Not Qutie Adults cover
Rick Settersten and Barbara Ray's book was published by Random House this month.

Critiquing the young can sometimes seem to be a rite of passage for older generations. Think of the last time you heard something like this: “20-somethings – they’re mooching off their parents and taking forever to get their careers started. They don’t take marriage seriously anymore, and helicopter parents keep them immature.”

But according to Rick Settersten, professor of human development and family sciences and endowed director of the Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families, those generalizations and criticisms do no service to young adults. And they miss the point, especially in 2010. Young adults are facing a different set of challenges than their parents did.

Understanding these differences and challenges can be good for everyone, Settersten and coauthor Barbara Ray argue in their new book, “Not Quite Adults,” which was published this month by Random House. For the book, Settersten and Ray draw results from nearly two dozen national data sets and more than 500 in-depth interviews with young adults, all gathered over 10 years of multidisciplinary research.

We recently had the chance to talk with Settersten about the book, their motivations for writing it, and some of the important things he and Ray learned along the way.

Settersten will be talking about Not Quite Adults and signing books at OSU’s Corvallis Science Pub on Jan. 10, Powell’s in Portland Jan. 12 and the OSU bookstore Jan 13. More information about his appearances can be found on the Not Quite Adults website.

How did this book come about?
The research at the heart of our book grew out of a network funded by the MacArthur Foundation. We were a dozen scientists from different fields—sociology, psychology, economics, public policy—brought together to take a fresh look at the period of life between 18 and 34. The research was so socially relevant that we wanted to take some of our messages to the streets.

Rick Settersten
Professor and author Rick Settersten

What were some of your motivations and goals in writing the book?
This period of life has seen extraordinary changes. We’re trying to help young people, their parents, educators, and policy makers understand what’s going on and what to do about it. Much of the public conversation about young people today is negative, and so much of our research evidence runs counter to it.  With this book, we hope to redirect the conversation and make it productive.

We hope young people will see how the struggles they’re having are not just their own, or their own doing, but are rooted in larger social and economic conditions and shared by many others. We hope that parents will be able to see their youth in a brand new way, and that they’ll gain some insights into the world their child is trying to navigate.

What are some of the stereotypes about young people you counter in “Not Quite Adults?”
Young people are generally not mooching off their parents. That’s not to say that parents aren’t helping a lot in getting their children launched. But most parents, I think, aren’t resentful of the help they’re giving.. They’re mainly worried. They want to make sure their kids succeed, and the stakes are high. Of course, it’s always been true that many parents don’t have the financial resources or the know-how to help their kids. But it’s now a crisis for the middle class, too, in that the recession has altered their resources and options.

We need to let go of the idea that living at home is bad. It can be a smart thing for young people and parents, especially if they’re from families that don’t have a lot of resources. Living at home may be what allows a young person to pursue a college degree or take a no-pay or low-pay internship—things that will improve their chances on the job market. Or, it can allow them to build a nest egg for a stronger launch later on.

And the helicopter-parent thing too: In its extreme form, it’s clearly bad. Parents need to set boundaries. But the old school of hard knocks parenting—18 or 21 and you’re out—doesn’t work well today. The financial and emotional support of parents is crucial to the success of children. We should be far more worried about uninvolved parents.

And what about marriage?
Young people today want to have their ducks in a row before they get married. Young people postpone marriage because they’re trying to get degrees and some work experience under their belts first. They also want to have enough experience in relationships to know they’re choosing the right person to marry. Young people haven’t abandoned marriage as much as they’ve delayed it.

What happens when these kids have to start investing in their own kids? Is there a downside to starting later?

I don’t see one. If delayed marriage and parenting come with more careful choices about whom to marry and when to parent, and if credentials and work experience are acquired along the way, you have a recipe for more effective and resourceful parenting. We should be far more worried about young people who parent too soon.

Settersten's coauthor, Barbara Ray

How did you get interested in this topic to begin with?
I actually got started in the field of aging. I was eventually drawn to study the early adult years because in order to understand where people end up in late life, you have to understand where they started. What’s going on with young people today will have an effect on their future decades, just as every generation before this one has carried the imprint of their own times.

We would do well to remember that this is a period of life that’s been fundamentally transformed. That’s not going away.

These years are also an interesting window into how other periods of life are being similarly reworked—think about middle age and old age. Parents and grandparents of young adults today surely feel the changes around them too. It helps to keep in mind that the rulebook for life has been shredded for everyone, not just young adults.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Parents and kids still wonder if a college education is really worth it. It is. But it’s also important to be smart about those choices given today’s world.

There are also some loud alarms sounding in higher education. We’ve done much to increase access to higher education, but retention and graduation rates are truly abysmal. And let’s not forget about high school dropout rates, which are still very high and somehow out of the public eye with the emphasis on “college for all.” In a knowledge economy, there are few stable places to hook in kids who aren’t college bound, and so many who are in college are floundering or failing. These are serious problems.

The fact that a delayed transition is good for everyone doesn’t mean that everyone is doing it, or doing it well. This book is, we hope, not only a reminder of what is good and right with young people today, but also a wake up call to what is worrisome and what we can do better.

Falkner Glacier
OSU's Kelly Falkner, who is soon heading to NSF, had a glacier named after her.

Oregon State University oceanographer Kelly Falkner’s work has taken her all the way to the North Pole and back, and her work has been so impactful that she even has a glacier named after her. But now Falkner is taking on a new challenge as she leaves the university to take a leadership position with the National Science Foundation, where she will be the new deputy head of the Office of Polar Programs.

A professor in OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Falkner will begin her new role with NSF on Jan. 3, and joins a long list of other OSU faculty members who have been elevated to important government leadership positions. “It wasn’t an easy decision, because I’ve had a great career at OSU and I’ll miss my excellent colleagues, the students, and the supportive staff here,” Falkner said. “But I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to take my polar interests into broader community service.”

Kelly Falkner
Kelly Falkner, at the South Pole.

In 2007, she took a two-year leave from OSU to serve as the agency’s first program director for integrated Antarctic research. Her stint was so successful, her NSF colleagues named a glacier after her. “Falkner Glacier” is an east-flowing valley glacier stretching four miles long through the Mountaineer Range in Victoria Land. In her new role, Falkner will join the NSF Office of Polar Programs, which manages and initiates the agency’s funding for basic research and operational support in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The office supports individual investigators, as well as research teams and United States participation in multi-national projects.

Falkner isn’t the only OSU professor who has earned a leadership position with a federal agency. Zoologist Jane Lubchenco was named administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last year. Among other OSU professors in leadership positions are:

  • Michael Freilich, a COAS professor, is director of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA;
  • Timothy J. Cowles, COAS professor, is program director for the Ocean Observatories Initiative, the National Science Foundation’s signature research project on climate change;
  • Jim McManus, COAS professor, recently served as associate program director of the chemical oceanography program at the National Science Foundation;
  • Mark Hixon, a professor of marine biology, chaired the federal advisory committee that helped produce the framework for the national system of marine protected areas;
  • Geosciences professor Peter Clark and Philip Mote, who directs the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at OSU, have been named lead authors for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. It will be the much-anticipated follow-up to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which garnered a share of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007;
  • Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine Cyril Clarke is a member of the USDA’s National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board.
  • COAS professor Adam Schultz spent some time on loan to the NSF, where he served as program director for Marine Geology and Geophysics, overseeing the Ridge 2000 program, which explored deep-ocean ridges.

The stellar work our faculty does goes a long way to attracting high-achieving students to Oregon State. University Honors College sophomore Sam Kelly-Quattrochi doesn’t know what his major will be, but was initially impressed by the quality of OSU’s marine biology program, and the research opportunities available to undergraduate students at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Honors College sophomore Emily Pickering became the first freshman at OSU to accompany Mark Hixon and his crew to Lee Stocking Island, where she helped survey lionfish and created her ownproject on lionfish prey preference and digestion. Pickering also blogged about her experiences there.

Master’s student Cody Beedlow, following in the footsteps of his adviser, Peter Clark, is providing key data on glacial retreat in Oregon. Every month in the spring and summer, Beedlow treks to Collier with 65 pounds of equipment in tow and the intention to measure Collier’s glacial melt over time. Over the past year, he’s found that the glacier has decreased by more than 20 percent from its size in the late 1980s. He hopes that when he graduates, someone else takes on the work he’s doing to measure Collier.

OSU alums also go on to make a difference in government. Marine resource management alum Laura Anderson owns and operates the popular Local Ocean, a fish market and restaurant in Newport, Ore. It’s the kind of place where people frequently leave feeling like they’ve had the best seafood in their lives. But Anderson also keeps a keen eye on issues revolving around healthy fisheries. She volunteers as an advocate for the fishing industry in Oregon and beyond, making trips to Washington, D.C. to testify before Congress.

Alum Gail Kimbell, who holds a master degree in forest engineering from the OSU College of Forestry, was named the first woman to lead the U.S. Forest Service. After graduating from OSU with an M.F. in forest engineering in 1982, Kimbell began her career in the federal government as a forester with the Bureau of Land Management in Medford, Ore.  Kimbell held the position until last year. 

Oregon State alum (’78) Don Pettit is a NASA astronaut and a veteran of multiple space missions, including a six-month stint aboard the International Space Station. During that trip, Pettit captured thousands of images from space – some of which he’s made into time-lapse videos that show phenomenon like the aurora borealis over northern Canada, and some that show the sun rising and falling over the Earth. We posted the videos on YouTube, and since then they’ve been picked up by Wired magazine and viewed by hundreds of thousands.

We recently had a chance to talk with Pettit about why he thought it was important to make videos from space, and some of the things in space that surprise him.

When did you make the videos, and what gave you the idea to do it?
I did the imagery on STS 126 (a Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station), which would have been November/December 2008.

There are things that happen on the period of an orbital time scale, which is 90 minutes, which you can’t really perceive with your eye. It’s kind of like watching the minute hand on a clock move. You really can’t see the dynamics of it.

What kinds of things can’t you perceive with your eye?
One is the movement of the station’s solar panels. They make one motion every 90 minutes, one complete revolution. You look out the window and they’re there. Then you get busy doing something and look out the window again, and they moved. But you’re really not aware of the motion.

What is the purpose of the solar panels?
They produce a solar energy for the space station. So they track the sun as we go around earth. We have radiators that get rid of waste heat, and those have to be pointed away from the sun.

Did you end up perceiving things differently as you put these movies together?
Yeah, I did. If you look at some of the videos closely you could see meteorites coming in. They’re just flashes that show up on a few frames. There are other little surprises that come out when you do these time-lapse videos.

Why do you think it’s important that people see something like this?
When I go and give a talk to a group of people, one of the more common questions is, ‘so tell me, what was it really like?’ These images give people on earth a close approximation to what it is really like when you look out a window. Particularly the nighttime Aurora and some of the other nighttime time-lapse work.

Part of it is sharing the experience with the people who make it all possible, because this is a publicly funded program. And part of it is to share these images with other technical and scientific people so they can see things in these images either that I don’t see or that I can’t explain. And maybe they can make a discovery from the raw data that I’ve collected.

What are some of the things that go through your mind when you see things like a nighttime aurora?
I actually wrote an essay about this when I was on the Space Station during Expedition 6 in 2002/2003, and it’s posted on the NASA website.

Basically I wrote that if the Greeks and the Romans had seen Aurora they would have named a goddess after her, and Aurora would have been the twin sister of Isis, who is the god of the rainbow. I made the analogy between other striking and beautiful phenomenology that have gods named after them. I said we should have a god named after Aurora, because it is certainly fitting.

What kind of equipment did you use to make the videos?
A normal video camera isn’t sensitive enough. So I used one of our low-light level still cameras. I put it on a framing rate where it would take a picture every 10-15 seconds. I’d get a series of thousands of images. Of the 12,000 images I was able to make 85 separate time-lapse movies. So it’s laborious. You have thousands and thousands of individual images that you have to import into editing software and put together into a time-lapse movie.

Is there anything else you want to add?
I do love the concept of a frontier. I like to describe a frontier as a place where your normal intuition does not apply. The answers are not in the back of the book. These are places that are rich in discovery, and these can be all over the place. You could be going to the bottom of the ocean, off to the Antarctic or Arctic regions. Space happens to be my frontier. All you have to do is open your eyes and you can make all these neat observations.

How is what you saw different than what your intuition would tell you?
Your intuition has no idea what Earth looks like when you’re not on Earth, because you’ve never been there before – and being in a weightless environment, and flying around the room like Peter Pan. And when you have 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets a day. And sunrise takes 7.5 seconds. So you go from pitch black to bright, full sun in 7.5 seconds. And then the inverse goes. These are all things that are counter to your intuition.

Ever since Oregon State University’s earliest days, we have been dedicated to providing an excellent education for our students. Being Oregon’s land grant university means keeping a tradition of service – and our faculty and students embody that tradition. Our faculty make themselves accessible to our students, and our students are dedicated to making the world a better place.

“Recently I attended a national student success conference on the East Coast. Another attendee from a large research university approached me and said, ‘You’re so fortunate to be at OSU. We’ve been admiring from afar what a strong student-centered campus you have,'” says Susie Brubaker-Cole, associate provost for academic success and engagement and director of advising at Oregon State. “I told her, ‘I know, I feel very fortunate to work with faculty who are so committed to their students.”

OSU undergraduates can involve themselves in research with top-ranking faculty and utilize facilities that few universities in the world can offer, including the university’s own research forests, an ocean-going ship, the nation’s most sophisticated tsunami wave basin, a marine science laboratory at the coast, a nuclear reactor, test fields for experimental crops, a wine institute and beer brewing facility, and the Linus Pauling Institute for the study of nutrition and health.

Here are just a few ways our diverse students are taking advantage of opportunities they can take into the world beyond Oregon State.

A Personal Connection

Christine Kelly and Kelsey Childress
Chemical engineering professor Christine Kelly and student Kelsey Childres
  • Chemical engineering professor Christine Kelly is more than just a mentor in the lab, where she likes to make sure that her undergraduates are contributing real data to research. For Kelly, it’s important to be a support system for her students. “”It’s great to be able to come and hang out on Christine’s couch after a tough day,” says Kelsey Childress, a University Honors College student whose experience in Kelly’s lab has made her think about going to graduate school.
  • California sophomore Sam Kelly-Quattrocchi was hooked on Oregon State after his campus visit. Not only was the campus beautiful, the University Honors College student got ample attention from an Oregon State adviser. “People here took a genuine interest in me,” he says. “It was something that other schools didn’t do.” Kelly also recognized the great marine biology program at Oregon State, as well as the Hatfield Marine Science Center, which provides research and internship opportunities for undergraduates.

Opportunities for real impact

  • Oregon State is one of 12 universities around the country selected by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to create an undergraduate genomics lab for freshmen and sophomore students that specifically researches and catalogues phage DNA. This three-year genome research project provides undergraduates with the opportunity to do research that is published and could be used by other researchers to develop treatments for tuberculosis.  “This is one of the first national projects to change the way undergraduates experience biology labs,” says co-instructor Barbara Taylor, a zoology professor.
    Water restoration on the Metolius
    Students enrolled in a restoration field course collect stream macro-invertebrates with Matt Shinderman, top, and Instructor Karen Allen, lower right
  • Students in natural resources instructor Matt Shinderman’s classes have contributed directly to restoration work on a tributary of Central Oregon’s Metolius River. Shinderman and co-instructors Matt Orr and Karen Allen and their students surveyed aquatic insects, or macro-invertebrates, to determine how the ecosystem was responding to the tributary’s being restored – via backhoe and dump truck – to its original shape. The group collected insects and took them back to the lab to get a sense of how the insects were faring. The results of their study provided a model that agencies can use for restoration work throughout the region.
  • 2009 civil engineering graduate Erika McQuillen felt prepared to enter the workforce from her Oregon State coursework alone. But what really gave her an edge was getting out of the classroom. “OSU encouraged us to get internships and real work experience,” she says. And McQuillen did. She had internships with Hoffman Construction in Portland, Ore., a company dedicated to sustainable building techniques. Now, McQuillen works for Hoffman full-time.
  • Imagine a dry, ancient place that is known mostly for its modern-day political strife and bloodshed. Imagine several sources of water — all precious and needed — that ignore political boundaries. Then imagine going there to learn how people manage these issues in their day-to-day lives. That’s what a group of 19 Oregon State University students did last year. They traveled through Israel and Palestine under the guidance of renowned water conflict expert and Oregon State professor Aaron Wolf. They studied the geography and geology of the Middle East’s water supply and sources, as well as how those factors affect cities, agriculture and, ultimately, politics. “It felt natural to take the students there to look at these separate issues, and then look at them together,” says Wolf.

Kasey McCabe and his friends dreamed of making movies when they were little kids growing up in Portland, and now they are making those dreams reality.

McCabe, a liberal studies major and 2010 graduate of Oregon State University, and his friends Tyson Balcomb and Chapin Hemmingway, created their own company, Exterior Films, in 2005. Their second full-length feature, “The Gray Area,” premiered on June 18, at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland.

McCabe said he started making short movies at OSU, combining the critical theory and historical knowledge he gained in Professor Jon Lewis’ film classes with the technical know-how he accrued from his New Media Communications classes.

“I hadn’t seen a movie made before 1950 until I took classes with Jon Lewis,” he said. “I really learned about film history from him. And in New Media, I got the hands-on skills in production and editing that I needed.”

With a small budget of $45,000, the team used Portland casting agencies to hire professional actors and help from the Oregon Film & Video Office to gain permits for shooting on location. McCabe said the generosity and community-oriented spirit of Oregonians is what allowed them to shoot their film on such a tight budget.

“A film like this would cost at least $100,000 in Los Angeles,” he said. “Portland is a great place to make movies because it is such a close-knit community and everyone goes out of their way to help independent filmmakers.”

“The Gray Area” is about three childhood friends who come together after one of their buddies is found dead, apparently from an overdose. As the story unfolds, the men start to investigate whether their friend’s death had suspicious motives.

The film stars former OSU student and working actor Gavin Bristol, who has already been featured in Portland-based productions such as the popular “New Moon” film from the Twilight series as well as the TNT series “Leverage.”

“The Gray Area” will show for June 18-24 at the Hollywood Theatre. After that one-week Portland engagement, McCabe said the team plans to self-distribute it to theaters throughout the West Coast.

Tickets and showtimes to “The Gray Area” are available now.

Astronaut Donald R. Pettit, Expedition 6 NASA ISS science officer, photographs his helmet visor during a session of extravehicular activity (EVA). Pettit's arms and camera are visible in the reflection of his helmet visor. Astronaut Kenneth D. Bowersox, mission commander, is also visible in visor reflection, upper right.

NASA astronaut Don Pettit (OSU ’78), veteran of multiple space missions, one including a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station, delivered the 2010 commencement address at Oregon State. The 55-year-old chemical engineering graduate of OSU has served as an astronaut for the past 14 years and is recognized not only for his longevity and success in the space program, but his innovation in space, which has included such in-space inventions as the “zero-g” coffee cup. Pettit was also awarded an honorary doctorate degree.

Pettit logged 250 orbits of the Earth and more than 6 million miles on his most recent trip into space in 2008 as a part of the STS-126 Endeavour. During that 16-day trip he operated the robotic arm for a total of four spacewalks performed by three fellow crew members. STS-126 also brought a new crew member to the International Space Station.

Pettit is perhaps most famous for being 240 miles above the Earth, serving as the International Space Station’s science officer, in February 2003 when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on reentry, killing its crew of seven and causing NASA to suspend shuttle flights. That left Pettit and his two crewmates with no scheduled ride home. They eventually used a backup system, crash-landing in a Russian capsule in the Russian wilderness after 161 days in space.

While in orbit as the International Space Station’s science officer, Pettit demonstrated experiments for schoolchildren around the world in a series of shows called “Saturday Morning Science.”

In 2006 Pettit traveled to Antarctica as a part of an exhibition to gather meteorites – because despite Antarctica’s remoteness the rocks are most easily found there. There, he resorted to poetry to describe a type of meteorite commonly found in the open, on top of the snow and ice. Asked whether there are many poets in the astronaut corps, Pettit said his colleagues defy the single-minded stereotype epitomized in books and movies.

“You would be surprised at how many folks in the office sneak into cultural events outside the range of what the public labels one with the ‘Right Stuff,’” he said. One of Pettit’s Antarctica poems appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of the Oregon Stater. “I have written poetry since I first learned to write,” he said. “Whether or not I am a poet, I guess rests in the ear of the beholder.”

Ordinary Chondrite

By Don Pettit

I’m just an ordinary chondrite,
a small piece of rock,
left over as construction debris from when the solar system was built.

A brick that would not fit in.

Locked within my lattice are stories,
are tales,
of where we came from and thus who we are.

I wandered for billions of years,
and then visited a planet with a fiery welcome.

My skin crazed like pottery fired in a kiln that was too hot.

Sizzling, I sank in glacier ice,
only to surface in a thousand years.

King Arthur was but a lad.

Each sunrise and sunset was like a year,
and they passed by in numbers too many to count.

Then came a gentle touch of a hand,
followed by an exam that would make any doctor visit seem welcome.

And now under glass-masked gazes,
I hear children say,

“It’s just a rock.”