For much of Oliver Windle’s time as a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University, his classroom was a hotel room.
The Oviedo resident, whose job as a director of regional development kept him on the road as many as three to five days a week, spent his evenings earning his bachelor's degree in organizational management online from Palm Beach Atlantic University.
This spring, he became the first totally online graduate of PBA’s Catherine T. MacArthur School of Leadership. In addition, he was named the school’s Outstanding Graduate.
Windle, who is married and a father of two, said the honor “added a great big exclamation mark” to the commencement ceremony. "It felt outstanding," he said. "I knew that I had accomplished my goals, but it was nice to have someone else recognize the effort that I put forth. It validated a lot of hard work and long hours for me."
Hard work and long hours are nothing new to Windle, who previously served six years in the U.S. Marines as a helicopter crew chief.
Being an extremely organized person was also helped him continue his studies while also fulfilling work and family obligations, he said.
"It becomes a habit and part of your routine to login and go through the daily ritual of discussions and interactions, as well as assignment completions and paper submissions," he said.
Windle said his instructors were effective in making him feel included in online class discussions by spurring on conversation and challenging students’ positions with alternate ideas.
"Overall, the discussion forums were extremely beneficial and I feel help make the online experience a bit more 'real world' with a team-building sort of feel to it," he said.
One of Windle’s online professors was Thomas Miller, assistant professor of business. Miller said that a class such as American free enterprise lends itself to a great deal of discussion and interaction among students, both in the classroom and online.
"Ollie was one of those students who jumped right in and helped to build that momentum and enthusiasm," he said.
Another of his professors, Pam Sigafoose, described Windle as being proactive during her group and organizational behavior class.
"I remember him being the first to get the conversation going," said Sigafoose, assistant professor of education. "He was a very engaged student in everything he did."
Windle’s future goals are to enter the field of government program management and eventually teach full time, he said.