Dec 17th, 2003 @ 8:55 am | Author:
BISMARCK, N.D. " In an innovative effort to reach out to North Dakota’s "student-soldiers," Sgt. Joan Aus, HHC 141st Engineer Combat Battalion, also an adjunct professor at Valley City State University in Valley City, N.D., plans to teach college courses to North Dakota University System students stationed at the same military base camp in Iraq.

Aus and seven VCSU students are among the 475 members of the North Dakota Army National Guard’s 141st Battalion who will begin active duty Dec. 18, 2003, and arrive in Iraq sometime in early 2004. The class offerings also will be extended to members of the 141st who are students at North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota and will be available to other student-soldiers upon request.

"We are so pleased Valley City State University and the North Dakota Army National Guard have worked out an arrangement that will allow Professor Aus to connect with North Dakota’s student-soldiers while on active duty," said Dr. Richard Kunkel, president of the State Board of Higher Education. "The National Guard and the University System have always had a strong working relationship, but this partnership allows us to take distance learning to a whole new level."

"Joan puts the mission first, whether she’s serving the university or our country," said Dr. Ellen Earle Chaffee, president of Valley City State University. "Although her focus and duties will be with the military, we are grateful she and her superiors have agreed that she may do some teaching. She’s the best " just absolutely the best " in every way. We pray for her safe return and that of all 21 current and former VCSU students now or soon to be on active duty in the National Guard."

Aus is quick to credit VCSU for development of this unique educational outreach, which likely will include a small number of sophomore and junior-level, general education English classes.

"VCSU is so student-centered that the campus is willing to build a program of study around these student-soldiers," Aus said. "Continuing with a few college courses will help guardsmen maintain a semblance of normalcy, a sense of who they are in their private lives."

As a diesel mechanic combat engineer, Aus understands the importance of her "mission first" responsibilities. At age 42, she is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War who is proud to serve her country again. This time, however, she said it will be more difficult to leave because she will have two children, ages 5 and 12, and her husband waiting for her return.

Aus’ primary role at VCSU is as coordinator of the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program. She also teaches four or five classes per semester in educational methods and cultural diversity.