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.

Marco Clark traveled to southwest China to study the effects of dam construction.

Marco Clark
Marco Clark

Marco Clark’s expedition to the Nu River Valley in southwestern China was off to a difficult start. Checkpoints lined the highway, blocking access to villages near the Nu, where there are plans to construct as many as thirteen dams. Even though Clark needed to get to the villages to do his research, he was reluctant to approach the checkpoints.

This challenge came as no surprise to Clark; his prior experiences in China had taught him to expect the unexpected. Still, he was nervous about the sensitivity of his research topic: human behavior in the face of an immediate environmental threat. But Clark continued to trek — mostly by bus or foot — approximately 230 miles up the Nu River Valley in search of an accessible village.

Clark’s research is associated with a cross-disciplinary project at OSU that unites the departments of Biological and Ecological Engineering, Anthropology, and Geosciences in order to examine the social, economic and ecological effects of dams on the Nu and Upper Mekong Rivers in China. Currently, China is the international leader in dam construction, and the project is being developed with the intent of assisting China in their quest for renewable energy. Clark’s interviews with villagers and political leaders will provide a better understanding of the effects of dam construction on people and the environment.

As an undergraduate studying political science at OSU, Clark developed an interest in human behavior. “I wanted to study how people feel about their environment and how they respond when that environment is threatened,” Clark says. Clark had visited China three times while pursuing an International Degree and was inspired to return. Currently in his second year of graduate study in anthropology, Clark was able to conduct more fieldwork in China with the help of a generous grant from the Institute for Water and Watersheds (IWW).

“Marco has done a great job of treading lightly and making good relationships,” says Bryan Tilt, Clark’s academic adviser and assistant professor of anthropology. “He was able to create connections in the area of his fieldwork through his excellent people skills.”

Clark improvised as he neared the Tibetan border, hiking two hours from the main road until he happened upon a privately owned dam under the support of the provincial government. The dam, near the village Dimaluo, was still undergoing construction when Clark came upon it. “The community was very removed and felt more secure,” Clark says. “It felt like a suitable place to be.” Dimaluo was where Clark would conduct his research.

While in Dimaluo, Clark was greeted warmly by the community. He formed a lasting friendship with a man named Aluo, who invited Clark into his home to stay with his family. Aluo assisted Clark with his interviews in exchange for English instruction and help translating for foreign guests.

Clark hopes that his research will help other scientists and policymakers better understand the potential impacts of dam construction, including the displacement and resettlement of villagers.

Clark is still deciding what to do after he receives his degree from OSU in 2009. He is thinking of pursuing a Ph.D. in order to teach and continue researching at a university. He is also thinking of continuing developmental work for either a governmental or non-governmental organization.

“Both of these paths will keep me involved in research in developing countries,” Clark says. “By completing assessments on the needs of small communities I hope to continue to help improve others’ quality of life.”

Michelle Inderbitzin and her colleagues focus on the positives of youth development.

Michelle Inderbitzin
Michelle Inderbitzin

In 1998, Michelle Inderbitzin decided to conduct a study of youth in a detention center for violent offenders. Almost every Saturday morning for 15 months, the University of Washington graduate student in sociology made the 90-minute drive from Seattle to an “end-of-the-line training school” for boys convicted of multiple property crimes, armed robberies, violent and/or sexual assaults and homicides.

At first, the reception was cold. Inmates ignored her, later saying they expected her to give up and leave. Eventually one of the older youths, a 19-year-old Hispanic boy respected by the others, approached her and began to talk. Gradually, others followed, sharing details of their lives, their dreams, frustrations and unsettled scores that awaited them back home.

Now an associate professor of sociology at Oregon State University, Inderbitzin shares her knowledge with OSU students through courses on criminal justice and deviant behavior. In 2007, she became the first university professor on the West Coast to lead a class of students and men’s prison inmates through the national Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which promotes understanding of the criminal justice system.

Inderbitzin and her colleagues at OSU are tackling some of the most pressing challenges that confront families and youth: the development of positive behaviors; the channeling of youthful energy to meet community needs; the lengthening transition to adulthood.

Read more about Michelle Inderbitzin and her colleagues in the Summer 2008 issue of Terra.

Alex Johnson
Alex Johnson

Alex Johnson is taking his master of public policy degree to Washington, D.C., as a Fellow for the Congressional Black Caucus.

Alex Johnson is spending the next nine months in the nation’s capital as one of seven Congressional Fellows for the Congressional Black Caucus. He sees it as an opportunity to get more experience in his areas of interest. And it may even be training for possible future political involvement.

“I expect to look at environmental and governmental reform issues,” says Alex, who will be working with the office of Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida. “This should synthesize my interest in public policy and my interest in the environment.”

Alex, who received his bachelor’s degree in natural resources from OSU in 2004 and his master’s this past June, started his college career looking for ways to involve people of color in environmental issues. “Later I became interested in access issues and got involved in student government,” he says.

That led to a strong interest in politics, “and I became really excited about opportunities in graduate school.” He looked around at other schools but decided to stay at OSU because he wanted to see some of the issues he had been involved in through to completion.

“I looked at the master of public policy program, and I’m glad I did it,” he says. The program opened doors to a number of opportunities, including a trip to Bulgaria for a research project on environmental science and getting his first journal article published, with Brent Steel, director of the MPP program.

Because of his activism and his involvement with MPP and OSU’s Community and Diversity Office, Alex was asked by Corvallis City Council members to review the city charter with an eye toward diversity and inclusion, a process that involved numerous meetings and public discussions and resulted in a measure that will be on the November ballot.

As he thinks about his future, Alex acknowledges that there may be opportunities for him in the capital, “but I’m hoping to make it back out to the Northwest.” And then? “I might even run for office eventually.”

Congressional Black Caucus Web site

Master of Public Policy program Web site

Office of Community and Diversity

Jane Clark keeps herself involved in OSU and in the world.

Jane Clark stays very involved at OSU
Jane Clark stays very involved at OSU

Jane Clark is an active student by most standards. She’s the publications coordinator for the OSU Women’s Center, co-chair of the judicial branch of student government, on the University Honors College steering committee, and a member of Mortar Board senior honor society.

But the political science senior from Newport, Oregon, also finds time to serve away from campus.

During the past few years, she has studied abroad in Italy, done a political science internship providing voter information in New England, and taken trips to Brazil and Siberia with Habitat for Humanity to help build houses.

She was prepared for Brazil because she and her family had previously traveled to South America.

“Siberia was a shock because it’s so far removed from everywhere,” Jane says. “Everything is so old and outdated. It’s like it’s still in the Soviet era.”

Getting there was no picnic, either. “We flew to Moscow, then there was a seven hour flight to Ulan Ude,” she says. “Everyone was packed on the flight, and they served pickled fish. It wasn’t a great experience.”

Attending OSU seemed to be a natural decision for Jane. Her parents, aunt, and uncle went to OSU, and her grandfather taught at the university years ago. But being accepted into the Honors College and receiving a Presidential Scholarship were also big factors in her decision.

Currently she’s working on her honors thesis “on the labor movement and why it hasn’t been more politically progressive.” After she graduates, she plans to take a little time off from school and then go to law school.

For a career, she’s “interested in working with a nonprofit organization,” she says. “I’d like to be involved in international development. Women’s development in other countries would be ideal.”

Associated Students of Oregon State University website

University Honors College website

Department of Political Science website

OSU Women’s Center website

Habitat for Humanity website

You can’t overestimate the value of a good first impression, says OSU psychology professor Frank Bernieri.

Frank Bernieri is professor of Psychology at OSU
Frank Bernieri is professor of Psychology at OSU

Can you overcome a bad first impression and gain someone’s trust?

Not likely, says Frank Bernieri, chair of Oregon State University’s Department of Psychology.

“First impressions are liking planting a seed,” Bernieri says. “When you shake someone’s hand, you immediately make a judgment. Was it a good handshake? Was the person well-groomed? Are they attractive? Everything that happens after that point is anchored to that first impression and skews what we learn and perceive.”

Several years ago Bernieri worked with Dateline on a project involving an Ohio employment agency’s in-depth interviews with candidates for a technical position. The agency provided personality profiles, questionnaires, and reams of background on the candidates.

Bernieri then had several focus groups analyze five seconds of video of the opening handshake and correctly pick out the successful candidate. It’s a scenario that repeats itself time after time, he says.

“People are amazed when they see the research. They find out how biased and inefficient our social analytical skills are, and there just isn’t much we can do about it.” What happens is that people tend to filter out information that doesn’t back up their first impression, or they skew the data to make it fit.

“When we hand out a teaching evaluation form on the first day of class–right after the syllabus–invariably students will fill it out almost the same as they will on the final day of class,” Bernieri says. “All that they experience during the term won’t change the evaluation they made based on the syllabus.”

In addition to appearing in numerous scientific journals, Bernieri’s research has been featured on the Discovery Channel, in the Science Times, Redbook, Self, the London Evening Standard, and even in a book by noted columnist E. Jean Carroll.

Frank Bernieri’s home page

Bernieri students looked at first impressions last summer

Bernieri’s research on identifying people in love