My last day at Oregon State University (OSU) is September 30th. I think it’s fitting as my first day at OSU was also in September. Six years ago I moved out to Oregon from Chicago, IL. It was a tremendous life transition. I had been working at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the decision to leave UIC/Chicago was a big one for a young professional from the Midwest.
When I first started looking at graduate programs in higher education/student affairs I had no idea that I would end up moving to Oregon. I remember checking up on about 5 or 6 programs. I kept coming back to OSU as my first choice. Eventually, I decided to apply for the College Student Services Administration (CSSA) program at OSU. It was the only grad program that I submitted an application to. In hindsight, I probably should have applied to more than one school just in case OSU didn’t accept me. However, sometimes you have to put all of your eggs in a single basket and hope for the best. Concentrating on a single application made my process extremely focused. I was going to get into grad school at Oregon State. There wasn’t a “plan B.”
I was so nervous about my admissions interview. Surrounded by scores of notes in an office in the student union at UIC, I remember being so excited that I stood up for the entire phone call. The interview team consisted of a couple current CSSA students and the OSU Assistant Provost for Enrollment Management, Bob Bontrager. The best part for me occurred after I shared my professional interests surrounding student affairs and technology. I recall Bob asking me if I would be interested in a graduate assistantship formulated around my interest area. Keep in mind that I had not been formally accepted to the CSSA program at that time. It was kind of like being offered a salary before you actually know if you’re going to get a job. It was surreal. I told Bob that I would love to pursue my mix of marketing, technology and student affairs. It was one of those moments when you are fairly sure that you have achieved your goal, but without official confirmation, I had to wait for a few more weeks before finding out that I was accepted into the CSSA program.
As part of my professional development at UIC, I was able to attend a couple conferences each year. Conveniently, I had already registered for the NASPA Annual Conference that year and would be able to meet several of the CSSA faculty and students at the event. OSU and the CSSA program hosted a reception and I am so glad that I went. I remember when I met Rich Shintaku, the department chair in the College of Education. He gave me a gigantic hug when I told him who I was. I had already spoken with Jessica White, lead faculty member for CSSA and my future major professor, but it was thrilling to meet her in person. I met several amazing people at that reception. The first time I met Larry Roper, OSU’s Vice Provost for Student Affairs, he had just received the NASPA Pillar of the Profession award. I introduced myself, congratulated him on his award, and thanked him for funding part of my assistantship. Larry has been a mentor to me ever since that moment. His wisdom has propelled me forward in so many ways.
I came out to Corvallis, the home of OSU, in July of 2004. It was my first time in Oregon. The weather was phenomenal. Everything was green, the sun was shining, and the sky was perfectly blue. In short, I came out to Oregon during the period of time in the summer when it’s not too hot and the weather is fit for a postcard photograph. The rain started in October. It’s Oregon, it happens. However, not as much as people would like you to believe.
My graduate assistantship was located in Enrollment Management. I was the student affairs web specialist. My primary focus was the Admissions website. While the site has gone through a couple design iterations since my turn behind the “wheel,” I am proud of the work that was done by the team from Admissions and Web Communications. I think I only broke the site once…it happens, it makes your heart stop, but it does happen, and you quickly fix things and get them back up and running.
Grad school was a transformational experience. I went through a long-term personal hardship that coincided with the start of classes in September of 2004. With the support of Jessica White, my grad cohort, and a host of other amazing people, I was able to persevere. I grew so much during that time. I definitely packed a lot of learning, experiences, and self-reflection in the 2 years that it took to complete my graduate degree. Having an Ed.M. in College Student Services Administration means that no one in your family will understand what you do…it’s okay, you get used to it. I enjoy talking about how much I enjoyed my grad program. The community at OSU has definitely had an impact on my life.
I spent 2006 to 2007 working as a higher education technology consultant. I cobbled together an interesting mix of clients that included Oregon State University and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO). I spent that year thinking about the future. I envisioned a career where I could continue engaging in work that included technology, marketing, and student affairs. The only trouble with being a student affairs uber techie is that sometimes people don’t understand that you can actually relate to students. Even with a degree that’s all about students, I felt like I had to prove myself as the uber techie that can relate to students.
When I was in CSSA, I never participated in any academic advising experiences. At the time, I incorrectly believed that advising was too focused and that I wanted to work in student conduct. After a year of consulting I decided that I didn’t want to work in student conduct, and that I really missed working with students. I applied for an academic advising job at OSU in the summer of 2007. It turns out that academic advising requires a lot of versatility. In the 3 years that I have worked as an academic advisor, I have utilized every piece of knowledge and experience from my graduate school training. With almost 3,000 undergraduate students in the College of Health and Human Sciences, I have gotten to know, respect, and cherish the students who I have had the privilege to advise. I was also able to maintain my student affairs + technology interests. I asked for and was granted the first ever “Academic Advisor and Web Coordinator” position at OSU after I my first year of advising.
I have 9 days left at OSU. I’m leaving to begin a new adventure. Taking what I have learned and experienced, I am returning to full time consulting. I can’t wait. I’m excited, nervous, thrilled, and ready. Game on.
In the 6 years that I have been “Powered by Orange,” I have learned, lived, and loved. I’m a fan of the amazing community at OSU. Oregon State has been my personal and professional home. I’ve been a visitor, a student, an alum, and an employee of Oregon State University. I am so glad that I applied to OSU. Thanks everyone!
Am I powered by orange? You bet I am.
5 thoughts on “How I’m Powered by Orange”
Great story. Thanks for sharing your journey.
You will be missed, Eric. But we all know you’ll be a great orange ambassador, and we’ll always claim you as one of our own. Good luck in everything you do.
Love it. Best wishes, Stoller.
Congratulations on your new adventure Eric. You will be missed!
I didn’t know you were leaving this year. I’m really going to miss you as my advisor.
Anyways, congratulations on your new adventures.