photo of Nandita Mehrotra sitting at a table with Heather Catton in Bangalore, India

Stephen F. Austin State University graduate Nandita Mehrotra, left, visits with Heather Catton, director of international studies and programs at SFA, in Bangalore, India. Mehrotra received her Master of Science in human sciences from SFA in May after completing it entirely online.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas - More than 14,000 miles away in Bangalore, India, Stephen F. Austin State University graduate student Nandita Mehrotra puts the finishing touches on her thesis in preparation for its defense.

During the past few months, she has been studying patient-turnaround time at an outpatient cancer center in India and the role interior design plays in health care settings.

As a full-time employee in India, Mehrotra was able to complete her Master of Science in human sciences online in May through SFA's School of Human Sciences within the James I. Perkins College of Education.

"The ability to pursue a master's degree in the U.S. while living in India was wonderful," Mehrotra said. "I was able to complete my degree only because it was available online."

Heather Catton, director of international studies and programs at SFA, agrees offering courses online provides international students with great opportunities.

"For students like Nandita, who are working full time and/or have a family, they can't drop everything and move to another country to earn their degree," Catton said. "When a degree can be offered completely online, it's a great option for students because they have access to the academic content. They can continue to work, live at home, and still have a U.S. degree and a different perspective."

Mehrotra said she enjoyed the experience.

"It was very interesting to interact with faculty members and students halfway around the world and understand their way of thinking, working and expressing thoughts, ideas and analyses," Mehrotra said.

Through Desire 2 Learn, SFA's online course-delivery system, Mehrotra worked with other SFA students and faculty members. Her coursework consisted of the completion of specialized health care readings and textbooks, performance of on-site facility analyses and weekly interaction with renowned leaders in the health care design industry, which she described as interesting and helpful.

Mehrotra surveyed patients for 12 days for her thesis to obtain an understanding of patient experiences and satisfaction levels. She mapped the movement of 19 patients in the facility and interviewed 15 health care providers and staff members. She also studied patient, doctor and staff member perspectives on patient turnaround time.

"The Collaborate feature in Desire 2 Learn is a wonderful tool for online education and really makes the educational/classroom interaction easy and enjoyable," Mehrotra said. "I was able to attend a significant percentage of online study sessions because of the difference between Indian Standard Time and U.S. Central Time. When it was morning at SFA, it was late evening in Bangalore, and I was home from work then."

Dr. Mitzi Perritt, professor of interior design and graduate coordinator in SFA's School of Human Sciences, met with Mehrotra weekly via Collaborate in D2L and said it was as if they were in the same classroom.

"Nandita has been a special student. She is eager to learn, very respectful and produces high-quality work. It has been an amazing experience for me to work with her as her major professor and teacher," Perritt said. "Our relationship is a close one, and we have enjoyed working together."