VINCENNES, Ind. - High school graduation was mere months away
and online learning was not at all on the college radar of Mason Ellis.
His original college plan had him commuting between his home in
Bloomfield and Vincennes University. He chose VU intentionally because
it offered both an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree in
information technology, and tuition was low.
Ellis was a 17-year-old high school student when a car accident
changed his life in January 2015. He became a person living with
quadriplegia when he sustained a spinal cord injury and suffered other
injuries which kept him in the hospital for 59 days.
Determined to not let his injuries keep him from graduating
with his high school class or pursuing a college degree in information
technology from VU, Ellis moved forward with his life.
He enrolled in the university’s Distance Education Program for
Fall Semester 2015. More than 500 courses and 20 degrees are available online.
“I was hesitant about it at first,” Ellis says. “I honestly
didn’t think all the courses I needed to get my actual degree would be
online, but they were. I ended up liking taking online classes better
than taking classes on campus in a class setting, mainly because I
could do it on my own schedule. I knew all of the assignments ahead of
time. You basically have the whole semester schedule on Day One and I
Ellis graduated Magna Cum Laude this month with an associate of
science degree in information technology.
The day of Commencement was his first time on campus in his
wheelchair. He had visited VU once prior to his accident. On
graduation day, Ellis participated in the Honors Convocation, which
honored graduates for their academic achievements and was held in the
Red Skelton Performing Arts Center, as well as Commencement which was
held in the Physical Education Complex.
“I was pretty pleased with how wheelchair accessible the campus
was,” he says. “The graduation ceremony had ramps to get on the stage
and everybody that was graduating used those ramps. They were roomy
and smooth. They were probably the best ramps I’d ever used for my wheelchair.”
After not being 100 percent sold on pursuing a degree online,
he truly relished the experience.
Ellis began his coursework in the fall of 2015, eight months
after his accident. He enrolled in two courses - but dropped one class
after a particular medication hindered his concentration.
He persevered and by the end graduated with academic honors.
“I ended up getting all A’s for my classes that were for my
specific degree,” he says. “I only got two B’s during all my college
courses and those two were general classes.”
The flexibility of VU’s online courses allowed Ellis to learn
at his own pace and set his own schedule.
In August 2018, he began working part time as an IT specialist
at the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center while he worked toward
completing his degree.
He started working full time as an IT specialist at the Naval
facility after graduating from VU.
Technology has always interested Ellis.
“I love technology and how it allows things to get done faster
or allows people to do things they couldn’t do before the technology
was made, which I really got to find out after my injury,” he says. “I
can’t move my hands or fingers. Technology really helps me do
different stuff. I also like helping people. I also like problem
solving. Information technology is a combination of all those put together.”
When he isn’t helping others at work, he’s helping others
outside of work.
Ellis has a YouTube channel with more than 2,000 subscribers.
His goal is to help people with spinal cord injuries and inspire
able-bodied individuals. Since he struggled to find information he
wanted on how to live with a spinal cord injury after he was injured,
he started producing and sharing videos related to his experiences.
His motto is “Living Life Just Like I Would’ve Able-Bodied”.
Ellis drives using hand controls. He attends concerts. He hunts
and is even a columnist for Able Outdoors Magazine, a sporting
publication for individuals with disabilities.
Next on his to-do list is earning a bachelor’s degree in information
technology. Ellis plans to begin VU’s online degree program in the
fall as he continues to work full time.
Online learning best suits him. Ellis suggests students experiment
with online learning to determine if it’s their proper educational
pathway because if it he hadn’t tried it, he probably wouldn’t have
“If you are thinking about going to college and you are
considering whether to do an online degree or a degree by taking
classes on campus, I personally would recommend checking out the
online degree,” he says. “You can do online and on-campus classes in
the same semester. You can do that to see if you like it. I highly
recommend it because it allowed me to get my associate degree. I don’t
know if I would have been able to do this if I went on campus.”
VINCENNES UNIVERSITY - Indiana’s First College
VU is state-supported with campuses in Vincennes and Jasper, the
Aviation Technology Center and American Sign Language program in
Indianapolis, Early College Career and Technical Education Centers,
and additional sites such as the Gene Haas Training and Education
Center in Lebanon, the Logistics Training and Education Center in
Plainfield, and the Gibson County Center for Advanced Manufacturing
and Logistics in Fort Branch. A leader in developing Early Colleges
statewide, VU also offers instruction at military sites throughout the nation.
VU's Distance Education offers students the opportunity to pursue
their education goals without having to spend extended periods of time
on a college campus. Over 500 courses are offered through the Distance
Education Program with more than 20 degrees available entirely online.
In addition to offering a wide range of associate degree and
certificate programs, VU also offers bachelor’s degree programs in
technology, homeland security, nursing, secondary education programs
in mathematics and science, and special education/elementary education.
VU enrolls students from throughout Indiana, 35 other states, and 17
countries. Tuition and fees are the lowest among Indiana campuses with
residence halls. VU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Founded in 1801, VU is Indiana’s first college and is the only
college in the nation founded by an individual who would later become
President of the United States. William Henry Harrison, the ninth U.S.
President, founded VU while serving as governor of the Indiana
Territory. More information is available at www.vinu.edu.