During their time at Oregon State University, honors students are taught that progress is not linear – and that is often a good thing. That’s why the Honors College fosters a culture that empowers students to explore their curiosities, both inside and outside their fields of study. Honors alum Justin Chi serves as an excellent example of this. Justin grew up in Corvallis and attended Crescent Valley High School before attending Oregon State University, and he earned his Honors Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering in 2013. However, since graduating, Justin has taken the skills and connections he built in the Honors College to go in a new, unanticipated direction.
Paving the Way
It was Justin’s interests in math, science and problem solving that led him to his environmental engineering degree. As an undergraduate, he participated in two internships through the Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program, one with Boeing Commercial Airplanes and the other with Daimler Trucks North America. Like many students, he used his honors thesis, which explored marketing opportunities in STEM-related fields for women and analyzed previous recruitment shortfalls, as an opportunity to develop other interests and skills. Outside of the Honors College, Justin participated in recreation league sports, the Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering Student Club and was an OSU Engineering Ambassador.
After graduation, Justin went to Taiwan and worked as a media intern at the Taipei Zoo through an extension program that allows individuals of Taiwanese descent to work in Taiwan. After returning to the United States, Justin began a position in engineering. However, he quickly realized he did not actually want to continue working as an engineer. “Engineering was still fascinating, but it stopped being a clear career path moving forward. Project management was a blend where I was still comfortable and in my element, but diving a little further into business,” he recalls. After many conversations with friends, family and mentors, Justin decided to pursue a Master of Business Administration at Portland State University. He characterizes this leap of faith as “committing to the pivot.”
Committing to the Pivot
After the first year of his MBA program, Justin participated in the PENSOLE Footwear Design Academy. This design school provides participants with professional experience in the footwear field and connects them to vocational networks and opportunities. Through PENSOLE, Justin participated in the adidas Futurecraft Master Class. While it was far from the world of environmental engineering, Justin discovered that his honors and engineering education had equipped him with problem solving and collaboration skills that helped him succeed. “Despite never doing any kind of environmental engineering [professionally], the degree prepared me quite well for where I am today.”
After receiving his MBA, Justin interned with adidas’ Business Transformation team, which eventually launched him into a career with the company. He started as an assistant manager and has since held multiple positions with adidas, from digital input and publishing to business development. Justin is currently the director of finance operations for adidas. While he has had opportunities in his career to work closely with senior leaders, large corporate partners and worked in a range of areas, Justin still finds value in his undergraduate education and the connections he has fostered over the years. He says, “I’ve had the immense pleasure of having great mentors and managers throughout my career. A lot of my moves have been recommendations or pushes or nudges.”
When reflecting on his time at Oregon State University, he credits the Honors College for cultivating a collaborative curriculum and a fantastic culture of friends and mentors, who all supported his early journey. Justin still finds the relationships he made in the Honors College meaningful. He and many friends from college are still connected, talk regularly, and support each another professionally and personally. One of his Honors College friends, who also studied engineering, was even Justin’s best man at his wedding. His advice to students is, “[College] is more about your attitude, work ethic, curiosity and how you engage with your peers and mentors. The workforce is different from college, but college can certainly prepare you for more careers than one.” To maximize options, students should “make every interaction count, enable your curiosity and continue raising your hand.”
By Jax Richards, Student Writer
CATEGORIES: All Stories Alumni and Friends Features Homestories