November 13, 2006

MINNEAPOLIS, Nov. 13, 2006 – One received a Purple Heart after being wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. One lost 150 pounds through a commitment to running and healthy eating. And one had to learn to walk again after breaking her neck in a car crash, and is a recent cancer survivor. They represent the three Capella University (  students chosen to compete in the upcoming Antarctica Marathon. Capella, which is an accredited online university, is the presenting sponsor of the marathon, which will be held on King George Island on Feb. 26, 2007.

·        Wesam Mahmoud is a recent graduate of Capella’s MBA program and is now pursuing a PhD at Capella in educational psychology. Wesam, who works as a foreign language coordinator at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, recently retired from the Marines. Originally from Egypt, Wesam came to the United States in 2000 and joined the Marines after Sept. 11 to serve his new country. He served three tours of duty in
Iraq as a translator. During his second tour, a roadside bomb exploded next to his Humvee and caused substantial damage to his right leg and foot. He has since recovered from his wounds and is now training for his first marathon – in
Antarctica. “I was wounded and in pain in Iraq, but I did not leave. I stayed to accomplish the mission. Twenty-six miles is my mission now, and I will accomplish it no matter what it takes,” Wesam says.

·    Michelle Johnston is earning a master’s degree in clinical psychology at Capella and works as a clinical intern with Pierce County Mental Health in Ellsworth, Wis. Michelle, who lives in Lake City, Minnesota, not only survived being struck by lightning and a car accident that resulted in a broken neck, but she is a recent cancer survivor. “The trauma of my experiences reminded me everyday how much of a privilege it is to walk let alone run – so running became a daily part of my life,” Michelle says.

·    Melissa Hill is earning a master’s degree in general psychology from Capella and is a resident of Minneapolis. Just three years ago, Melissa weighed more than 280 pounds. But through a commitment to running and healthy eating, she now weighs 133 pounds. She has run three marathons and recently qualified for the Boston marathon. “The rewards are there for those who seek them: a stronger body, a stronger mind, and a sense of purpose,” Melissa says.

Along with the three Capella students, nearly 200 runners, including a wheelchair athlete, will compete in the marathon. The course, which has a figure-eight design and traverses both glacial and rocky terrain, loops through scientific research bases of Uruguay, Chile, China, and Russia. The course is also often peppered with “spectators” such as chinstrap penguins and southern elephant seals. Temperatures at the time of the marathon will likely range from 10 degrees to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Capella’s student runners will work on their university coursework by satellite on the journey to Antarctica and during their stay. They will also blog about their training and the competition at

“Earning an online degree from Capella is very similar to completing a marathon,” said Capella University President Michael J. Offerman.  “Distance runners and Capella students have many similarities. They both require dedication, commitment and perseverance.  The Antarctica Marathon is known as one of the world’s toughest, and Capella’s involvement demonstrates how far our students can and will go to make their mark in the world.”

Two expedition vessels will ferry the runners from Ushuaia, Argentina, through the Beagle Channel, across Drake Passage, through the South Shetland Islands and along the Antarctic Peninsula to  King George Island.  Runners will take Zodiac boats from the ship to the shore to run the race.

About Capella University
Founded in 1993, Capella University is an accredited* online university that offers graduate degree programs in business, information technology, education, human services, and psychology, and bachelor’s degree programs in business and information technology. Within those areas, Capella offers 76 graduate and undergraduate specializations and 16 certificate specializations. The online university currently serves 16,000 students from all 50 states and 63 countries. It is committed to providing high-caliber academic excellence and pursuing balanced business growth. Capella University is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Capella Education Company (NASDAQ: CPLA), headquartered in Minneapolis. For more information, please visit or call 1-888-CAPELLA (227-3552).

Capella University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, located at 30 N. LaSalle Street, Suite 2400, Chicago, IL 60602-2504, (312) 263-0456,

Learn more about earning an online degree at Capella University: online education (, online college (, distance learning (, online university (, online learning (



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