When enrolling in an online program that draws students from all over the globe, neither Ann Keaton nor Cathy Chickerell expected d to have class with someone living just a mile away.

Keaton and Chickerell of Morgantown, W.Va., joined the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism’s IMC online program in 2008 as strangers. But over time they’ve become close friends.

When Keaton enrolled in IMC 610, an introductory course, she was curious about her classmates. She looked at many of their profiles and photos on the IMC website. Keaton quickly discovered that Chickerell lived close by and noticed that they had children around the same age.About a month after their inaugural class began, Keaton went to her son’s fifth-grade class Valentine’s Day party. She sat at her son’s table and talked to him and a girl sitting beside him. Keaton thought the girl’s mother looked like a photo of one of her IMC classmates.

“I thought to myself that I must be crazy, that would be way too coincidental,” said Keaton.

She mingled around the classroom before seeing the girl’s mother leave. Keaton asked the girl if her mother’s name was Cathy and she said yes.

“I literally ran down the hall to catch Cathy,” Keaton said. “We laughed at what a small world it is and immediately became friends.”

Chickerell said of the experience, “It was in that moment, unbeknownst to me, that I had made a friend that would change the way I completed the program.”

Keaton and Chickerell have supported each other academically, professionally and personally throughout their time in the IMC program. They shared the deaths of both of their mothers from cancer and supported each other through family members’ surgery.

They also helped each other through the rigorous academic program.

“My husband was a huge support during this journey, but Ann understood directly how I felt and she helped me overcome my gray moments,” said Chickerell. “It was nice to bounce ideas off her and she provided me with some really good feedback. Did it make anything easier? Well, there is nothing easy about the IMC program, but having someone that understood my stress helped.”

Keaton and Chickerell decided to take their final two classes together, and on May 15, they walked across the stage together at the P.I. Reed School of Journalism’s commencement ceremony. The women consider each other close friends (and their kids are still friends too).

“We have taken different classes during the IMC program and even each sat out different terms to take care of family issues,” said Keaton. “However, we kept in contact with one another and still offered moral support. Now, we routinely carpool our kids to track meets and band performances. We even watch the parades together in front of Cathy’s office.”

“Our friendship has grown with the program, through the coursework and with our roles as mothers,” said Chickerell. “At the end of our IMC journey, I have to say ‘Ann, thank you,’ and ‘a circle is round, it has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend!”



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CONTACT: Briana Warner, IMC