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The Value of Experience – Giving Back

Ken and Paula Krane had already given a great deal to the Honors College, in a wide range of roles, before deciding to set up a scholarship supporting experiential learning. Their involvement has really been about giving back to the place that has given them a home.

Ken and Paula came to Corvallis in 1974, when Ken became a faculty member in the OSU Department of Physics, and his experience with the Honors College goes back to its earliest days. Ken chaired the Faculty Senate committee that designed and created the college in 1994, and before that, he had taught in the honors program that had previously existed at Oregon State. Although he retired in 2003, he continued to teach in honors, and he received the Honors College Eminent Professor award in 2008.

Ken and Paula Krane. Photo by Ali Smith, Thistledown Photography

Ken’s experience with the college as an administrator, teacher and research mentor gave him firsthand knowledge of the benefits of an honors education, as well as its costs. “It requires experiential learning and the burden of additional tuition. The Honors College encourages these out-of-the-classroom learning opportunities, and we don’t want students to be excluded just because they can’t afford it.”

To help address this, Ken and Paula established a scholarship in the Honors College to support experiential learning. This fund is one of several scholarships at Oregon State they support, joining orchestra, theater and physics scholarships.

The Kranes believe in funding travel, music and arts – experiences that allow students to be whole people and augment their coursework. “College isn’t all in the classroom,” Paula says. “We want to help make their college experience better, to make something they can build on and look back on. Travel can make you a total person and give you a better understanding of the world.”

HC senior public health student Jenna Fitzgerald was one beneficiary of the Kranes’ Honors College scholarship. The funds allowed her to complete a 10-week internship in South Africa at a youth care education center. She worked with at-risk adolescent boys from diverse backgrounds, developing a curriculum and teaching over 20 lessons in emotional and mental health, sexual health, hygiene and physical activity. She was the first intern at the center, and the program she developed continues today.

Jenna says living and working in South Africa was invaluable to her education and future plans. “I was able to apply the skills I’ve learned in class. It was the first time I’ve been able to work in a public health setting. I had the opportunity to develop a program on my own, not in a structured setting like it would have been in the US. I was the first health intern at this site, so it gave me the opportunity to take initiative. I had free rein to build the program. I did a needs assessment, learned about cultural variables and what the boys faced. I was so impacted by the boys and the people there.”

The knowledge she gained from the experience, interacting with people on the ground and building a program, was invaluable. She knew, for instance, that the boys had received many lessons in HIV, but through small group discussions, she saw how stigma or other cultural ideas impact practices, and she began thinking about ways to address the boys’ needs; they didn’t only need more knowledge, they needed a framework to accept and understand that knowledge.

Honors Student Jenna Fitzgerald in South Africa

Similarly, seeing context crystallized her understanding of challenges. In planning a lesson in basic hygiene focused on brushing teeth for a longer period of time, she realized that some boys shared a bathroom with 60 other people, making it difficult to implement healthy practices. “I’ve learned that it’s not just having knowledge – how to use a condom or how to brush your teeth. It’s understanding why these things aren’t happening, understanding the barriers people are facing. It was such a big learning experience to think about all of these factors.”

Her experience in South Africa led Jenna to apply for masters in public health programs in addition to nursing programs. She will start nursing school in the fall, and she plans to keep a global perspective of health. “My goal is to go into global health,” she says. “Health transcends boundaries.”

Jenna met the Kranes last spring at a lunch they hold annually for awardees. “I’ve gotten other scholarships but hadn’t met donors in person before. I met the Kranes and heard about their values, why they give to physics or music, and their values in terms of education. I sent them a postcard from South Africa and told them how much their generous donation helped and that I was able to learn a lot. It made it more worthwhile to know who was giving me funding and helped me stay focused and carry out my goals,” Jenna says.

Ken and Paula say they encountered the idea of setting up a scholarship fund now, rather than in their wills, from donors at their alma maters who enjoyed meeting students. “I’m very glad we’ve been able to support students and have been able to meet them and see how the money is being used,” Paula says.

“That’s the greatest part – getting to know the students,” Ken says. “We’ve tried to encourage other faculty to set up scholarship funds. You can do it for a very modest sum; you don’t have to do an endowment. I really encourage other faculty to do the same thing; there is nothing as rewarding as meeting the students.”

“I think it’s great that the Honors College has these scholarships for experiential learning and research, some of the things I’ve gotten the most out of in my education, so much more than out of classes alone. It’s important that the Honors College funds students and also funds experiences outside of the classroom, making possible these experiences for honors students who work so hard,” Jenna says.

“It’s about giving back to a place that’s given to us,” Paula says. “OSU gave us a place of belonging. If you do it right, you get as much out of it as you put in. That’s how we feel about Oregon State, the people. We wanted to be able to give back to things we enjoyed.”

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