It was Oregon State University’s exceptional chemistry program and welcoming environment that initially drew Carly Thorkildson to first apply to OSU. Now, with her third year of undergraduate studies on the horizon and a growing collection of leadership and philanthropic experiences under her belt, it is the opportunity to build community through connection, she says, that has made her time at OSU truly remarkable.
Having grown up just outside of Corvallis in McMinnville, Oregon, Carly has been familiar with Oregon State since her days visiting campus as a high school student — and it was her experiences during those visits that led her to select OSU to pursue her undergraduate degree. Now a sophomore, she spent her first year living in West Hall, an on-campus residence hall reserved for honors students, and quickly declared a major in chemical engineering with a minor in chemistry. Living alongside her honors peers, she says, not only established a feeling of connection, but provided a perfect arena for socializing — particularly after the sustained isolation imposed by the pandemic. “I wouldn’t have been as social if I hadn’t been surrounded by my awesome friend group,” she shares.
During her first year on campus, West Hall’s academic learning assistant, Rosemary Williams, resided just across the hall from Carly, and it was Rosemary who inspired Carly to eventually become an academic learning assistant herself. ALAs are live-in peer mentors who provide various forms of support for residential students, from building strong academic habits and navigating life at a university to connecting students with resources and promoting hall-wide programming initiatives. She took on the new role during the 2021-22 academic year and plans to continue once she returns to campus as a junior in the fall of 2022. “Post-COVID, it feels awesome to help others find their way,” she shares. “I get to see them grow up through the year.” Carly conducts one-on-one meetings during her office hours and works with the resident advisors to create a positive environment. “It’s nice to know that if someone comes and knocks on my door, I can be there for them. It’s been really rewarding.”
Sigma Delta Omega
In addition to her responsibilities as an ALA, Carly has taken on leadership roles with Sigma Delta Omega, an OSU sorority founded specifically for women with an interest in science. This year, she was elected the sorority’s academic success officer and will also serve as treasurer during the 2022-23 academic year. “We all have similar values and goals, which is great,” she says. “They all inspire me to push myself.” Sigma Delta Omega’s philanthropy efforts benefit the American Cancer Society as well as OSU’s STEM Academy, whose mission is to increase college attendance and participation in STEM fields by engaging K-12 youth in programs. “I am so happy I got involved, and I encourage others to do so as well,” Carly says.
Engineering Student Council
After serving as a student senator for the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering during the 2020-21 academic year, Carly’s passion for science led her to join the Engineering Student Council as the events chair, a position she still currently holds. “This has pushed me as an individual to gain leadership skills,” she says. The ESC is a student-run organization that supports activities and events held by engineering student organizations. “This is a really rewarding experience,” she says. “It’s been awesome giving back to younger students.”
Honors College Experience
In addition to the strong sense of community fostered by the Honors College, its unique colloquia courses and small classroom sizes set it apart from the traditional undergraduate experience.
Of the honors courses she has taken thus far, Carly shares that Science, Ethics and Star Trek, taught by Dr. Diana Rohlman, has been among her favorites. The one-credit colloquia course examines real-life scientific topics through the lens of Star Trek, sparking classroom debate among students around the ethical dilemmas posed by each episode.
Like many of her honors peers, Carly is currently in the research stage of her thesis, titled, “Addressing the Pipeline and Where to Repair It: Where STEM Gets Exclusive.” The project will involve conducting interviews with women and people of color who have graduated from OSU’s College of Engineering and using that information to determine how the college can improve the undergraduate experience of its minority student population.
While students in the Honors College are often known for their academic achievements, Carly’s advice to both current and future students is to also create space for the things they’re most passionate about and the experiences that shape what will become their most enduring college memories: “Everyone comes to college for academics, but make sure to expand your search beyond that.”
By Megan Sherman: Student Writer, Honors College