When Kathleen Gissing, class of 2021, found herself at a point in her life where she could dedicate time to finish her academic pursuit, she chose Oregon State University Ecampus to complete her educational goal.

“OSU is one of the top-ranked schools in the field I wished to study,” says Gissing, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in natural resources with an emphasis in policy and management. “I wanted to do something to help with climate change and threatened and endangered species – this program fit perfectly.”

As a non-traditional student, Gissing says Ecampus allowed her to obtain her degree, something she says she would never have done if she had to attend class in a traditional on-campus setting.

Gissing is currently a Federal Government Pathways Program Intern and hopes to continue her career in ecological services with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service following graduation.

“I hope to continue to gain knowledge about how to use regulations, policy, and laws to help threatened, endangered and species of concern and their habitat in addition to developing trusting collaborations with partners and stakeholders involved,” Gissing says. “I also hope to show how climate change is affecting species.”

Before her internship with the federal government, Gissing worked two jobs. One of the jobs was managing her own business, and the other was working as a Park Ranger intern with the National Park Service. She also volunteered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That busy lifestyle didn’t leave much time for other things, but she always managed to find time to spend with her husband hiking, biking or playing with her dogs.

Her favorite Ecampus courses have been natural resource decision making and biology, as well as any course that has to do with range management and watersheds. These topics, she says, apply to where she lives and where she hopes to continue working.

“I live in Grand Junction, Colorado, with public lands, mostly BLM managed, surrounding me,” Gissing says. “It is high desert-climate located at the most northern end of the Colorado Plateau region and makes for an interesting mix of people and culture. It also creates challenges for managing the lands to meet the needs of the resource and those who use it.”

As an older, non-traditional student, she admits it can be intimidating to return to school or to start for the first time. Technology and applications change quickly, and it can be challenging to adjust and adapt to new systems and processes while also getting back into the swing of things with academics. Her advice to incoming Ecampus students is to speak up and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Often others will have the same problems but won’t ask, she says, but will be glad you did. She found the instructors on Ecampus supportive and the content engaging.

“I am a non-traditional student, and being able to learn all I have learned on-line is amazing,” Gissing says. “The instructors have all been great, and I am thrilled to be an OSU student, soon to be alumni!”

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

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