More than 110 walk at Barton Fort Riley commencement | Barton Community College

More than 110 walk at Barton Fort Riley commencement

May 24, 2018
Story and photo by Brandon Steinert

Graduates from 10 colleges of the Fort Riley Education Services Consortium gathered Thursday afternoon to celebrate the end of a chapter in their educational journeys. Despite the spacious venue, a large conference center ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manhattan, it was standing room only. And, the air was electric with the energy from the graduates and their families ready to hear their name and achievement announced from the podium.

Barton Community College at Fort Riley celebrated the graduation of 146 students, 112 of whom chose to walk at the ceremony. Barton’s crowd historically outnumbers the other consortium member schools by about two to one, and that tradition continued as the sea of blue caps filled about half of the seating area reserved for graduates.

Barton graduate Shantele Frie was the very first to complete the college’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) program, which started only a year ago. She managed to complete the 64-credit hour associate degree program in 12 months by transferring credits and taking a full course load for each of Barton’s five sessions, each lasting eight weeks. 

Her efforts earned her the honor of being named one of two Outstanding Graduates by Barton faculty and staff.

“She completed this degree in one year, which is fantastic and very impressive,” said Carol Nichols, OSH program support specialist. “Shantele is our first completer, and I’m excited.”

Frie has chosen a lucrative and stable career path with high demand for skilled professionals. According to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2017 median pay for a safety specialist was $71,780 and safety technicians earned a median of $49,960. The estimated growth rate for the industry in the next decade is eight percent.

“Almost all big companies have a safety program and OSH experts to keep the company out of hot water,” Nichols said.

While the degree would allow Frie to settle down virtually anywhere, she has a specific end game in mind.

“I want to get on with a petroleum company in Texas and help them run their safety programs,” she said.

She has a few steps she wants to complete before landing her first gig. Her next step is to transfer to the University of Kansas and earn a degree in chemical engineering with a minor in environmental studies.

“I’ve always loved engineering and math, and I’m just analytical in that way,” she said. “The safety aspect [sounded attractive] because I can be the one to help prevent accidents; you hear of people getting killed, but it usually could have been prevented.”

She’s also waiting for her husband to finish his last four years in the military.

In the meantime, she said she looks forward to the next chapter, and feels well prepared with Barton’s program in the books.

“Barton was great,” she said. “Every instructor, if I had issues, would reach out; no problem. Some instructors went as far as meeting up with us off-site. The curriculum is pretty detailed too.”

For more information about Barton’s Occupational Safety and Health program, visit

Barton also held an Honors Ceremony for students in the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Fraternity on Wednesday prior to commencement, which recognizes non-traditional students who maintain a 3.5 GPA and have completed at least 24 credit-hours. The fraternity celebrates the many challenges faced by non-traditional students, who have to juggle family, work and school to achieve their educational goals.

Barton also honored members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, which recognizes students who carry a 3.5 GPA and are enrolled in at least 12 credit-hours.

Visit for more information about Barton’s many programs and services to the public and Soldiers at its Fort Riley and Grandview Plaza campuses.

Barton graduates prepare to receive their degrees Thursday afternoon at the Fort Riley Education Services commencement ceremony in Manhattan.
Barton graduates prepare to receive their degrees Thursday afternoon at the Fort Riley Education Services commencement ceremony in Manhattan.