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Student travels more than 1,100 miles to attend commencement: distance education student journeys from Florida to Missouri to claim her degree.

West Plains, Mo. -- Education means a great deal to Yanique Bradford. That's one of the reasons she traveled more than 1,100 miles from her home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to receive her associate of applied science in enology degree from Missouri State University-West Plains.

Bradford, a native of Nashville, Tenn., has been self-employed as a sommelier (a wine steward) and wine consultant at Red & White Vines, in Fort Lauderdale for the past four years. She received her sommelier certification in Umbria, Italy, with the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers in December 2009.

But she wanted to know more about her career area, so she began searching the Internet for online degree programs and found the Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA) website. VESTA is a National Science Foundation-funded partnership between the Missouri State University system--including Missouri State-West Plains--and other colleges, universities, vineyards and wineries across the U.S. that provides a grape and wine education program. It combines the flexibility of online instruction, instructor-guided education from industry professionals, and crucial hands-on experience under the guidance of an experienced mentor at a vineyard or winery close to where each student lives.

"After learning more about the VESTA program, I decided to enroll," Bradford said. "Before applying and during my enrollment process, Michelle Norgren (VESTA director), Carrie Crews (past VESTA coordinator for Missouri) and Emily Grey (VESTA student support) were very helpful by answering quite a few questions for me. Since they were directly affiliated with Missouri State University, I chose Missouri State-West Plains as my parent school."

Yanique found VESTA to be a very distinctive program.

"Because the program spans across a number of colleges and universities from the east coast to the west coast, it provides an uncanny opportunity to meet and network with members of the wine and higher learning communities that one would not quite have attending classes at a single institution," she said. "The workshops and practicums were a very necessary and welcomed part of the learning process for me."

At first, she found the online nature of the program challenging.

"I did miss the dialogue and conversation that takes place in a live classroom setting, but I welcomed the flexibility of having my online learning environment just a click away, as well as quick e-mail access to my professors," she said. "At the time I enrolled and throughout my duration, the online program was the best fit for my family and me.

Her family's support throughout the program was another of the reasons she participated in the May 17 commencement ceremony.

"I think that every educational accomplishment should be recognized and celebrated, so it was very important for me to be present for the commencement ceremony and hear my name and my degree announced," she said, "ft was equally as important for me to share that moment with my family and for them to see me in full regalia accepting my degree, for they also have been very instrumental throughout this process."

Bradford believes the education she received through the program will help her in every aspect of her business and career.

"While I am a scientist at heart, I also maintain a passion for educating people about wine," she said. "Now, I feel I am able to mesh the science of winemaking with the art of tasting to help people in the industry and consumers gain a better understanding of wine."

Bradford is continuing her studies through the VESTA program and is currently studying to complete Missouri State-West Plains' associate of applied science in viticulture degree.

"I do feel my enology degree has better prepared me for my future endeavors, but even after completing the remainder of my studies and earning my viticulture degree, I will still feel I have so much more to learn," she said. "But having earned my degree and having the knowledge that comes along with it will help me to have a better standing in the wine industry and will, hopefully, make career opportunities more available to me."

Yanique is now an enthusiastic support of the VESTA program or her experience at Missouri State-West Plains. "I highly recommend VESTA for prospective students who are interested in a formal higher education about enology or viticulture. I highly recommend Missouri State University-West Plains as a parent school. The administration and staff were always so helpful and accommodating, working with me as an out-of-state student. As for commencement, I would not have missed it!"

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Author:Driskell, Vickie
Publication:Community College Week
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Jul 21, 2014
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