San Antonio student earns hefty Oregon State ROTC scholarship, headed to Alamo Bowl

On Dec. 29, fans of Beaver Nation will invade the Alamodome in San Antonio for the football team’s Alamo Bowl matchup against Texas. Among those fans will sit the Quidachay family, including San Antonio’s Smithson Valley High School senior Kendi Quidachay, who recently received a $180,000 ROTC scholarship to Oregon State University.

From left to right, Petty Officer 1st Class John Hensen, local recruiter FC2 Feliciano Torres, Kendi Quidachay, Commanding officer of the San Antonio Navy Recruiting District Jason Webb and Senior Chief Petty Officer Phillip Wygans.
Photo courtesy of KGNB 1420 AM New Braunfels, Texas

The sum will be more than enough to cover Kendi’s college education. She’s earned it.

During her first few high school years, Quidachay put together a strong resume: school leadership, community involvement, National Honors Society treasurer, school and church volunteer work, a Spanish and science club member, a math tutor, a 3.91 GPA and solid ACT scores.

“My older sister got a scholarship three years ago to Washington, and I saw what it did for her, so I made sure to qualify and apply,” Quidachay said. “There are a lot of scholarships out there.”

Oregon State University is her first choice. After all, she’s a legacy. Her parents, Vince (’88) and Karen (’89), are both Beaver graduates and speak highly of their alma mater. The university also has a recognized ROTC program, and Kendi is currently a junior ROTC member.

Quidachay, a unique name in itself, originates from Guam. In fact, Kendi’s father and grandparents are full Guamanian, and her father and grandfather served in the Navy. The Quidachay’s are a military family, to say the least.

An aspiring engineer

There’s one more thing that attracted Kendi to Oregon State: its nationally recognized engineering program. She says civil engineering is her target, has heard about the success of graduates and hopes to serve in the military as a civil engineer when her education is complete.

For many people, physics is the bane of their existence. They either get it or they don’t. Kendi gets physics — and math and science and everything that’s supposed to be hard — primed to be an engineer.

“It’s a great field,” she said. “I’m taking calculus and physics now. I like the whole buildings and bridges thing, designing structures.”

When speaking about her future, the senior is nervous, yet excited. She already sees what doors are about to open for her with the ROTC scholarship. She’ll be required to serve five years in the military when she finishes college, which could end up becoming an engineering career.

“You’re an officer in the military right out of college, it’s a great future,” Kendi said. “I’d like to go on a ship. I’d like to leave my options open. With an engineering degree, you can do a lot, so we’ll see what jobs they can offer me.”

As far as the decision to attend Oregon State, Kendi hasn’t fully made up her mind. She’s applied to multiple schools, but says Oregon State is still at the top of her list.

She’s taking her time, however. After all, college is a big decision. That said, Beaver Nation would be lucky to have her.

By Colin Huber

Public health researchers team up on flame retardant study

Preventing house fires is important, especially in families with children – but there is growing evidence that flame retardant materials used broadly in furniture, electronics, and even toys, may create a new health threat.

Research has shown that many of the chemicals used as flame retardants persist in the environment and accumulate in people. While the health effects from flame retardants are not clear, data from toxicological studies show that some of the chemicals used as flame retardants may affect brain development – a conclusion that has led to the ban of many of these chemicals in the European Union. But in the United States, the federal standards have focused on fire safety, not necessarily the chemicals that are used as flame retardants.

The lack of regulation may relate to the dearth of applied research. While many experts agree that some of the chemicals used in flame retardants are toxic, few studies have focused on the risk of exposure to common household items, from furniture to rugs. Now a team of researchers at Oregon State University is hoping to fill some of those gaps.

“We know from animal studies that some flame retardants can have a neurotoxic effect, so brain development and cognition are at risk,” said Molly Kile, an OSU public health environmental epidemiologist who will lead a team of researchers to find answers.

“Given the fact that the numbers of children with neurological and cognitive disabilities is on the rise in the developing world, many have hypothesized that that exposure to chemicals may be a contributing factor,” Kile said. “In order to start designing studies that can examine this hypothesis, it is necessary to understand how children are being exposed to chemicals like flame retardants. For instance, why do some households have higher exposures and how are children coming into contact with these chemicals?”

Other OSU researchers on this team are focusing on potential for social factors to affect children’s ability to control their behavior, as well as other neurological and cognitive factors that can impact motor skills, attention deficit, and other aspects of school readiness.

Perhaps most importantly to parents, the researchers will examine different ways to reduce the effects of these chemical exposures on children’s health. This is a particularly critical aspect of this study since previous research has shown that 97 percent of Americans have one of the key flame retardant chemicals, known as polybromintaed diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, in their blood. And young children have been shown to have almost three times the levels of PBDEs in their blood as their mothers.

“We want to explore if a supportive home environment, with lots of active play, positive parenting, and educational activities, can help dampen the effects of these chemicals on children’s development,” said Shannon Lipscomb, an assistant professor at OSU-Cascades who is conducting surveys with the parents of the children in the study.

“There are large gaps in school readiness, despite most children having some amount of exposure to these chemicals. So we suspect that parents can help to protect children from some of the potentially harmful effects.”

This interdisciplinary group of OSU researchers is working under a grant from the university’s Environmental Health Sciences Center that will monitor 100 preschool age children in Corvallis and Bend during the next year.

Their methodology is as fascinating as the study is important. Over the next year, OSU researchers will visit the families of the 100 preschool children in their homes. The children will wear bracelets designed by OSU’s Kim Anderson that can monitor the amount of chemicals they are exposed to each day.

Anderson, a professor in the Department of Environmental & Molecular Toxicology at OSU, developed the silicone-based passive sampling device. It is fashioned as a plastic bracelet which can either be worn on the child’s wrist or ankle. After being worn for one week, Anderson and Kile will analyze the data, using a statistical model developed by Bo Zhang, a new faculty member and biostatistician in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

The researchers will also vacuum household dust in the areas where the children most often play to collect direct chemical data from the household. All participants of the study receive a free chemical analysis of their home, along with gift certificates to local businesses.

Both undergraduate and graduate students at OSU are heavily involved in this study. For instance, Andrea Gomez, a senior in human development and family sciences, is the project coordinator of the Corvallis site. Gomez has done research with Megan McClelland, an associate professor at OSU and one of the core directors of OSU’s Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families.

Kate Nordquist, a recent graduate in human development and family sciences and current master’s student at OSU-Cascades in elementary teaching, is the project coordinator of the Bend site, working with Lipscomb and her team of students. Jennifer Pryzbyla, a doctoral student in the Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety program, is also involved. With the help of other students, they are leading the efforts to collect the samples from the participants’ homes and assess children’s development.

“For me, being involved in research at OSU has given me a deeper understanding of children and families,” Gomez said. “It is a direct way to apply what is learned in the classroom.”

McClelland is also involved in the flame retardant study, conducting assessments of the participants’ ability to control their behavior, or “self-regulate.” Self-regulation has been found by McClelland to be a key predictor as to whether or not a child is ready for school, and uses a Simon Says-like task to assess these skills in children.

McClelland said this project, which combines the expertise of new junior faculty members with more seasoned faculty, is unusual for academia. She said it can be rare to find researchers from such different areas, such as analytical chemists, environmental epidemiologists and child development experts, working together

“Having this collaborative space available at the Hallie Ford Center has really been essential for this project,” McClelland said. “And it really fits with the mission of the center, to help children and families, along with the public health mission of our college.”

Megan MacDonald, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, is an expert on motor skills and developmental delays, such as autism. She is leading the group looking at cognitive functioning of the children.

MacDonald says that 1 in 88 children now have autism spectrum disorder, a rate that has risen far above the 2009 estimate of 1 in 110. Autism is the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disability, and identifying potential triggers for neurodevelopmental disabilities is more critical than ever.

“We’re trying to capture the fact that health, and things that can impact cognitive functioning in particular, are multi-factorial,” she said. “It’s never just one magic bullet.”

The researchers pointed out that while every child is exposed to the chemicals in flame retardants, some homes may have higher levels.

“Parents who can afford to buy all-natural wool mattresses for their child’s crib, for instance, may see a benefit,” McClelland said, adding that wool is naturally flame-repellant, and so does not usually have the same chemical profile. “But environmentally-friendly material is often much more expensive, and many parents simply can’t afford it.”

Kile said parents can’t be blamed when almost all materials are embedded with these chemicals. But she said policy change could be a long time coming, so in the meantime, OSU researchers want to help families develop tools to help their child’s health.

“Chemicals are innocent until proven guilty in this country,” Kile said. “In Europe, for instance, manufacturers have to prove chemicals are not harmful before they put them in a product. Here, you have to prove it is harmful before you can remove it.”

Kile said these different philosophies frequently cause confusion for manufacturers and the public who hear different messages depending on the source of information.

Assessing preschool-age children is important because this is considered a key time for brain development. Experts say intervening early to help children with behavioral and socialization skills is crucial to their academic success.

“Children live in a plastic, foam-filled environment, and they are susceptible particularly at this critical time of 4 to 5 years-old,” Kile said. “What we want to do is capture a snapshot of what is happening just in 100 homes in two cities, and cast a wide net to see what these chemicals are doing.”

Researchers, left to right: Megan MacDonald, Molly Kile, Megan McClelland, and Shannon Lipscomb.

Susana Rivera-Mills

When Susana Rivera-Mills was 12, her family fled their native El Salvador to travel to the United States for what they thought would be a temporary stay. They were escaping the brutal civil war that tore through El Salvador between 1979 and 1992 — a war that had brought violence to the streets and left Rivera-Mills uncertain whether she would see her mother again each day when she was dropped off at school.

The fighting continued long beyond the six months, and the family had had no choice but to start a new life in the U.S. None of the family members could speak English, and they had left El Salvador with only a suitcase each.

It was a shock for Rivera-Mills to be one of only a few Latino students in the small California town they moved to. The experience of dislocation as an immigrant in the U.S. would eventually prompt Rivera-Mills to create a professional life that would allow her to help others in the same situation.

Her experiences, Rivera-Mills says, created in her a desire to support those who lack a place to belong. As associate dean for Oregon State University’s College of Liberal Arts and interim director of the university’s new Center for Latin@ Studies and Engagement, she’s turned her difficult experiences into inspiration to give back to her community.

Driven to pursue education by her family’s struggles, Rivera-Mills shaped her career to support immigrant populations. With a doctoral degree in romance linguistics, she has been an advocate for the preservation of Spanish among Latino communities in the United States.

“My research looks closely at the variables that affect language maintenance and
loss in communities,” Rivera-Mills says. “I study community dynamics that help or hinder language use, and then share my findings with communities so that they can make informed decisions about their own language.”

With CL@SE, Rivera-Mills plans to expand Latino research by engaging multiple communities in studying Latino issues. The center’s mission is to promote research and outreach to advance knowledge and understanding of Latino contributions and issues surrounding the Latino population in the United States.

“We are interested in partnering with communities to co-create models in which the community needs are assessed and expressed, and then determine if and where Oregon State can serve to meet some of those needs,” Rivera-Mills says. “We hope to work with OSU Extension to get to know communities state-wide and develop programs around health issues and small business development.”

A chaotic life

But before Rivera-Mills could find the power to help her family or see herself as a role model within her community, she had to learn how to survive in a completely unfamiliar situation.

Both of Rivera-Mills’ parents had to work 12-hour days just to keep the family afloat. Suddenly stripped of the stay-at-home parent they’d enjoyed throughout their lives, she and her siblings had to take responsibility for themselves; waking up, getting ready for school, making it to the bus, completing their homework and making dinner on their own.

That responsibility, coupled with a desire to ease her parents’ struggles in any way she could, led Rivera Mills to take a full time summer job at a plant nursery, though she was only 12 years old.

“In my child mind, that was to me a way where, if I could work and buy my school clothes, or work and take care of certain things, then that was my contribution to try to calm what I perceived to be chaos around me,” she says.

The same spirit that inspired Rivera Mills to try to make things easier for her parents — working to provide her own money as well as keeping incidents of kids bullying her at school to herself — eventually helped her aspire to higher education.

“That honestly is what drove me through my Ph.D.,” she says. “It was having in the back of my mind the idea that everything I was doing in terms of my own educational training was about how do I help my family financially, how do I help them be in a place where they feel safe and where they feel stable and where we can finally not have to live moment by moment, worrying about what’s going to happen.”

From family to community

Rivera-Mills earned her doctoral degree in romance linguistics from the University of New Mexico in 1998. After completing her degree while working full-time to stay out of debt, Rivera-Mills had achieved her goal.

When she began her first professional job training future secondary language schoolteachers at Northern Arizona University, she felt she finally had secured the resources to help her parents. And she was right — with help from Rivera-Mills and her brother, who had recently graduated college, her parents were able to retire after relocating to Klamath Falls.

“It isn’t about the money so much as it’s about the honor, respect and gratitude being returned to the previous generation,” Rivera-Mills says.

But Rivera-Mills didn’t stop there. After achieving the goal of helping her family, she began to understand the implications of her role as a Latina woman with a doctoral degree.

“I realized all of a sudden that my goal had widened,” she says. “It wasn’t just about my family anymore, because I realized that I was going to represent a real minority as a Latina woman with a Ph.D. The magnitude of what that meant and the fact that I would automatically become a role model whether I wanted to or not really broadened my mission.”

Uniting around Latino issues

Embracing that newfound responsibility, Rivera-Mills committed to giving back to her community and to students in her position. She supported the National Hispanic Scholarship that helped her get through graduate school, and mentored Latino students who were experiencing the same displacement and loss of identity she went through.

Now, Rivera-Mills gives talks around the state to encourage students to pursue higher education, and has worked through programs like Oregon State’s Adelante Leadership Program to endow Latino students with the belief that they can be leaders in their communities, in the state and beyond. When she shares her story with students, Rivera-Mills says, she sees how powerful it is for them to identify with someone who has achieved goals similar to their own.

“That has become a huge drive that continually feeds me and my passion for the work that I do,” she says.

She’s continuing that mission with CL@SE, which began its inaugural week Oct. 8. The theme of seeking common ground has become a motto for the center that Rivera-Mills believes reflects its goals to engage people from different backgrounds and perspectives to find commonality in Latino issues that also impact the United States as a society.

“We’re hoping in promoting this common ground we will be approaching diversity from a perspective of unity and not one strictly of difference,” she says.

Rivera-Mills says the center is already working to create new partnerships by connecting with community colleges around the state to bring the Adelante Leadership Program to students throughout Oregon.

Her goals for the center include growth and encouraging more Latinos to seek leadership positions, but Rivera-Mills says her first priority remains creating a place of belonging for young students going through the displacement she experienced herself.

“There are so many students of color who feel like they have to choose either their family, their community and their background or education, leadership and success,” Rivera-Mills says. “My message to them is you don’t have to choose. It’s not about choosing, it’s about creating a different space for yourself where you don’t have to sacrifice your language, you don’t have to sacrifice your heritage and you don’t have to pretend to be someone that you’re not.”


CL@SE inaugural week events:

Tuesday, Oct. 9

The Global Implications of Latino Population Growth and the Search for Common Ground
Juan Andrade, Jr., president of the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute
6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., CH2M Hill Alumni Center Ballroom

Wednesday, Oct. 10

Opening reception for Del Corazón: By Heart art exhibit by Chicana artist Analee Fuentes
4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m., Fairbanks Gallery
Exhibit will be on display Oct. 8-31.

Thursday, Oct. 11

CL@SE’s Research Symposium: Beyond Disciplinary Borders
6 p.m. – 8 p.m., Valley Library Willamette Seminar rooms

All CL@SE events are open to the public. For more information about the center, contact Rivera-Mills at or visit the center’s office in Room 233E Strand Agricultural Hall.

Picture this scene: A teacher is the last one to leave the school. It’s dark. The parking lot is empty, except for his car. The music is ominous. He gets in, turns the car on, hits ‘play’ on the cd player, and does a double take before he puts his foot on the gas.

That’s when he sees the first rat.

It squeaks as it scurries beneath his feet and under the seat. He glances into his rear view mirror. There are dozens of rats, poised on his rear dash. They rush him. He screams, but in a moment they’re on him. He panics, and accidentally locks himself in his car.

The next morning all that’s left of him is some flesh, bones and a lingering rat or two, which the hapless school principal has the misfortune to discover. The scene, which opens an episode of the NBC show Grimm called, “Dance Macabre,” is not only eerie – it evokes a visceral response. It’s the rats. People fear rats.

Lauren Henry knows this. She’s the one who trained them.  She taught the rats how to bound toward their victim, how to hang from his hands as he struggled. She taught them to linger over his devoured corpse.

The scene itself is otherworldly, but helping to create it is Henry’s job – she’s made a career out of training animals for film. For more than a decade the OSU alum and her partner, Roland Sonnenburg, have owned and operated Talented Animals, an agency that supplies animals, trainers and coordinators for film. Henry and Sonnenburg have facilities in Oregon, west of Salem, and in California, north of Los Angeles. Their staff ranges from 2-20, but mostly they employ 3-5 people.

Henry’s line of work has brought her to the sets of movies like “Into the Wild.” It’s brought her to the set of “Portlandia,” where one of her cats was a member of an indie band named “Cat Nap.” One of her favorite films was “New Moon,” where one of her wolves appeared in a surreal dream sequence in which a forest was growing through the windows of a desolate, freezing bedroom. In 2010 her work brought her to a Corvallis warehouse, where she spent two weeks working with 12 dogs and a goat to create an acrobatic, one-take video for the band Ok Go’s song, “White Knuckles.”

“That was a dream this band had,” Henry says. “I was in charge of making their dream come true.”

Henry, who graduated from OSU with a degree in Animal Science and a minor in Chemistry in 1999, and completed post-bacc courses in Animal Nutrition and Immunology until 2005, has always loved animals. When she was 5, she’d head into her grandparents’ pasture in Virginia and play with their stallions, observing how the creatures behaved and interacted with each other and the world. When she was 6, she and her grandfather nursed an injured robin back to health. They raised the bird until it was able to fly again. Apparently it was grateful. Each spring it would return to Henry’s yard and perch on her finger. The image evokes Snow White.

“That was a wonderful experience,” she says. “It was the beginning of my love for the veterinary medicine side of things and the rehab side of things as well.”

Her grandfather certainly took notice of Henry’s affinity for animals. “My grandfather had this prophetic saying, ‘You’re going to train animals for film,’” Henry says. “At the time I was 6 or 7 years old, and putting on shows with my dogs for the neighbors.”

After a childhood of immersing herself in animal training and books about animals, Oregon State seemed like a natural choice for Henry, who went to high school in The Dalles. “The animal science and pre-vet departments were among the best,” she says. “I had a fabulous experience at OSU. I was born with an innate gift to train. And I have my schooling background, and classes and seminars to give me an educational framework for what comes naturally. OSU has played a big part in that.”

Henry got her first break when she was still in school, for a TV movie called “Silver Wolf.” The film called for a dog who looked like a wolf, could pull someone on skis, and demonstrate a variety of other behaviors. One of Lauren’s dogs was a perfect match. Silver Wolf’s on-set animal trainer was impressed. “He hired me to work on another show right after the movie,” she says. “I worked with him for several shows, and realized my true calling had just arrived.”

For Henry, training an animal for film is about understanding and communication. She and Sonnenburg spend a lot of time getting to know an animal and understanding its needs. She researches the animal’s social structure and instinctual behavior. She learns what the animal likes, what it loves to do, what kinds of games it loves to play.

“The underlying principles for training are similar across different species,” she says. “What we have to do with each animal is find its motivations, its wants and desires. A wolf may have a strong desire to chase a moving object, while a crow may find that same object frightening but find a small shiny item irresistible.”

Henry often turns the behaviors directors want from animals into a game. If she wants a skunk to cross the road, and the skunk is motivated by food, she’ll train it to go to a sound to receive a treat. Once the skunk is used to following the sound for food, it’s easy to get it to cross a road when the beeper is on the other side. “With training any of our animals, the absolute key is that they are comfortable with people, and the environment and love what it is we are asking them to do. It has to be their choice.”

Henry’s favorite projects are the ones that feel like summer camp – where she gets to spend time on the set getting to know the cast and crew. “I love when we can really sink our teeth into a character and spend a lot of time prepping. We can really show what the animal can do,” she says. “Everyone’s doing their thing to the best of their ability. We’re doing our thing to the best of our ability. It all comes together to create this amazing piece. That’s my favorite.”

Henry and Sonnenburg share their home with many of the animals with whom they work. It’s easy to imagine the animals happy there – they have acres of Oregon Coast Range forest in which to play. They have dogs, goats, a ringtailed lemur, an anteater, a pied crow, a raccoon, a skunk, wolves. The animals are their family. For them, there’s no one better to work with.

“Who we have in our house is who we want to live with,” Henry says.  “When we wake up in the morning, it’s who we want to run down and play with, or maybe even who we wake up next to in a lot of the cases. That’s our primary reason for doing what we do. We want to spend every minute with our animals.”

“If you let it, this job will change you for the better.” As Brennan Weber reflects on her year of employment with the Department of Recreation Sports, she recognizes her own growth.  Working in the Safety program presented her with responsibilities that were challenging and meaningful; and she credits the development of new skills and strengthened character to that experience.

Brennan was hired in May 2011 and assigned to teach her first class the next month.  “I remember getting so nervous before my first few instructional classes that I would consider chickening out and asking for a substitute to take my shift.” RecSports Safety Instructors are required to teach according to department and American Health Association standards, ensure a safe learning environment, evaluate participant skill and knowledge, and document learning.  One hundred sixty-five classroom hours later, Brennan is pleased to have been pushed (and supported) out of her comfort zone, and actually enjoys classroom.  “Teaching is the one aspect of the job that has most changed me.  I have become much more confident in my abilities, and nothing beats the feeling of really connecting with students during a class.”

As a Safety Auditor, Brennan was required to drop in on her own peers and test their knowledge on emergency response protocol.  It takes courage to hold your friends and colleagues accountable, but she knows that her job is important to the community.  “The education and skill training I provide has the potential to save lives – something truly powerful,” she relates.   She also recognizes that she is a part of a larger team with a shared purpose.  “Every single person working here has something unique to contribute and despite our various backgrounds, we are all here for the same purpose of furthering the Recreational Sports mission.”

“As a ‘safety staffer’, I strive to contribute to the bigger mission of Recreational Sports by being a leader in fostering healthy and creative living through educating members in a friendly, dynamic approach.  Whether encouraging a student to feel confident in their CPR skills during an instructional class or explaining an accident to paramedics, I keep the guiding principles of the mission of Recreational Sports in mind.”

Brennan graduates this year and turns her energy and attention to the pursuit of medical school.  She counts public speaking skills, emergency response competence, and personal friendships as the most significant take-aways from her RecSports experience.  She also leaves her mark on RecSports; and, she leaves a message for those who follow. “My advice for the next generation of Recreational Sports employees is to take advantage of all that this job has to offer.  If you go into it with the attitude that it is more than just a job, you will be rewarded with much more than just a typical job experience. Get involved in all facets of your work and strive to make each shift a positive one for yourself, your co-workers, and all of the people you interact with. Not only will you be happier, Recreational Sports as a whole will benefit.”

As president of a the OSU Rifle Club, officer for the Karate Club and member of the Pistol Club, Nicholle Miller takes ‘active’ to another level! “I participate because I have fun”, she said. Beyond that, “some of the most important life lessons I’ve learned, as well as the best memories and the strongest friendships have come from participating in the OSU Rifle Club”. “I know that every time I go to practice I am going to have a good time”, she adds.

Nicholle relates her involvement with the greater community. “Recreational Sports allows students to represent Oregon State University on a local, regional and national level, as well as in community service events”. This connection is important to Nicholle. Though her involvement, “it’s given me an opportunity and to make strong friendships with others who have common interests”.

Nicholle was recently selected to be a Program Manager for Sports and Special Programs and serves on the Sports Club Committee in Recreational Sports. “In order to participate in all of this, and get my school work done, I’ve had to become very good at time management and organization”. And she relishes the activity. “RecSports has prepared me for a fast-paced, healthy lifestyle by keeping me active, organized, focused and by providing additional leadership opportunities”.

The impact of her involvement has been significant. “I have no doubt that if it weren’t for my involvement in the OSU Rifle Club that I would not be who I am today”, said Nicholle. “The lessons I have learned and the friendships that I have made are those which far surpass any I had before coming to college.”

Nicholle is looking forward to a career in the United States Marine Corps after she graduates.


As an Instructor/Facilitator at the OSU Challenge Course, James Ivelich has learned a lot about himself and other people. “I have gained a tremendous respect for the human dynamic and the impacts we can make on each other’s lives”, said James. “Working in experiential education through the challenge course enabled me to help participants learn about themselves and others in a way that fosters a healthy environment.”

James continues, “In observing the way hundreds of people have interacted in the programming that I’ve been part of, I now find it impossible to put others down, discount opinions or be generally disrespectful. In many ways”, he adds, “All of the lessons I have imparted on participants have been embedded tenfold upon myself”.

Being a facilitator has been rewarding work. “Everyone wants to work better in groups and the Challenge Course provides opportunities to learn these skills”. One memory stands out. “I had the opportunity to belay a deaf participant on one of our most challenging high course elements, the Power-Pole. Having to forgo the typical verbal communications used to instruct and encourage participants challenged my conception of programming. Viewing her eagerness and fearlessness despite her limitation was inspiring”.

With a degree in engineering, James will work with people to optimize both technical and social proficiencies. “My work through RecSports has prepared me for the social and group dynamic aspects of a professional career”.

Asked for his ‘words of wisdom’ for other students, James said, “be malleable! It’s one thing to have an open mind; it’s another to act on it”.


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.