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Four years ago, when I was at West Linn High School and applying to college, I knew I wanted a wide variety of options. Like my friends, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to end up doing. I knew I preferred the liberal arts and was particularly interested in English literature and the Spanish language because of inspiring high school teachers in those areas.
Because so many of my friends decided to apply to OSU, I scheduled a day to come down to Corvallis and see campus for myself. I talked with advisors and toured the campus. I saw Oregon State as a place that could provide many possibilities through the College of Liberal Arts and create a small school feel within the University Honors College (UHC).
Though I had my mind set on attending a small private liberal arts college when I toured OSU, the UHC’s small class sizes and the English department’s advisor, Steve Kunert, piqued my interest and led to my decision to enroll here.
I really like how OSU and UHC mix a big and small community feel. Once I started my first year on campus, I remember telling Steve that I wanted to be an English major and wanted to learn more Spanish. He worked with me to plan a study abroad, and I was able to spend the 2013-2014 academic year studying in Salamanca, Spain. For six months, I stayed with a Spanish host and had the chance to travel throughout the country and see many incredible spectacles like Semana Santa in Castilla y León, Las Fallas in Valencia and El Día de San Joan in Barcelona. I completed this experience and enrolled in the International Degree program, all with enough time to finish my English degree in four years.
In my first year, I really took advantage of the small 12-20 person classes in the UHC, as well as my other classes outside Honors where I began to meet people within the English major. I also found that all my professors made time to talk with me outside of class. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed is the extreme variety of perspectives I’ve observed in my classes. I have heard from many peers including military veterans, master’s students, and people who have chosen to continue their education at later ages.
Outside of class, I realized I would have to grab the brass ring and reach for opportunities as they came. I knew I wanted to collaborate with other students and learn from professors even more outside of class. At Oregon State, I think many students see the science labs on campus as the main places to develop relationships and work alongside faculty. From what I’ve heard from friends and observed on campus, that definitely holds water, but the Honors experience allows for engagement regardless of your major.
In the College of Liberal Arts, I met professors and other English majors in the English Student Association, a group that organized events outside of class. I also met people by spending every waking moment wandering the campus and long nights in the newsroom as an editor and reporter at the Daily Barometer, our campus newspaper.
In both of these experiences, the focus of discussions was team-oriented and the aim revolved around what I loved: reading and writing.
This year, I am working on a thesis analyzing Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra, which is based on Irving’s time in Granada in the 1820s. This thesis combines my interest in both Spanish culture and American literature. After this year, I am hoping to work for a non-profit organization in the future that can use my writing, thinking, and language skills, specifically with Spanish, and I hope to attend graduate school.
Oregon State has helped me stay open-minded and helped me grow accustomed to working and listening to all sorts of people. I feel lucky to be a part of the community and will always think of my time here as supportive, productive, and eye opening.
It’s hard to believe that almost four years ago I was graduating from Corvallis High School and that I am now almost a graduate of Oregon State University. Sometimes people are surprised that I chose a university in the same town where I went to high school. In response, I am proud to tell them that I chose to come to Oregon State University and be a part of the University Honors College, the College of Liberal Arts, and the International Degree program because it was simply the best fit!
Back when I was trying to determine what school to attend and knowing I wanted to stay in Oregon for financial reasons, I decided to take a tour of Oregon State. I soon found this campus is a place where people are down-to-earth, friendly, and welcoming, and I started seeing myself here.
Fortunately, I was accepted to both Oregon State University and the University Honors College (UHC), where I began as a student in the University Exploratory Studies Program. It was a perfect way for me to explore my options. By the end of my first year, after taking a few classes in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), I knew I wanted to be an English major.
One of the best parts about being a CLA student in the UHC is that the two colleges work well together and there are a variety of courses available that overlap. Some of my favorite courses during my OSU career have been honors sections of CLA courses. In fact, one of my upper-division CLA and UHC history courses inspired me to declare a minor in US history.
Both CLA and UHC advisors helped connect me to the International Degree, which led me to add a French minor and study abroad in Angers, France for 10 weeks during the summer of 2013. In France, I gained a new sense of self-confidence, greater cultural competence, and a renewed passion for learning. The following summer, I was able to travel with other CLA students and two professors from the School of Writing, Literature and Film. London for a three week intensive cultural immersion trip. I have definitely caught the travel bug!
Outside of the classroom, I have been able to work as a student ambassador for both the UHC and the CLA, sharing my passion for higher education. I have had the opportunity to meet with prospective students one-on-one, polish up my public speaking, and write blog posts to share my experiences.
The newest installment to my life on campus has been my recent appointment as the first Academic Learning Assistant for West Residence Hall, the Honors Living-Learning Community. This live-in position, new this year, was created to support residents in attaining their definition of academic success. I hold about five office hours per week and also host events regarding campus resources, college knowledge, and learning in a university setting. My office hours are often my favorite part of the day because I get to work one-on-one with residents by helping them find new study strategies or connect them with campus resources. As with being a student ambassador, I feel like I have the chance to pay it forward by helping other students as they transition to OSU and begin to solidify their own academic path to success.
As a student of the UHC and the International Degree, I was required to write an undergraduate thesis that encompassed the requirements for both degree programs. After determining my general research interest of Americans in France, I visited with a variety of professors and advisors on campus and bounced around ideas. It was Professor Betjemann, my thesis mentor and one of my (many) favorite English professors, who helped guide me through all of the steps of what originally seemed like a dauntingly long research paper. I successfully completed and defended my thesis, titled “Redefining ‘The Romance of Travel’ in Edith Wharton’s A Motor-Flight Through France,” in August, 2014. In the end, I found that it was one of the most enriching, engaging, and rewarding experiences I have had at OSU and a great preview of what graduate school might look like.
Now, as I look toward graduation in June, because of the enriching experiences and curriculum I’ve had here at OSU, I feel confident about the future. While I do plan on going to graduate school at some point, I’m planning to get some professional work experience after graduation. Whether this is here in Corvallis, across the country, or abroad, I plan to be engaged and open to whatever opportunities may arise. I have the CLA, UHC, and OSU to thank for supporting and encouraging me thus far and making it possible for me to take my next steps towards success.
When I tell my friends and family I study literature and writing at Oregon State University, they mostly act surprised: “I thought Oregon State was an engineering school?” Oregon State is an exceptional science and engineering school, but many people don’t realize its excellence in liberal arts.
In the six years I have been in college, three in which I studied science, I have realized that the only real mistake a student can make is to major in something they have no stake in. Why do we go to college? We have a passion and we want to learn how to apply it. Sure, building a foundation of skills needed to succeed in the professional world and pursuing a marketable degree are certainly important, but doing something you’re passionate about will give you the will to succeed and the ambition to excel. Although it saddened me to end my science education after years of hard work, I knew English and writing were my true passions, and in the end, would enrich my life in a larger way. The American writer James Truslow Adams explained it perfectly: “There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.”
Victor Kuechler (BA 2009) studies in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies at Oregon State and currently works as a technical writer for the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. In August 2010, he wrote an article for Linux Journal, "The OSWALD Project," which explained how open software and hardware can benefit undergraduate computer science education, especially in learning real-world, embedded programming. Victor also coauthored two papers, one which was presented at CHI 2010, the 28th ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Atlanta, Georgia and another at the 2011 Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Kauai, Hawaii. He also wrote three journal papers that adress diversity in open source software development, computer-mediated communication and Beaversource, a social network and source code repository for OSU students.
Charity Shumway earned an MFA in creative writing from Oregon State University and a BA in English from Harvard University. In the summer of 2012, Charity's first novel, Ten Girls to Watch: A Novel, was published by Washington Square Press. She has written for magazines and websites including Glamour, Fitness, Ladies Home Journal, and Garden Design, and currently blogs about cooking and gardening at SpadeSpatula.com. Her fiction has been published in Slice Magazine, Soon Quarterly, Harvard Square Editions' anthology Above Ground, on Anderbo.com, and honored by Glimmer Train. She spent the fall of 2012 touring the West Coast on a booktour with her first novel, Ten Girls to Watch. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.
Rachael Cate received her MA in English with an area emphasis in Writing and Rhetoric (2011). Her undergraduate background as a cultural studies student at PSU, and her certificate in teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in Buenos Aires also informed her research interests and graduate career at OSU. During her time at OSU, she broadened her professional experience and training by serving as a Writing Assistant in the Center for Writing and Learning and INTO (OSU’s Writing 121 for English language learners). She also served as an administrative assistant and coordinator at the Women’s Center. Her position as an RA in a pilot project on service learning with Prof. Susan Meyers gave her an informed perspective to work from while writing her thesis, which presented a model for service learning and literacy projects inspired by Latin American indigenous community organizing. After graduation, Rachael's Fulbright application was accepted by the government of Spain for a position as an English teacher and cultural assistant in their bilingual public school program. She spent time living in Madrid, teaching English, and writing short stories. She is considering continuing a career in nonprofit educational campaigns and pursuing a PhD in multicultural literacy, ethnography or international education. Rachael currently holds a position as an ESL instructor at INTO OSU.