Utah State University student Angie Thompson admits she has a tough balancing act.

An accounting major who will likely graduate in 2013, Thompson is a young single mother of three who recently moved to Logan after taking classes at the USU campus in Delta.

Despite a few personal setbacks along the way, she has almost received credits for a degree that has taken nearly 10 years to earn.

“It is very time consuming. The way I figure it is that I have two priorities: My kids and school,” Thompson said Wednesday before speaking at the “virtual ribbon cutting” for the new cutting-edge Distance Education Building at the USU Logan campus. “I have to juggle back and forth (with) what’s more important. Sometimes my sister will watch the kids for a couple of days straight if there are final (exams), so I won’t see them. But even though it’s a challenge, that’s my motivator.”

Thompson said she is not currently taking classes in the new building, but she sang praises for it during the ribbon cutting, which included USU President Stan Albrecht and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

Herbert made several stops in Cache Valley on Wednesday, including a presidential debate watching party at the Cache County Courthouse.

The Distance Education Building, located on 700 North, will serve as a “nerve center,” USU officials said, for USU’s distance education program, connecting USU’s 26 campuses and education centers and 12,000 students statewide. The building will help deliver more than 700 broadcast and online courses while offering our students the choice of 48 different degrees.

To exemplify the building’s reach across the state, the governor and administrators closed out the event by individually touching nine panels on a wall in the lobby. Each panel represented one of the USU campus locations across the state, including Salt Lake City and Moab. USU currently has 28 locations across the state, including Logan, according the website.

The 40,000-square-foot Distance Education Building, with its ultra-modern exterior and interior, is filled with 80-inch touch-screen monitors and the latest smart-classroom technology.

All of the technology in the four-floor facility makes the Distance Education Building a unique educational facility, said Ronda Menlove, senior vice provost for regional campuses and distance education and a Utah lawmaker. The building will be open 24 hours a day seven days a week.

“This building is a true gem,” Menlove said in remarks at the dedication. “Can you imagine the electricity that flows out of this building at night? I’m told it glows.”

It houses eight distance education classrooms, the Utah Education Network — a service that provides classroom technology to Utah’s higher-education institutions and public schools — USU’s faculty assistance center for teaching, and technology beta rooms to experiment with new distance education technology.

In addition, the building follows Leadership in Energy and Environment (LEED) guidelines and was built using university funding along with donations from corporate partners that include Cisco, Cache Valley Electric, Steelcase and izzy+. These corporate partners helped “sponsor” the classrooms, said Vice Provost Robert Wagner, because its technology or furniture is featured throughout the building.

Albrecht said the Distance Education Building helps the school serve its land-grant mission of providing education across all parts of the state.

Herbert said it will help meet the state’s goal of having more than half of the adult population hold a post-secondary degree by 2020 — an initiative supported by USU and the other higher education institutions in Utah.

“Today we’re all Aggies,” Herbert said in his remarks. “USU is going to play a vital part in our goal (of 66 percent) and raising the bar of achievement. (This building) exemplifies the things we’re trying to do to think outside of the box. ... I encourage our students to take advantage of this new opportunity and be a part of the 66 percent by 2020.”

On Wednesday, Thompson said she chose accounting as her major because she wanted to finally earn a higher education degree but didn’t know if she would have the resources to move to Logan. Accounting was a program that she could have completed entirely at the USU-Delta campus.

“The distance education program at Utah State is what really helped propel my education; it all started there,” she said.

Thompson admitted there were drawbacks to distance education: Being away from the instructor and students in many of her accounting classes at Delta, she said it was hard to get help after class, so most of it was done by phone or email.

“I did a lot of studying on my own because of that communication barrier,” Thompson said. “I’m enjoying being on campus a lot; it definitely takes the challenging part away.”

Thompson said she’s doing much better academically as a single mother than she did when she did not have children — and the hard work is paying off. She scored the highest on the entrance exam to the major while she was taking classes at USU-Delta, and now that she’s a senior in Logan, she has secured interviews with several accounting firms in the Salt Lake City area.

“Both experiences (in Logan and Delta) have made me who I am today,” Thompson said. “I would definitely recommend it. You can get a real quality education either way.”

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kopsahl@hjnews.com

Twitter: @KevJourno

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