2011 OSU Ecampus graduates
Jennifer Johnson – Steadfast devotion to her family is paid back in full
B.S. Environmental Sciences
Maple Valley, Wash.
By Tyler Hansen
Oregon State Ecampus
You'll have to excuse Jennifer Johnson if she takes awhile to come to the phone. She's kind of a big deal these days.
"She's on another call right now," says Johnson's mother, Jill, an impromptu receptionist from her daughter's home in Maple Valley, Wash. "A lot of people are calling to congratulate her lately."
There's good reason for that. Johnson, a mother of two and wife of a United States Marine, is a newly minted graduate of Oregon State University after completing an online degree in environmental sciences through OSU Ecampus.
And with her first college diploma in the bag, Johnson is already making plans for the next one.
"I'm applying for graduate school and am hoping to get my master of teaching degree," she said. "With the classes I took at OSU and with the guidance they gave me, I can get endorsed in both science and math for the grad program. That's pretty incredible, and it opens up a lot of doors for me."
It wasn't always that easy. Her adventure in higher education has been the definition of unconventional, a journey that began in community college after she turned down opportunities to attend four-year institutions in order to devote herself to her new family.
"I got really good grades in high school and actually had a couple scholarship offers to different colleges right after I graduated (in 2003), but my husband was joining the Marines, and I chose him instead," Johnson said.
The birth of their two children – daughter Jade, 6, and son Isaac, 3 – followed in the coming years, as did the two occasions in which her husband's military duties required them to uproot everything and move across the country.
Johnson's devotion to her family never wavered, and neither did her relentless pursuit of a bachelor's degree. After completing her associate degree, she said OSU Ecampus was the only online program that could satisfy her thirst for scientific knowledge while also giving her access to an accredited, high-quality education.
"It's been a pretty tedious process for her at times with me being in the Marines and having to move around so much, but once she found OSU she did extraordinarily well," said Sgt. George Johnson, who proposed to Jennifer while they were seniors in high school. "She had some struggles just to see which colleges would accept her credits, but I knew she would finish school no matter how much time it took."
The phone rings more at the Johnson residence these days as everyone tries to add to the celebratory feel of graduation. It humbles Jennifer, but she's come to expect unyielding support from her family.
While the take-classes-from-anywhere convenience of Ecampus gave her an educational platform, nothing matches the contribution made by her husband, who gave Jennifer his G.I. Bill in order for her to chase her passion.
"We started dating in high school, and she gave up quite a bit to choose to follow me on my career path, and I wanted to do the same for her," said George, who works as a Marine Corps recruiter. "Giving (my G.I. Bill) to her is just a little bit in return for all she's given me."
The June 11 commencement ceremony in Corvallis was Jennifer's first venture to the OSU campus, a momentous occasion everyone wanted to be a part of. The convoy from Maple Valley included her husband and kids, parents Jill and Don, aunt Debra and their two dogs, Shadow and Scarlett.
The rewarding road to a diploma was painstaking at times. To hear Jennifer tell the story, she wouldn't have preferred it any other way.
"After so much work and time and effort, it's nice to be done," she said. "I spent a lot of time away from my kids and my husband in order to take classes, and they all sacrificed so much for me. To get to share this with them is more than I could have asked for."
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