OGDEN, Utah – The first time Jose Tirado, Jr. sets foot on the Weber State University campus will be to pick up his bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences.
Tirado, who lives in Titusville, Florida, and has never traveled further west than Dallas, completed all his coursework for his degree online.
WSU’s clinical laboratory sciences program is the only one in the nation that offers associate’s and bachelor’s degrees completely online, including lab practicums.
After earning an associate’s degree in 1987, Tirado spent 15 years in the clinical lab field, always planning to return to school to earn his bachelor’s degree.
“Life’s circumstances just didn’t allow for it,” he said.
Tirado, who is in the U.S. Army Reserves, first learned about distance learning opportunities through the army. His research led him to WSU’s program, and he decided the time was right to continue his education.
Becoming a student again took some adjustment.
“Initially I took three courses and after a couple weeks I realized I’d bit off more than I could chew,” said Tirado.
He credits WSU faculty with helping him through that first semester. He drew on that experience when planning future semesters, recognizing the need to balance school assignments with work and family demands.
The flexibility of the program allowed him to pursue his studies around his work schedule, even when he switched from day to swing shifts at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville.
“As an online student, you really are teaching yourself,” Tirado said. “It’s not like in a lecture hall where you can raise your hand and get an immediate answer.”
Tirado’s wife, Mary, who he describes as his biggest cheerleader, will accompany him to Utah for commencement. They also plan to sightsee and explore Weber State’s campus.
“I want to see the buildings and the department and meet the faculty,” he said.
Tirado has already met the department chair, Yasmen Simonian. After taking a couple of courses from her online, he recognized her name on the list of presenters at a conference in Florida and introduced himself after her speech.
Parrish Medical Center fully supported Tirado’s studies, providing proctors for his online exams and allowing use of its facilities for his laboratory assignments. He was recently promoted to lab supervisor at the facility.
Tirado has told colleagues about his experience with WSU, and at least one has since enrolled in the online program.
After graduation, Tirado plans to continue his education, pursuing a master’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences.
WSU's December commencement will be held Friday, Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. in the Dee Events Center in Ogden.