FHSU grad 'walks' in American Samoa

Mariana Faiai, Pago Pago, American Samoa, graduate, wants to walk across the stage at Fort Hays State University's commencement in May just like any other student. The only problem is, FHSU is almost 6,000 miles away.

Faiai will graduate with a Master of Liberal Studies in social sciences. She previously graduated from FHSU with a bachelor's in justice studies.

"I heard of FHSU through the dean of student services when I was getting my associate's at American Samoa Community College," Faiai said. "Her son was a virtual student as well."

There aren't any options for a four-year degree in American Samoa, so many residents are eager to complete degrees that they can do over the Internet.

"It was really hard to do when we only had dial-up Internet access here," she said. "The faculty was always great and willing to work with me, though."

The only problem Faiai had was that she wanted to be part of a commencement ceremony that her whole family could attend.

"My family wants to see me graduate, and it is too expensive to fly everyone to Kansas," she said.

Her problem was solved when she contacted ASCC about receiving her FHSU degree at the ASCC commencement.

"ASCC wants to help people who have graduated from there, so they were happy to let me walk," she said.

All that remained was to get everything ironed out with FHSU. President Edward H. Hammond and Dr. Larry Gould, provost, gave the green light, and Faiai was ready to get her cap and gown.

"Ideally, we want people to come to the campus for commencement," said Dr. Joey Linn, FHSU registrar. "But if there is no other option and it works for the local school, we want to help the student out."

A trip to Kansas isn't entirely out of the question for Faiai, however. "I still want to see the campus some day," she said.

Nor is her education over.

"I want to advance my career, so I am looking for a Ph.D. program. I want to go all the way," she said. "I just wish FHSU had a doctorate program so I wouldn't have to look any further because I've had such a great experience."

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