OSU-OKC fire protection student finishing degree remotely -- in Antarctica
OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s not unusual for adult students to earn a degree remotely while working full time, but most live closer to campus than Travis Crutsinger.
Crutsinger was close to finishing his associate in applied science degree in fire protection from Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City when he accepted a temporary firefighting job 9,000 miles away.
“Due to the way we have redesigned the program delivery, he will be completing his degree online from Antarctica,” said Joe Bennett, fire protection program director.
Students must take the first three introductory courses on campus but have the option of taking the remaining classes online in four-week blocks.
That has made the program accessible to people well beyond the local community, Bennett said. It also allows students to work for a fire department – which they can do after they finish the first semester – and continue their courses online.
Crutsinger, 26, of Guthrie, was working as a mechanic when a friend and the fire chief of a rural volunteer fire department convinced him to come on board.
“The spark was not lit right away,” he said. “I never believed how much a volunteer fire department did until my first fire. In that moment my eyes were opened.”
Veteran firefighters “took me in and were teaching me while on the fire. At the end I was doing all the same things as them,” Crutsinger said. “I decided right then and there this is what I was meant to do.”
That was six years ago. Since then, he has worked as a firefighter at Will Rogers World Airport and a firefighter driver at Tulsa International Airport, where he was employed when he learned about the Antarctica opportunity.
Crutsinger decided to go to Antarctica and work for the fire department on McMurdo Station for the experience. “I thought coming here would be unbelievable and it has not disappointed me at all,” he said.
Closer to home, Bennett said there always are firefighting positions available in the metro area as well as regionally.
Students in the fire protection program range from 16-year-olds taking concurrent courses while completing high school to military veterans, out-of-work oil field workers and K-12 teachers looking for something new, Bennett said.
He said 96% of firefighters nationally are male, but that is changing rapidly. About 20% of students in the OSU-OKC program are now female.
“It’s quite a diverse group we get,” he said.
Go to https://osuokc.edu/FireProtection for more information about the program.