Month after bombing, FBI agent completes her master’s degree online from BU


Graduate Kristen von KleinSmid with Professor Mary Ellen Mastrorilli

On April 15, Kristen von KleinSmid was supposed to begin studying the various issues involved in prosecuting, defending, adjudicating, and sanctioning white collar crime. It was the first day of Week 6 in her final seven-week course before graduating from Boston University’s online Master of Criminal Justice program, and she was ready to join her fellow CJ 632 students in reading the term’s closing week of lecture content and digging into its last three discussions.

But then two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon changed those plans.

A native of Southern California who helped the U.S. Air Force build the C-17 cargo plane after graduating from USC with an engineering degree, von KleinSmid was hired by the FBI in the mid-1990s, and after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, she applied for a supervisor position at Bureau headquarters working on terrorism matters. She got the job, and held the position for three years before returning to Los Angeles, and eventually moving to the FBI’s field office in Boston.

On April 15, thus, she was working as an Assistant Special Agent in Charge – one of five assistants to Richard DesLauriers, the individual who led the federal investigation and updated the public at press conferences – and so when the bombs went off along Boylston Street, she was pressed into service. Her course readings and discussions would have to wait because, as she put it, “that was my case.”

She didn’t offer any details in a recent phone conversation, other than to acknowledge it was the case of a lifetime. “I’ll never again experience what I experienced from 4/15 to 4/22,” von KleinSmid said of a week that included the explosions that killed three, the identifying of two suspects, the manhunt for the alleged attackers, the death of one and the apprehension of the other, and the initial stages of an investigation that remains ongoing.

It left little time for anything else, including sleep. And so three days after the bombing, finally having a chance to go home, von KleinSmid logged into the course and posted to one of the discussion boards her apologies for a lack of participation that week – but by then, her classmates had already made clear they understood.

She’s not sure how they did it, but a couple of them went out of their way, reached out to the FBI to find her contact information, and sent her messages. They just wanted to wish her luck while telling her they were thinking of her, and that she was making them proud.

“That was awesome,” von KleinSmid said.

It was also in line with von KleinSmid’s description of her experience at BU. She says she made some really good friends in the criminal justice program, which took her two years to complete. She particularly enjoyed the live classroom lectures, which helped her to realize “there’s a lot of really smart people out there,” and helped allay the early apprehensions she had about getting her degree through an online program.

“How’s it going to work? How are you going to interact?” she wondered at the beginning. “But I’d say that you probably interact more in an online program than you would if you were sitting in a huge classroom with 250 people not wanting to raise your hand. The discussions require you to interact with at least 15 people every week. And some professors really make it fun.”

Her favorite was Mary Ellen Mastrorilli, because the professor’s passion for the material and eagerness to engage students were apparent, though von KleinSmid says she enjoyed the program and its instructors on the whole. Initially she wasn’t sure how she’d manage to complete a “very difficult online program” while simultaneously working 60-70 hours a week, but she embraced the challenge, liked learning, and “somehow made it through” thanks to hard work.

“Having worked in law enforcement for the last 17 years, I thought I knew the criminal justice system pretty well – but I learned a lot,” she said. “The classes were really good.”

“One of my first classes was Victimology. Working in terrorism it’s usually working the bad guys before they do something bad; they haven’t really victimized people, so I don’t really work with a lot of victims. It was nice to get an appreciation as to how the victims tend to get revictimized by the press and by law enforcement. That was an eye-opening experience.”

Already slated for a promotion prior to the Boston bombing, von KleinSmid has since moved to Washington, D.C., for a new assignment that officially began on May 5. With her relocation she is now a Section Chief in the FBI’s Security Division, and in that role her responsibilities include the oversight of the FBI police, security details for the Director and the Attorney General, and the physical security of all FBI buildings.

It’s a big job, but she still found time to return to Boston this past weekend, visiting the city for a couple of days so she could participate in Metropolitan College’s commencement exercises. She attended an afternoon reception put on by the criminal justice department. Later that night she walked across the stage to receive her diploma from Dean Tanya Zlateva. Then she brought that with her back to Washington – along with all of the knowledge accrued as one part of a most memorable Boston experience. Congratulations and thank you, Kristen.

Prepping for Commencement: a BU Online guide for your Boston trip

Planning on coming to campus for Commencement next month? Student Services Coordinators Emily and Laura have some tips for your Boston visit.

First stop: campus! For those of you who haven’t visited BU before, we recommend taking a campus tour.  Did you know BU has a “beach”? Find out why it’s called that and maybe catch some rays at this urban greenspace. Drop by the BU Pub for a signature sandwich and a pint. No campus visit would be complete without a trip to the BU Barnes and Noble to get your Terrier gear!

Laura and Emily show off their Terrier pride at the BU Bookstore. Go BU!

Near campus is the home of the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park. Even if you’re not a Sox fan (which we’ll forgive), the Park tours are a fun way to experience America’s oldest ballpark. There are also loads of sports bars and restaurants in the area, too. We personally love Bleacher Bar, which has one of the best sports views in the city: sip your drink while you look out onto the field!

Lansdowne Street: home of the Boston Red Sox since 1912

If tours are your thing, we also recommend the Freedom Trail. This self-guided walking tour of Boston takes you through the history of our city and its place in American history. For an awesome aerial view, visit the top of the Prudential Center and take a ticketed tour at the Skywalk Observatory. There’s also a restaurant and bar at the Top of the Hub, which is a great alternative because you can get a drink and walk around, seeing the whole city below without buying a ticket! As an added incentive, Top of the Hub has live jazz on Friday nights.

360 city views from the Top of the Hub

Another notable tour is the fleet of Duck Boats that takes sightseers through the city and onto the water! As the locals would say, they’re “wicked fun.”

May tends to be a sunny, warm month in Boston, so we have some suggestions for outdoor activities. The Boston Public Garden is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. The Swan Boats give short rides  (perfect for kids!) that take you around the Garden’s lagoon.

Swan boats and flowers in the Public Garden at Boston Common

The Esplanade and the Emerald Necklace are both great places for a walk, run, or picnic. The Boston Common is at the head of the Emerald Necklace and is a fun place to spend an afternoon: check out the street vendors and performers and maybe play a game of ultimate frisbee! The State House is located nearby, and you can request a tour of the Capitol Building.

The Esplanade offers biking and running trails as well as great views of the city.

If you want a little more adventure outside the city proper, the Boston Harbor Islands are a perfect day trip destination. Hop on the ferry and hike, swim, fish, picnic or just enjoy the scenery.

Don’t forget the more standard attractions of any city: museums! Boston has some great ones which are geared toward kids. If you’re bringing little ones, check out the Museum of Science, the Children’s Museum, or the New England Aquarium. The MFA and the Gardner Museum also have activities for kids you can ask about. And of course, all are a good time for adults, too.

If your trip is more grown-up-centered, we recommend checking out tours (and beer tastings) at the Samuel Adams and Harpoon Brewery. Swing by the North End (Little Italy), not just for the amazing food, but also for some laughs at the Improv Asylum.

Getting around Boston is pretty easy. (It’s one of the US’s most walkable cities!) The MBTA is your best bet for cheap transportation with its system of subway cars and buses. BU has three Green line T stops on campus and the #57 bus runs through as well. For a fun, different way to get around, grab a pedi cab. Enjoy the fresh air and banter with your biker. You can pick these up around the city – just like hailing a regular cab, but much more fun! Another alternative to the usual taxi are the water taxis on the Boston Harbor. And, of course, you can grab the BUS — BU’s shuttle — when you’re on campus.

Laura at Hynes Convention Center T-stop. All aboard the B-line!

If you’re looking for places to shop, we’ve got you covered.  Newbury Street is Boston’s premier shopping destination. From designer shops to a mix of upscale and casual restaurants, it’s a great place to window shop, grab a bite and people watch. Copley Square is a street over and hosts the Prudential Center.  Faneuil Hall Marketplace is another fun destination for shopping, food and sights. There are always street performers around, which makes the experience new and interesting every time.

Emily on Newbury Street, outside one of our favorite bookstore/cafes.

Last but certainly not least, here are some of our top choices for food and drink in the city. Because graduation weekend can be very busy (Boston is home to more than 60 colleges and universities, after all!), we recommend making dinner reservations.

Sunset Cantina (BU Campus) $$

T’s Pub (BU Campus) $$

Angora Cafe is an office favorite for sandwiches and salads (BU Campus) $

Espresso Royale Caffe is a hot study spot with yummy sandwiches and coffee (BU Campus) $

OTTO Pizza (BU Campus) $$

* * *

Eastern Standard has a speakeasy vibe and amazing menu choices (Kenmore Square) $$$

Cornwall’s (Kenmore Square) $$

Le Petit Robert (Kenmore Square) $$

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Reagle Beagle (Coolidge Corner) $$

Paris Creperie (Coolidge Corner)  $

* * *

Legal Sea Foods Harborside (Waterfront/Seaport District)  $$$

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Fiore has a rooftop bar! (North End) $$$

Mike’s Pastries is a great spot for Italian pastries, but be sure to bring cash! (North End) $

Ernesto’s is famous for their authentic Italian pizza (North End) $

* * *

The Beehive has live music and delicious cocktails (South End)  $$$

No trip would be complete without some good eats!

We hope you enjoy your visit to Boston. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions: or

Congratulations on graduating!


Who we think will emerge from the Madness this March

Since our Terriers weren’t invited to the Big Dance — and because there wasn’t much interest around the office in a “ Postseason Tournament” bracket — we basketball fans here at the Office of Distance Education have been forced to adopt some new favorite college hoops teams as the NCAA tournament gets underway.

In typical March Madness fashion the field of 68 seems to be wide open this year, and that’s reflected in the variety of predicted champions chosen in our annual for-entertainment-purposes-0nly office pool. Among 15 entries, eight different teams were forecast as the ultimate winner,  meaning bragging rights figure to be up for grabs right through the Final Four.

Who do you think will win? Let us know in the comment section, or on Facebook, and check out the breakdown of how people here at ODE and in the Metropolitan College marketing department think the tourney will shake out. You may recognize some of the names…

























* – 2012 bracket challenge champion.
** – 2011 bracket challenge champion.
*** – In her defense, she’s five months old and her bracket was selected by writing each team on a separate piece of paper and seeing which one she tried to eat.

Welcome to the BU Bookstore

Distance education students typically do their studying hundreds (even thousands) of miles from campus — but no matter how far from Boston they may be, we strive to build connections between our students and the Boston University campus as well as to foster a feeling of community and BU pride.

One of our biggest assets in making that happen is our bookstore, Barnes & Noble at Boston University.

On a purely academic level, B&N at BU’s website is the place where BU online students can find all the materials they’ll need to complete their coursework each semester. Our office works closely with the staff there to ensure that everything is available about a month before the start of every new term, and continues working together as each launch date approaches to ensure that the student receives any type of textbook-related support they may need in order to succeed — whether that means answering general questions, assisting people overseas, or making arrangements to assure on-time delivery.

The benefits of the bookstore aren’t confined to the virtual classroom, either. Offering everything from hockey jerseys, to hats, to every imaginable piece of BU-branded apparel, the store gives those studying elsewhere the chance to show off their Terrier pride in all corners of the globe. Then, when it’s time to graduate, they’re the ones who rent out the caps and gowns that students will wear at commencement.

To learn even more about the bookstore check out the video above, starring BU Barnes & Noble General Manager Steve Turco, and produced by our media team. It contains a look at the store itself, and a glimpse onto our campus — visible from wherever in the world you may actually be. You can also like the BU Barnes & Noble Facebook page to stay up to date on news and special promotions.

What we’re thankful for at ODE

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, many in America take a moment to count their blessings — and we here at the Office of Distance Education are certainly among them. Not only are we excitedly grateful for the chance to join Metropolitan College in celebrating our 10th anniversary as leaders and innovators in the field of online learning, but our 28 staff members are as thankful personally as they are professionally.

Here’s a glimpse into what some of the folks at 1010 Comm Ave are thankful for this year:

I am thankful that there is an outside chance I might get some sleep over the holiday weekend! I am thankful for awesome cranberry sauce. I am thankful that I get to spend the holiday weekend with family. (Did I mention that I am thankful for just the possibility of sleep?)

I’m thankful for …  good health, my new job at Distance Education, and my mom’s stuffing!

I am thankful that my 93-year-old grandmother gets to enjoy Thanksgiving with her two sisters, one of which is her twin. I am thankful that my cousin is home from Afghanistan to enjoy Thanksgiving with my Uncle and Aunt. I am thankful that I get to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family and two little nieces. And, of course, I am also thankful that my two Fantasy Football teams both currently sit in first place!

I’m thankful for my colleagues in Distance Education who have helped me through my first few months at BU.

I am thankful that Jimmy Fallon is so thankful.

I am thankful for the opportunity to learn something every day. I learn to be more patient, more open-minded, learn to listen more, even learn to learn more efficiently. These lessons are ongoing; I am thankful to realize that.

I’m so grateful for my friends, both at BU Online and elsewhere. They are a constant source of joy and support.

I am thankful for all of my wonderful coworkers!

I am thankful for the people who inspire us to be the absolute best that we can be, whether they realize it or not, and whether at the beginning or the end of their life.

I am thankful that YouTube has the full video of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” available. (Seriously, check it out above!)

I am thankful for coffee, family, and health … and of course laughter. Not necessarily in this order.

I’m thankful that my sister in law is a wonderful cook and I’m going to have a delicious and relaxing Thanksgiving with my family.

Among other things … I am thankful for a great team of co-workers and a university dedicated to excellence in online learning.

I am thankful for my family, especially my sister.

I am thankful for the internet, without which you wouldn’t be reading this!

I am thankful that sometimes the common good is recognized to be of greater value than singular advancement.

I am thankful to be working with an unbelievably dedicated team of people at the Office of Distance Education. I have worked in a lot of different places over the years, but until I came to BU, I had not worked in a place where everyone actually seems happy to come to work each day, happy and eager to give their all every day, and happy to see and work with one another as much as the people are here. What an amazing and unique thing to be able to say. Thank you to all of my fellow BU Online colleagues, faculty, facilitators, and students for making work so fulfilling and rewarding.

A decade of distance learning at BU

The Office of Distance Education's Jan Morris, Xuan Cai, and Patti McDonnell (left to right) are part of the team that brings MCJ courses to life as BU online begins to celebrate its 10th anniversary. (Photo from Metropolitan Magazine)

This September, the launch of Fall 01 classes doesn’t only signify the start of a new term, or a new academic year — it also marks the 10th anniversary of BU’s first fully online degree program and the first step taken in the university’s journey toward establishing itself as one of the  nation’s leaders in distance learning.

Those early days and BU’s rise up the ranks is profiled in the latest issue of Metropolitan Magazine, which details how that initial offering — Metropolitan College’s Master of Criminal Justice — opened with one full-time faculty member and just one class, and how the support of MET’s leadership helped foster an environment in which BU online could flourish and become what it is today. Specifically speaking, that’s a powerhouse operation offering 14 degree programs, five graduate certificates, and seven professional certificates in conjunction with 18 programs from 11 schools and colleges.

“We invested the effort, creativity, and resources to treat online education not simply as comparable to an on-campus education for working professionals, but exceptional in its own right,” MET Magazine quotes Dean Jay Halfond as saying. “And five thousand alumni later, we are pleased that we were able to provide this educational opportunity to students across the nation and globe. This is a time to celebrate, to look back, but then continue our aspirations and hard work so our next decade is even better.”

You can read the entire piece by clicking here — and we encourage you to pay particular attention to the section spotlighting the contributions of our team within the Office of Distance Education. As the article says, the tireless trio of Xuan Cai, Patti McDonnell, and Jan Morris are “committed to presenting a high-quality, innovative, and—ultimately—personalized online learning experience” for the MCJ program, and not to be overlooked are the contributions of media producers Rob Haley and Charles Southworth. They consistently enhance courses across each of BU’s online programs with first-quality videos and interactive learning objects.

And, with the rest of the office, they’ve already begun the process of bringing that expectation of excellence into decade number two.

Graduate of BU’s online CFA Music Education Program Carol Shansky Publishes Music Appreciation Book

Dr. Carol Shansky

Carol Shansky, who was the BU College of Fine Arts’ first online Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Education recipient, recently reached another milestone in her impressive career with the publication of her book, “Musical Tapestries: A Thematic Approach to Music Appreciation.”

Published by Kendall Hunt, the book is available here, and in addition to a variety of musical experiences that have seen her perform all over the world, she says the work was also positively influenced and enhanced by the education she received through BU online — where she now works as a course facilitator.

“My Music Appreciation textbook, ‘Musical Tapestries: A Thematic Approach to Music Appreciation,’ was in the works before I started my doctorate online.  However, my experience as a student – and graduate – of the program was central not only to its completion but to developing it from a set of ideas and practices to a textbook that I am proud of and feel makes an important contribution to the teaching of music to non-majors,” Dr. Shansky says.

“Naturally, as part of doctoral training, one learns to write at a very high level and understand proper referencing of sources and how to gather knowledge.  But doing so in a distance education format exposed me to a variety of experiences and perspectives that are likely to never be as readily available as they are in this environment.  From recommendations of colleagues to a deepening of my understanding of my subject, distance learning afforded me the opportunity to mine ideas and concepts in a very rich way.  Professors and facilitators are teaching in varied circumstances and geographic locales which lent me a critical world view. My ‘textbook’ was transformed as I was transformed as a distance education student at Boston University.”

The College of Fine Arts Doctor and Master of Music Education degree programs launched online with the support of Metropolitan College’s Office of Distance Education in 2005.

Congratulations, Carol!

Commencement 2012 by the Numbers

Boston University’s 139th commencement ceremonies featured thousands of graduates, tens of thousands of guests, wisdom from the chairman of a billion-dollar corporation, one half-Vulcan — and, of course, hundreds of degree recipients who completed their studies entirely online through BU’s Office of Distance Education.

Representing colleges all across campus, and countries all across the globe, the online Class of 2012 signified our ninth group of graduates to participate in the May festivities. For an interactive, in-depth look at where Metropolitan College’s graduates have hailed from through the years, click the map below. And for a look at some of the numbers that tell the story of how BU welcomed a new set of alums, check them out below!

Map of MET grads

3,300 plus

Number of graduates who attended the ceremony at Nickerson Field


Estimated crowd packed into the stadium seats to salute the grads


Times Leonard Nimoy — who received an honorary doctorate of humane letters — flashed the Vulcan symbol from the stage, Dr. Spock encouraging graduates to “live long and prosper”

Leonard Nimoy encourages the Class of 2012 to "live long and prosper."

Leonard Nimoy encourages the Class of 2012 to "live long and prosper."


Words spoken by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt in delivering
his commencement address


Times Schmidt mentioned Google by name


Online Master of Criminal Justice graduates in May (among 89 since Summer 2011)



Online Master of Science in Computer Information Systems graduates who received diplomas


Online Art Education degree recipients from the College of Fine Arts


Online Master of Health Care Communication graduates


Recipients of Online Master of Management Science degrees


Students who completed their undergraduate degree this May through BU’s online program


Masters and Doctoral graduates of the online music program, bringing the total to 181 since September 2011

Media interviews


Number of students interviewed by our media team about their BU Online experience during Commencement Weekend


Approximate number of BU Online alumni as we approach our
10th anniversary!

Advice For Students, By A Student

Midway through his latest course in Metropolitan College’s Master of Science in Computer Information Systems online program — IT Security Policies and Procedures, to be precise — Shawn McElhinney delivered to his classmates a different sort of Valentine back on February 14th.

An experienced member of BU’s online community, who has now completed nine classes toward his master’s degree and whose busy home life as a working father of three is typical of so many of our students, he showed his fellow learners some love by sharing with them his tips on how to successfully navigate coursework amidst a crowded life.

Included among his post were a variety of pointers applicable not only to Shawn’s colleagues in the CIS program, but to all of our online students in general — so we’ve decided to pass them along. Included among the post pasted below are comments from the Office of Distance Education’s student services team, who explain in further detail why Shawn’s advice is so valuable.

Enjoy, and if you’d like even more information about a particular point, please don’t hesitate to ask us by using the comment area at the bottom of this post!


SUBJECT: Mush brain
CS 684 — Water Cooler
AUTHOR: Shawn McElhinney
DATE: February 14, 2012  11:58 AM

This is my 9th class & I can tell you it is tough to get through. Three kids (3, 5, 16), wife back to work, 50+ hour weeks, school, and kid’s activities. Makes it tough. It is doable though.

I recommend taking some time to lay out a course calendar. This way you can visually see the deliverables you have for the upcoming week (reading, discussion posts, homework, quizzes, etc.) and set start & completion dates for them. If you can follow the schedule it will prevent you from last minute anxiety to get work done.BQ Patti
Honestly, this is one of the lighter workload classes in the curriculum. The external research required is probably the most useful component of the course (this will help you immensely as you go forward in the program).

Here’s a recommendation – if you haven’t done so already, identify the courses you need/want to take in the curriculum.  If there is significant overlap in a course and your professional experience, request a substitution – then take a course that you can learn more in. Once you have the classes identified, go to the MSCIS website & look at the course schedule. Try to plan out as much of the program as you can.

This process will identify gaps in class availability that you may not be able to avoid – it may warrant taking a semester off for a mental break. If you feel like your brain is mush now, you may find some value in taking next summer off to mentally recoup.
BQ Daisy

Also, always try to get your books and a copy of the syllabus as early as possible. I read slower than death, so I like to dig into the material before the class starts. Some classes will have 100+ pages of reading a week, so it is tough to stay on top of. Other classes will be light on reading & heavy on work – I remember one class required almost 50+ hours a week of work to complete everything, but that was an exception.
BQ Jan

The big thing to remember is this is a learning experience. I’m glad I’m doing it with several years of experience under my belt, as I think I have a better understanding of the material beforehand. You have a wealth of knowledge in your groups, facilitators, and instructors – don’t hesitate to leverage it, they are here to help you excel, not mindlessly regurgitate information.
BQ Jen

The last comment I’ll make is this: Keep an open line of communication with your group facilitator. Life happens and sometimes it will impact your ability to perform academically. If you speak with your facilitator early and often they are more likely to work with you when you have issues. They are not so forgiving when you come to them in the 11th hour and ask for an extension.
BQ Liz

Have fun with this, you have access to experience from all over the world. It is a truly unique and amazing opportunity to learn and grow. Make the most of it.

Best of luck.


Looking at A Day in the Life of an “O”nline Student

For Paul Shihadeh every day starts with homework and ends at Cirque du Soleil! As a spouse, parent, Artistic Director at Cirque’s “O,” and online Master’s student in the College of Fine Arts’ Master of Music in Music Education, each day is full of new challenges. Paul’s work at Cirque du Soleil is unusual for a student in the Music Education program, and it gives him a unique perspective on course material. In each course, he brings a new voice to discussions and interacts with students in a variety of educational settings.

Paul embodies the best qualities in an online student: he’s passionate, communicative, and very proactive. He does a great job of communicating any questions and problems efficiently, and is an inspiring example of someone who advocates for himself. Even in phone calls and emails, his excitement about the course material shines through.

“I chose to do my Master’s with Boston University Online now mainly because of the challenges. I had the idea of doing a traditional Master’s, but with my schedule it was impossible I thought,” Paul says in the video, which can be seen above, or on our YouTube Channel. “Having just finished my first course, it was very exciting, but it was also really, really challenging. It was a whole part of my brain that I think had been dormant for a long time. It was fascinating. I really enjoyed it. And I think that’s part of the challenge and the real joy I get out of it: It brings me back to what it was like 20 years ago when I was doing my undergrad.”

Paul’s story is the second installment in our “Day in the Life” series, produced by Senior Media Producer Rob Haley and sponsored in part by Metropolitan College’s Chadwick Fellowship. If you are a BU Online student and think your story is one Rob may want to tell in a future installment, please drop us a note at