Online Student Success Stories: Part 3

Diane Woolf smiles in front of a wall of bright windows.
Category: Success Stories

By Matt Rowley
Posted on

Pursuing a degree gives us a chance to prove to ourselves and others that we have what it takes to succeed in life. Here in Part 3 of this series of online degree success stories, we provide links to some of our favorite unique and inspiring stories about Columbia Southern University alumni. If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, follow the links below:

Unique Stories

Many active-duty military members and veterans decide to attend CSU for their education, and some of them even pursue multiple degrees. For Hugh Poe, a firefighter instructor for the U.S. Air Force, he decided five degrees wasn’t enough. In 2018, he completed his sixth degree, a master’s degree in emergency management from CSU, at the age of 60.

“I am definitely going to have a resume ready to see what’s out there,” he said. “Having these options, I have the opportunity to pick and choose [my next career move]. If there is something better out there, here I come.”

Read More: Air Force Instructor to Complete Sixth College Degree at Age 60

Doug Rowland from Karns City, Pennsylvania earned a bachelor’s degree in occupational safety and health from CSU in 2010, which he then used to land a job as a chemical plant operator at Indspec. Not to be outdone, Doug’s wife Tracy then decided to attend CSU to pursue an MBA. And in 2016 at the age of 23, their daughter Amber graduated from CSU with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

“My degree has helped immensely with my career,” said Tracy. “Since I earned my master’s degree, there have been many opportunities for promotion. Also, I decided to become a certified public accountant. My courses from CSU helped me pass the business environment and concepts portion of the CPA exam and having a master’s from CSU has given me credibility with my colleagues.”

Read More: The Rowlands Make Education a Family Affair

As we detailed in Part 1, we’re proud of our fire science graduates at CSU. We’re especially proud of the work Diane Woolf is doing to spread awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2018, Woolf competed in an Ironman triathlon dressed in full turnout gear to raise awareness and funding to help firefighters cope with PTSD.

“There is no single coping mechanism for individual symptoms. The combination of symptoms, the severity and ability to understand your PTSD is different for every individual,” Woolf explained. “I believe the number one way someone can start to survive their PTSD is to recognize it and open up to someone about it. Holding it inside only makes the PTSD worse and can become very harmful.”

Read More: Ironwoman Diana Woolf Races for PTSD Awareness

Completing a degree is a reason to celebrate, especially when it comes after facing unexpected challenges. Virgin Islands native Toya Simon completed her bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in finance from CSU in 2018, one year after two Category 5 hurricanes devastated much of her homeland. Now, she is a Knight Ambassador for CSU, encouraging fellow students, providing resources, inspiring and motivating.

“My hope and dream is to live a life of purpose,” said Simon. “My greatest disappointment was in allowing my fear of failure to stymie my education; however, I overcame that by employing self-confidence.”

Read More: Toya Simon Weathers Storms, Shares Triumphant Experiences

Become a Knight

With more than 60,000 degrees conferred in our 25-year history, these stories are a small fraction of all of the impressive accomplishments for CSU Knights around the world. To learn more about how you can join this extraordinary group, visit

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