Laurie BarnesIt’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying college graduation more than Laurie Barnes. After all, she was seeing her classmates and professors in person for the very first time.

In fact, she saw the Sage campus for the first time that commencement weekend.

And, Laurie had come to love Russell Sage College.

At first, she’d only known it by reputation. While she’d been living on the East Coast, during the eighties, she’d heard Sage was a great women’s school. Later, in 2015, she would learn about its online MBA and Organization Development graduate programs.

So, many years later, from her home in Vancouver, Washington, Laurie applied through Russell Sage Online, was accepted, and became a student.

“The whole experience was flawless,” Laurie says. “From an educational perspective, I felt like I was right there. Sure, I would have loved to go to lunch with my fellow students, to have face-to-face study groups, but really, I had a real sense of camaraderie. The instructors encouraged us all to ask questions, to participate, and that’s what happened. I felt like I was there.”

Laurie, who works in mortgage lending, completed her master’s in Organization Development in two years, and found the program rigorous. “There’s a misconception that online programs cut corners,” she says. “That’s not the case. I know I got the same experience and sense of enrichment.”

She also appreciates that the Sage program includes the practical. For example, her mentor, MaryEllen Tedesco, director of MBA/Organization Management Online Programs, encouraged Laurie to share her real world business experiences in the homework and papers. “She wanted to make sure that what I was learning I was going to be able to use.”

When questioned about whether she really did make the trip clear across the country for graduation, Laurie responded: “You bet I did!”

“It was such a wonderful experience. It was one of those experiences that will stay with me forever.”

The experience of distance learning hadn’t been new to Laurie. She’d done the final two years of her undergraduate degree online, with another college.

“That experience felt so mechanical,” she says. “The teachers were not so open and giving. It just didn’t feel the same at all. It was like everyone was just trying to get through it.”

“There are those who really excel at teaching online,” she adds. “Sage has that kind of team. These are people who want to help you to learn. They really want to help you.”