Extra credit: Faculty and staff can take classes for free

Debbie Dismon, an office associate for Parking and Transportation Services, prepares a quarter horse named “Little Bit” for riding on Monday afternoon. Dismon took Basic Horse Equitation in fall 2009 as part of a program that lets WKU employees take classes for free.

Natalie West

Sometimes the person teaching class isn’t the only professor in the room.

At WKU, faculty and staff are eligible to take up to six hours of free credit each fall and spring semester and a combined six hours during the summer and winter terms, for a total of 18 hours a year, said Tony Glisson, director of Human Resources.

Glisson said this policy is applicable at any participating public Kentucky university and about $554,000 in tuition was waived for WKU employees last fall.

WKU employees are taking advantage of this tuition waiver policy either to earn degrees or just for fun. 

Debbie Dismon, an office associate for Parking and Transportation Services, said she took advantage of the policy when she enrolled in an equestrian class in the fall of 2009.

She said she found out about the class through a mass e-mail and took it simply because she found it interesting. 

Dismon – who said she has been riding horses for 29 years, showing them for 15 years and is now giving riding lessons – said she knew this class would be something she would enjoy.

She was able to break away from thinking about cars to thinking about horses for two hours each week.

“This policy is nice because it gives us a break,” Dismon said. “And it gives us a different world, different perspective.”

Dismon said she thought it was neat seeing things through a college student’s eyes again. And, even though she was the only staff member in the class, she said she made some friends she still keeps in touch with.

“No one knew I was part of the faculty until I fessed up,” Dismon said.

Though Dismon took a class to learn more about a favorite hobby, other employees take advantage of the tuition waiver to further their education.

Stephanie Hammons, an office associate for the Honors College, said she is taking two classes this semester.

Hammons, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting, has already used 18 hours of free credit and plans to obtain her whole degree for free.

She is taking economics and algebra classes this semester.

Hammons said she was worried about the relationship with her peers.

Unlike undercover Dismon, Hammons said she feels like the sore thumb in the class, though other students have never treated her differently.

History instructor David Serafini said Hammons was in his winter term class.

Serafini, who has had the experience of taking classes as a faculty member, said he doesn’t treat WKU employees any differently than other students.

“When I have taken classes, I’m no longer Mr. Serafini – I’m David,” he said.

As staff members turned students, Dismon and Hammons said they have appreciated the opportunity to earn free credit.

“I loved it,” Dismon said. “I thought I knew everything, but I really learned a lot.”