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Online format leads mom to a degree – and a victory

Becky Pershing is the mother of two Oregon State University students, and she’s a caring mom who gushes with pride whenever she talks about her daughters.

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Pershing, 49, is also a recent college graduate, one who utilized the convenience of online education through OSU’s Extended Campus (Ecampus). Next to her unwavering devotion to family, only one thing really mattered to her: getting to the graduation finish line first.

It was the kind of lighthearted contest her daughters were more than happy to lose.

“I found it funny because I was going to be the first person from the family to graduate from college, but she had to beat me to it,” said Stephanie Pershing, an OSU civil engineering senior. “That’s been the comedic relief of this whole process. It really motivated her.”

Becky, a liberal studies major from West Linn, Ore., received her diploma from OSU in a June 11 ceremony — one term before Stephanie will graduate. The commencement was the culmination of two and a half years of online courses through Ecampus.

It wasn’t her first rodeo at OSU, but it was the most beneficial one. Becky started as an on-campus student in Corvallis in 1980 but left without a degree after four years of wandering aimlessly through the vast sea of curriculum.

“I didn’t make good use of my advisor, so I was taking a lot of courses that weren’t moving me in any direction,” she said. “I was floundering. That’s all there was to it.”

The lack of a college degree was the itch in the back of her throat that wouldn’t go away for a quarter century. Finally, she made the commitment to return to school in 2008 when Stephanie and younger daughter Kaycee (an interior design sophomore) were about to start at OSU.

“I realized I was going to be 50 in a couple years and was so close to being done,” Becky said. “When Ecampus told me that most of my credits were still good and I didn’t have to start over, it made perfect sense to get it done. There was never going to be more time to do it. Ecampus made it possible.”

Becky raves about Ecampus, saying the ability to study whenever and wherever was the perfect fit for her busy schedule as a full-time processor for MetLife Mortgage and her on-the-side work in two bands.

But most of the raving these days is done by Stephanie and Kaycee, who marveled at their mom’s ambition in spite of a multitude of challenges. They learned quite a bit about their mom, and they shared some of those revelations leading up to graduation:

1. She gets back up after being knocked down

When Becky lost her job amid the national mortgage crisis a few years back, the ensuing job search often yielded the same refrain that kept her out of management positions in the past: “Your work experience is great, but …”

She bounced back swiftly, and the temporary adversity helped steer her to Ecampus.

“It was a frustrating job search because everyone was looking for jobs at that time, and the minimum requirement was a college degree,” Kaycee said. “She found a job with MetLife pretty quickly, but she became really determined to finish school after that.”

2. Even moms are prone to procrastination

One of the first rules of parenthood is to bust your kids’ chops about the importance of doing homework. Very rarely are the generational roles reversed, but Kaycee and Stephanie have reveled in the occasional opportunity to hound their mom about staying on task.

“She had one class where she let a term paper drag on because she was busy with all her other classes,” Stephanie said. “I said, ‘Mom, you told me you need to work on this term paper, so stop doing your other homework and do this now.’ We had fun with it.”

3. She’s practically Wonder Woman

Becky’s daughters weren’t born when she started at OSU in 1980, and they’re astonished their mom — three decades later — mustered the self-discipline to complete her Ecampus coursework, let alone make the decision to return to school in the first place.

“I absolutely couldn’t do it. When I’m on summer vacation, I dread the thought of going back to school,” Kaycee said. “For her to go back and finish 31 years later after all the changes in her life and with her being so busy, it’s inspiring. I can’t imagine doing everything she’s done.”