"Knowing I have organizations willing to help makes me work even harder to find time to study and excel academically."

Paul Ditiangkin is a graduate student in materials science through the Stanford Honors Cooperative Program (HCP). This program permits qualified engineers, scientists, and technology professionals to seek graduate degrees on a part-time basis, while working full-time. Courses are offered by the School of Engineering and made available online through the Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD). For Ditiangkin, a materials and process engineer at Space Systems/Loral, the HCP program was the natural next step in furthering his education. "HCP allows me to be able to travel for work and still keep pace with class," he says. "I can watch lectures online and interact with the professor via the web."

A former nuclear engineer officer in the U.S. Navy, Ditiangkin receives tuition assistance through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Stanford's Yellow Ribbon Program. The GI Bill pays for tuition (up to $19,198 per year for private schools) and provides for basic living allowances. Stanford's Yellow Ribbon Program provides up to $6,000 in tuition support after GI funds have been exhausted. Ditiangkin suggests that veterans have a lot to offer because they bring real-world experience to the classroom. "A military veteran will bring maturity and a get-it-done mentality," he says. In particular, graduates of the Navy's Nuclear Power Program (a one year intensive graduate work program in nuclear engineering that he completed) will excel in programs offered through SCPD, says Ditiangkin. He thinks that more veterans might apply if they knew part-time programs like those offered at Stanford were available.

Many SCPD courses use an online tool called Coursework5. Assignments are posted on the web, and students interact online to work on projects. Faculty and teaching assistants are accessible after regular work hours to support SCPD students. "Being able to complete courses online has been great," says Ditiangkin. There are a lot of resources to support SCPD students, he says, and the wide variety and number of courses provides plenty of choice. Faculty enjoy teaching and learning from industry students, and real-world examples shared in class enrich learning. For example, in the mechanical behavior and fracture mechanics classes students learn how materials fail, especially when they are thermal cycled during operation. Ditiangkin shared with his class how materials in space go through thousands of thermal cycles during the course of their lifetime which can result in stresses that fatigue materials. And in his batteries class he shared his experience preventing Li-ion batteries from being over charged. His most memorable class so far has been Bicycle Design and Frame Building (ME204) because he learned to design and build a bicycle that "not only looks like a piece of art but also rides pretty well," he says.

Ditiangkin encourages prospective students to read about the different programs offered at Stanford to see which meet their needs the best. He also suggests they talk to their employer and their family to figure out the logistics of taking classes while working. "No matter your age or stage in your career, there is a program for you at Stanford," he says. "The quality of education, students and resources are truly top-notch."