Posted by cservaes on September 19, 2011 in Alumni, Online In the spring of 2010, Cindy Folz and Anne Hayes were just two strangers separated by more than 2,000 miles. Folz worked as a supervisor in respiratory therapy in Evansville, Indiana. Hayes had just completed a paralegal studies course and was living in California. But a course through Ottawa University’s online program brought their worlds together. “OU was the perfect fit,” says Folz. “Of course, the absolute best part of the entire time was getting to know Anne.” Folz was 39 when she began her coursework in health care management. Anne was 46. But the two say neither age nor location could keep them apart. “Cindy and I exchanged many posts and replies in our first class together,” says Hayes. “I enjoyed reading her posts, so I always replied to her.” For the next 10 months, the two would work together to form a unique friendship, discussing class assignments, keeping each other on track and sharing personal stories. “I always found what she had to say intriguing and extremely thoughtful,” says Folz. “I learned a lot from her — not just about the classes but about life itself and not taking it for granted.” During their last course together, the two decided to exchange e-mail addresses, taking their “e-friendship” — as they call it — to a whole new level. “We began to contact each other through OU e-mail since the final class didn’t have discussion questions each week like we were used to,” says Folz. “Then, we decided we enjoyed talking and didn’t want the friendship to end, so we exchanged personal e-mail addresses.” Conversation eventually turned to graduation when the two received their commencement invitations. Hayes decided to attend the ceremony at the Ottawa campus, bringing along her mother. “While setting up our trip, I started reading more about OU’s rich history, and seeing pictures of the beautiful campus made me more excited to actually attend commencement ceremonies,” says Hayes. But she knew commencement wouldn’t be the same without her e-mate. “Since Anne’s mother was joining her, I asked my mother if she would like to go with me and have a mother-daughter weekend,” says Folz. “With it being Mother’s Day weekend, it was appropriate.” Folz and her mother drove from Indiana to Kansas – more than seven hours – while Hayes and her mother boarded a train in downtown Los Angeles bound for Kansas. “When I had a signal, I would get on GPS to find out where we were and how close we were getting to our destination in Lawrence,” says Hayes. When the duo met in Lawrence, they simply picked up where they left off online. “When we finally met face to face, it seemed like we already knew each other,” says Hayes. “Her mother, who I called ‘e-mom,’ was so much like my mother and we all got along fantastic.” The next day was graduation and Hayes admits she was a bit nervous.“Thankfully, my e-mate was there,” says Hayes. The two sat through graduation, accepted their diplomas and celebrated together. “I was very excited and proud that I finally earned my degree,” says Hayes. “Even though it was a long road, that moment made it all worth it, especially being there in person.” “Anne’s and my journey has been so much fun,” says Folz. “To think that we became amazing friends online like we did is uncanny.” Now, a day doesn’t go by that the two don’t communicate in some fashion. The two contend that taking courses online through OU was surprisingly personal. Whether they were interacting with professors or classmates, Folz says she felt like a traditional college student because of the format of the online courses. “My OU experience was great,” says Folz. “This was honestly the best educational experience I have had.”