Purdue Distance Learning Helps Soldiers, Agriculture

Firsthand experience from a soldier who became an agriculture student at Purdue University.

Published on: Nov 13, 2012

By Ryan Kilgore

When I got orders to Iraq in 2009, I thought my college career would have to be put on hold until I returned. I had been laid off earlier that year and enrolled at Purdue University. I figured the deployment would be a setback for earning my bachelor's degree, but it wasn't.

Purdue offers classes for several of its degree programs over the internet. These classes are typically used by students who can't get the classes they need to graduate to fit a regular schedule. They also work for soldiers that want to continue working on their degrees while away from campus.

I had taken a couple online classes for my associate's degree from Ivy Tech. When I went back to school for my bachelor's degree at Purdue University, I took advantage of them again. The online classes made it easier to travel for pre-deployment training and a hectic schedule. The semester ended before I left for deployment and that's where I thought I would return to school.

Learning Opportunity: The Kandahar Learning Center may not look like much, but it allows students to learn via the Internet.
Learning Opportunity: The Kandahar Learning Center may not look like much, but it allows students to learn via the Internet.

While I was at Fort Hood, Texas, just before going overseas, an Army education counselor told me I could take classes on the Army's dime while I was in Iraq. Lots of soldiers take advantage of this benefit because it allows them to save some of their GI Bill.

I contacted my Purdue University academic advisor and she found some classes I could use toward my degree. Because I was already a student I just had to sign up over the internet and wait for classes to start.

Once I got to my duty station at Joint Base Balad in central Iraq, I found the education center. The building wasn't pretty but it had an internet café, proctors for testing and a library of common reference materials. I finished two classes while I was deployed – it wasn't much but I made progress. 

I have taken most of my classes toward my degree in agricultural communications in the traditional classroom. Taking classes online made it possible to make progress when I would have had to stop otherwise. 

Kilgore is a senior in Purdue University Ag Communications