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OSU Ecampus can make dreams come true in computer science

Justin Ihara

2013 alum Justin Ihara, pictured above, verifying that his electrostatic discharge bracelet is working correctly, earned his post-baccalaureate computer science degree online through Oregon State Ecampus. Photo by Hannah O’Leary.

By Heather Turner
April 25, 2016

Some people know exactly what their future holds, while others are happy to fly by the seat of their pants. And then there are those who pick up a magazine and start reading a “top 50 jobs in the U.S.” article and think, “Now that’s what I want to do.”

That’s precisely how Justin Ihara discovered his dream job.

After earning a degree in mathematics in 2009 from Oregon State, Justin decided to go in a slightly different direction — computer science.

“Everything is heading in the digital direction, so I am right in the middle of what is new and interesting,” he said.

Justin Ihara

Justin Ihara discusses his job, programming computers that control various machines, such as cutting lasers. Photo by Hannah O’Leary.

After gaining inspiration from the magazine article, Justin enrolled in the online post-baccalaureate computer science program offered by OSU’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). The program is delivered entirely online by Oregon State Ecampus, a leader in distance education ranked in the top 10 nationally by “U.S. News & World Report” two years in a row.

“The program gave me the basic building blocks I needed to thrive in the industry,” said Justin, now an engineer for Micro Systems Engineering, Inc. (MSEI).

As a student, Justin attended the EECS biannual Computer Science Career Showcase in Portland, an event that brings together dozens of Ecampus students and alumni from across the world, to meet with potential employers from companies such as Garmin, Google, IBM, Intel, Puppet Labs and Kaiser Permanente.

A 2013 graduate of the program, Justin met his employer — a company based out of Lake Oswego that develops software and manufactures printed circuit boards for implantable medical devices — at the career showcase. Following graduation, he began working at MSEI as an intern and quickly moved up to a full-time position.

“I get to do a lot of different things that have an effect on the physical world,” he said. “It’s nice to have variety and see your work come to fruition in the physical world.”

“The program gave me the basic building blocks I needed to thrive in the industry.”

In December, Justin was invited back to the showcase as an industry expert. The showcase features panel discussions, a networking luncheon and one-on-one interviews with employers.

Justin is one example of success stemming from the program. More recently, Ecampus computer science alumna Renee McLain ’15 landed a job at Intel.

“My goal, my dream is to work at Intel,” she said. “What an exciting place to be. The changes you can make, the things you can discover and the dreams that come true at Intel are exciting.”

Since its inception in June 2012, the Ecampus computer science program has doubled the number of OSU’s computer science graduates per year, sending 300 alumni into the workforce.

The program’s students are located in all 50 states and nearly 20 countries, and their educational backgrounds run the gamut, from health care and accounting to sociology and construction management. Employers say the array of undergraduate degrees gives OSU students the upper hand when they hit the job market.

“We have noticed the quality of students to be quite high, with noticeable professional maturity from previous work experience as well as interesting balance from previous degrees,” said Jason Bushnell, a human resources manager for Garmin.

Read this story in the spring 2016 issue of “The Oregon Stater” alumni magazine.