University of Illinois Employee Wins Distance Learning Scholarship

Share Article awards $1,000 online education scholarship to University of Illinois online student Nicholas Zazal, 26, who works on the University of Illinois campus -- but chose to study online instead of on campus due to his unpredictable job schedule (flexible scheduling is a common reason students choose distance learning). Zazal works up to 75 hours per week as events director at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts; he is earning a master's in recreation, sport and tourism and hopes for a sports venue management job.

Nicholas Zazal, Online Education Scholarship Winner

all the backstage and event logistics for all the tours, everything from hotels and parking for artists to audio and lighting needs

Nicholas Zazal, 26, works at the University of Illinois campus in Urbana-Champaign, but is earning his master's degree from the school's online division--even though the same degree is offered on campus, minutes from his office at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

The reason? As with many online college students, Zazal's work schedule doesn't allow him to attend classes on his school's timetable. Instead, he has opted for the flexibility offered by distance learning.

Zazal is's latest $1,000 "Excellence in Online Education" scholarship winner. The Northlake, Illinois, native is earning straight A's in his master of recreation, sport and tourism online degree program--despite his heavy work schedule.

"My work schedule is completely at the mercy of what's scheduled into the building," says Zazal. "Some weeks it's 25-hour weeks, some are 75-hour weeks, depending on how many shows we have."

Since his job entails coordinating "all the backstage and event logistics for all the tours, everything from hotels and parking for artists to audio and lighting needs," Zazal must be available at odd hours, and can't commit to a traditional classroom-based program.

Illinois's online degree program uses some of the same teachers who teach the on-ground degree program, as well as other, non-Illinois instructors.

"My program has given me the opportunity to learn about marketing, event management, finance, human resources and beyond, with a focus on the sports industry," says Zazal. "I can now combine professional skills with personal passion."

Zazal expects to graduate in February 2010--just in time for his summer wedding. is a consumer advocacy group that rates and ranks online colleges for cost and quality. The group offers several $1,000 distance learning scholarships each year. The competitive awards are based on grade point average, a written essay, and financial need.

Students wishing to compete for online college scholarships can register at


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