As she prepares to graduate from Oregon State for the second time, Jenesis Long sees the mentorship she experienced in the Honors College as the key to her success.
As a senior in high school, Jenesis was prepared to go to Oregon State after graduation. But when the time came to start, the size of the university, its expense, and its distance from home were daunting. She decided to delay her start at Oregon State and enrolled in Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC) as a way of easing the transition to the college. Working in a small community college setting meant that her classes were routinely with as few as ten other students.
When the time came to transfer to Oregon State for her junior and senior years, the small community offered by the Honors College was alluring. “I had always had OSU in my sights,” she says, “but I hadn’t known about the Honors College until I applied as a transfer student. I was looking for a smaller community inside this giant campus, and the HC was exactly what I needed.”
The structure and size of the classes offered by the Honors College was particularly appealing. “These classes encouraged us to challenge our professor’s ideas and to speak and interact,” she recalls. “That confidence definitely spilled over into other environments too.” As a transfer student, most of the HC courses she took were electives and colloquia specifically designed to expand students’ ways of thinking and learning.
One of the most impactful classes was HC299 – Orientation for Transfer Students*, a course created as a part of a National Science Foundation-funded program to support high-achieving students in science, technology, engineering, and math fields transfer from community colleges to Oregon State. “I never thought I would get as much out of it as I did,” she says. “I lived off campus, and I would have missed out on so much if I hadn’t taken that class. We only met every other week, but it was still so helpful.”
As part of the orientation class, she met several advisors, which eventually connected her with her thesis mentor. “Writing a thesis isn’t really that fun,” she says, “but the mentorship I got through the process was so rewarding. And having the strength of the Honors College behind me really opened a lot of doors. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the mentorship and the thesis.”
When her undergraduate career was coming to an end, she applied to three graduate schools. Not only was she accepted to all three, but they all interviewed her for graduate assistantships that would help pay for her program.
“At all the interviews, they asked me about the mentorship and thesis process,” she recalls. “I had the experiences and the professionalism they valued from working with my mentor. It really set me apart in the graduate school process, and I felt really well-prepared coming out of the Honors College.
“I absolutely attribute my success at OSU and in the Honors College to my willingness to put myself out there and ask questions, to follow up and make connections. Finding champions and mentors is so important,” she says, “especially as a transfer student, because we have a shorter amount of time to find those people and figure things out.”
In the end, she decided to remain at Oregon State for graduate school, enrolling in the Master of Education in College Student Services Administration program. Only three days after graduating with her Honors Baccalaureate in June of 2014, she began to work as an academic advisor with the University Exploratory Studies Program. After her first term as a graduate student, she was offered a full-time advising position, and she decided to be a part-time student.
Through her position as an advisor, she’s advocating for the creation of an orientation class for all transfer students similar to the one she took, a class that will provide the kind of support she experienced in the Honors College as an undergraduate.
She hopes to continue this kind of work when she graduates from her master’s program this June. “Ideally, I will continue working with students in an advising or counseling role. I’d like to be at a large research institution like Oregon State and a place that lives in a social justice mindset.” she says.
“I really want to support students in getting where they want to go.”
*The orientation class that Jenesis took part in (HC299 – Orientation for Transfer Students) has now become the HC Peer Mentoring Program, which assists students in their transition to Oregon State University and increases their knowledge of OSU and HC resources.
CATEGORIES: All Stories Alumni and Friends Features