Breeka Li Goodlander spent her childhood traversing the St. Croix River Valley in Minnesota on the way to her grandparents’ house. Cut from glaciers, the placid river is surrounded by oaks and maples, and Goodlander found its beauty fascinating.
In high school, she began to explore the idea of turning her love for the natural world into a career. During an AP environmental science class, she earned college credit taking soil and water samples near her high school.
Goodlander decided to attend the University of Minnesota, but was more excited about her internship for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which allowed her to further explore her love of the environment.
Looking for a better option
“After two years, I had the opportunity to work full time for the state, so I started looking for more flexible learning opportunities,” Goodlander says.
She found Oregon State’s Ecampus on a list of top distance learning programs. OSU Ecampus is consistently ranked in the top 10 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.
“I sent a random email to an advisor, and I was really impressed with how welcoming and prompt she was in responding to me even though I wasn’t a student yet,” Goodlander says. “The advisor answered all of my questions about transferring and doing a degree completely online. If not for her, I might not have applied to Oregon State.”
Goodlander found her student experience “liberating,” thanks to the flexibility. She says connecting with her professors was easy, and she fit her studies into her schedule during lunch breaks and after work.
“My favorite class was restoration ecology because we got to come up with a practical plan,” Goodlander says. “It was the first assignment I ever earned 100 percent on. It gave me the confidence to keep working hard.”
“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never work a day in your life.”
Mark Twain’s quote rings true for Goodlander in her new position as a natural resources scientist for Pinnacle Engineering, Inc. She applies what she learned at Oregon State and spends her days exploring wetlands and writing reports about her observations.
“For example, I might be on site and notice a certain area is in the path of a butterfly migration, so it needs to be noted so that planned construction in the area doesn’t interfere,” Goodlander says. “I feel like I’m really making a difference. The people I work with are very like-minded, and it’s a field I really enjoy.”
She says that during the hiring process for her current position, her employers were impressed with the experience she was able to gain while in school.
“My position required three to four years of experience, and without Ecampus, I wouldn’t meet that requirement,” Goodlander says.
“I also made so many professional contacts while I was going to school and working that I wouldn’t have made otherwise.”
Goodlander’s employer is supportive of her completing graduate work, and there are several Oregon State options she’s interested in.
“Right now, I’m working on a certificate in wildlife management, and I hope to apply that to either a master of science or a master of natural resources degree.”
For now, she recommends OSU Ecampus to anyone looking for a flexible educational experience. Goodlander says her ultimate goal is to own her own wetland area.
“I would love to have my own space and open a wildlife rehabilitation facility,” she says. “I’ve always found the natural world very grounding. To me, it is what is real. It gives me inner peace.”