Wayne and Marta von Borstel’s connection to the Honors College is both deeply personal and communal. For them–and their inspiration in establishing what is currently the HC’s largest scholarship–the college has the potential to turn individual change into transformation for entire communities.
They have experienced this first hand, as the parents of two honors alums. “Our family had a phenomenal experience at the HC, and it was significant in changing my children’s lives,” Mr. von Borstel said. “Some of the students that my kids were around motivated my children. It really changed my son’s life—these students helped him be better than he thought he could be. The HC gave my kids a lot of opportunity, and I want to give others opportunities, too.”
“The HC has an opportunity to really change students’ lives, and I’d like to support that mission.” -Wayne von Borstel
Their family’s experience in the Honors College led Mr. and Mrs. von Borstel to create the von Borstel and Associates, Inc. Honors College Scholarship. The award provides four years of funding for a student’s Honors College education. Graduates of Hood River, The Dalles-Wahtonka, or Sherman County High Schools are eligible for the scholarship, and the recipient is selected during the Honors College admissions process.
Providing research and educational opportunities for students from their community was what the von Borstels had in mind when they created the scholarship. “I went to Sherman County High School and there weren’t a lot of opportunities for kids to succeed in my neck of the woods,” said Mr. von Borstel. “I wanted to give back and help make this place better. The HC has an opportunity to really change students’ lives, and I’d like to support that mission.”
The von Borstel Scholarship made studying at the Honors College possible for senior Lindsey Ellett. “The scholarship has helped give me the time to explore the right career option for me. Removing some of the financial strain of being in college has also helped me believe that this exploration is important, both now and in the future. It’s helped me feel comfortable in college and meeting new people,” she said.
Her sense of curiosity and the ability to explore career options has been an important part of Lindsey’s Honors College experience. She came to Oregon State to study psychology, but when she visited the Hatfield Marine Science Center for the first time, her academic goals shifted.
“I was drawn to Hatfield for the same reason that I wanted to come to the Honors College: research experience,” Lindsey recalled. She’s now a biology major with a minor in psychology. “When I first visited Hatfield and saw that it was on the beach, right where the research was taking place, I asked a professor if she had any research positions for undergraduates.”
Lindsey began working with associate professor Ari S. Friedlaender from the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and is now completing her Honors College thesis. Her thesis uses video tag data analysis to explore the role of humpback whales in mixed-species foraging aggregation patterns.
Lindsey’s cousin, Makenzie Ellett, now an HC graduate, was a previous recipient of the von Borstel Scholarship. Watching her cousin succeed in the Honors College created a role model for Lindsey to look up to and follow as she entered the HC.
While studying at the Honors College, Makenzie majored in Civil Engineering and conducted undergraduate research with transportation engineering professor David Hurwitz, for which she received an Honors Experience Scholarship. Makenzie began working in the driving simulator lab on campus to examine the effects of texting while driving, a project that became the topic of her thesis. Makenzie graduated in 2015 and is now completing a Masters of Engineering in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering.
The von Borstel Scholarship helped Makenzie stay motivated to complete her thesis. “The von Borstels are very excited about the HC. They would come down at least once per year to check up on me and see how I was doing,” she remembered. She says the support from the von Borstels also helped her with the transition from The Dalles to Corvallis and her adjustment to the educational environment at OSU.
The support and opportunities provided by the von Borstels means a great deal to Lindsey, too. “I got to meet the von Borstels at a scholarship dinner, and it’s been so wonderful to get to know the people who are supporting me,” she said. “I am impressed by how committed they are to this scholarship and how continuous their support has been, because they keep offering the scholarship to students from my community. I’ve also gotten to meet the students above me and below me who have received the scholarship. They’re from the same area so it’s another way to build community.”
Lindsey will graduate this spring, and she maintains a sense of exploration about her career options: “I’m interested in the nonprofit and business sides of conservation, in addition to research,” she said. “I grew up in a rural area, and my family has always appreciated and wanted to protect the natural world. I took a course on endangered species that helped me learn more about the policy side of conservation efforts, so that’s another part of the field that I’d like to explore in the work force once I graduate.”
This is exactly what Mr. von Borstel hopes that students gain from his scholarship support: “I really believe that the HC is an important tool for OSU,” he said. “It’s phenomenal that OSU offers an honors education, and I try to entice HC students to finish the program. I hope I help students get the most out of a fantastic honors education.”