 days a week, 9 hour days, she spends most of her Sunday off studying.
While deployment to such a desolate locale may sound solitary, more than 1100 persons can be on site during the austral summer. Social opportunities abound from dance or yoga classes, hiking, skiing, lectures, social events, knitting gatherings, as well as gym and bowling facilities.
“Regardless of my educational goals, I will always be interested in learning something new and long distance opportunities seem to offer a broad range of topics and requirements,” Farrell said.