14:28 PM

Online-Only UHD Student One of Campus' Most Involved Leaders

Some college students complete entire bachelor's degrees online with no knowledge of the campus - and other online-only students lead campus organizations and work hand-in-hand with the provost's office to enhance campus life.

Tarah Taylor, a senior marketing major at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD), dispels the myth that non-traditional students can't enjoy the interpersonal opportunities of traditional undergraduates.

As the mother of a four-year-old daughter, Taylor needed the flexibility and convenience of online courses, but refused to forfeit the personal connections gained in face-to-face instruction.

"If I hadn't found UHD's online marketing degree, I probably wouldn't be pursuing my degree at all," said the 26-year-old working mom. "Earning an online degree is the only option that works for me, but that doesn't mean that I can't participate in campus organizations, network with others and hone my leadership skills in the process."

Taylor is a member of the Student Government Association (SGA), UHD's American Marketing Association (AMA) collegiate chapter and the Pre-Law Student Association, and also serves as president of the Black Student Association.

"In addition to joining these organizations, it was very important for me to really connect with the University in a traditional way," said Taylor. "UHD has given me the opportunity to really get to know my professors, even though I take their classes online."

She is committed to sharing the "Major Opportunity" she found at UHD with others who also can benefit from a quality, affordable, online education. At an SGA meeting last Friday, she proposed a constitutional amendment to add new senate seats for online, distance education and graduate student ambassadors. "My mission is to encourage other Houstonians like me to get their degrees, but also to ensure they are connected with a student leader who can ease their transition to university life."

Taylor is working with Ed Hugetz, head of Academic Affairs at UHD, on plans to establish an orientation for the more than 1,200 students pursuing their degrees entirely online this semester.

Taylor's leadership also extends off-campus through her political volunteerism and community engagement efforts. Last January, she and six other UHD students traveled to Washington, D.C. to film a documentary encouraging young adults to engage in the political process after witnessing President Barack Obama take the oath of office. She also competed in an international AMA competition this summer as a part of a UHD marketing team, which earned second place for the University.

In addition to taking online summer classes, Taylor completed an internship at City Hall this week, just in time to begin her senior year.

"My message for those considering college is, 'Don't give up and it's never too late!'" said Taylor. "There is no reason why you can't get your bachelor's or master's degree online. While you may not attend actual classes, you don't have to be invisible at the University. At UHD, I'm not just a number, I'm Tarah Taylor and I'm a fully invested student leader."

Online-only student Tarah Taylor (left) greets fellow Gators at Welcome Week.