OSU Ecampus assistant director of student services
What started as a part-time college job for Kyle Whitehouse – and something she calls a stroke of “luck” – has since become a lifelong career built largely on helping Oregon State University students succeed. Kyle earned a bachelor’s degree at The University of Texas at Austin and also earned a master’s in counselor education there before moving to the Pacific Northwest in 2002 when she began her career at Oregon State. She started as a career counselor, and in the 15 years since, she has served as an academic advisor, an instructor of OSU Ecampus online courses, a career counselor for distance students, a career and academic success coordinator, and now as the Ecampus assistant director for student services.
By Tyler Hansen
Feb. 27, 2017
When did you start working at Oregon State?
“I’ve been at OSU since January 2002 – fell in love with the Pacific Northwest on a road trip in 2001, found/interviewed/moved my family to Corvallis for a job as soon as I could get here.”
You’ve held (and still hold) a variety of roles at OSU, and they’ve all been based on helping students succeed. How gratifying has that work been?
“I’ve loved each job and the evolution of my work with students. The work itself is highly rewarding and full of learning and colleagues who are working to improve the student experience. It can’t be beat. But maybe my favorite part of the work has been working with a student at any particular time of struggle and uncertainty (don’t know what to major in, not sure that the career is attainable, wants to stand out but doesn’t know how to navigate options, has felt unsuccessful in some way in the past or present…) and partnering with him or her to find possibilities, and learning more about their own strengths and possibilities than they could see at the time. These are small to big in scope, but every success feels like a win.
“Most of them evolved simply from noticing an opportunity to advocate for OSU’s online students and then finding the partners within OSU’s community to make it happen. We hear so often from our distance students that they feel like OSU is not so far away and that there are real people at Ecampus who really care about them as students, people who understand the challenges of learning online in the midst of an already busy life away from the OSU campus, or people they know they can reach out to with questions and get answers and help from our team. And this is exactly why I work for OSU Ecampus and student success.”
Why did you decide to work for OSU Ecampus and with distance students?
“Well, it absolutely began when I decided to take some time off-campus to care for my little girls between 2006 and 2010. At the time, I was advising for UESP (University Exploratory Studies Program for undecided students) and leading the Career Decision-Making instructor team. I worked with Ecampus and Kerry Kincanon to create an online version of OSU’s career decision-making course, and then I taught while I stayed at home for about four years before returning to OSU as a career counselor.
“We hear so often from our distance students that they feel like OSU is not so far away and that there are real people at Ecampus who really care about them as students.”
What do you like most about your position as assistant director of student services?
“My new role focuses more formally on cross-campus initiatives and collaboration, and it has provided unexpected opportunities in innovations in predictive and learner analytics. I dragged my feet a bit about giving up my work with students, but the joys and challenges of working within leadership in higher education, learning from OSU and global leaders, and working with a dynamic team of people across Ecampus who have a hand in student success is fantastically rewarding. Never a dull moment!”
Why did you decide to pursue in career counseling and student services?
“I originally ‘lucked into’ the career services field by taking a part-time job as a student at The University of Texas. My boss became my mentor through the rest of my own major, life and career changes. She encouraged my decision to get a master’s degree in counselor education with a goal to return to my own high school so I could start a career counseling program to help high school students make better-informed decisions about college.
“And I did finally achieve that dream: After waiting for the right opportunity to open up at my high school and accepting it, I got hired at OSU. I worked for only one semester and had time only to build a dedicated career library (physical space, physical books!), coordinate a career night, and write a career curriculum for freshmen-through-senior career exploration. Little did I know that the job at OSU was the one I dreamed about instead.”
What’s your greatest accomplishment working for Ecampus?
“As much as I hated moving away from one-on-one student career counseling conversations that are often as unique as the people are and that filled my day-to-day work for nearly 15 years, I think I am proud of the size and scope that online career services have become. What started as a, ‘Hey, what if we tried a little career counseling by phone?’ became, ‘How do we ensure every student, no matter where they live, can participate in career services?’ It was a great shift for OSU, and with strong partners, we were able to make amazing things happen.
“Perhaps the pinnacle accomplishment was applying with a team of my peers in career development from OSU’s Career Development Center and the OSU Alumni Association and being awarded a grant from the state of Oregon legislature to fund a full-time Online Professional Development Coordinator. It was such a meaningful acknowledgement of progress to be awarded the grant and receive budgeted support that will continue to expand and serve our online students and alumni. We’ve reached a level of scale and sustainability that Ecampus students benefit from, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
What’s your best piece of advice for Ecampus students?
“Connect with your peers and your campus community! Whether in a classroom discussion board or over Skype with a student one-on-one, conversations with Ecampus students often come around to this topic: ‘I thought I was the only one.’ The only one who has to balance work with school, the only one who has to sneak back to the computer after the kids go to bed most nights, the only one who didn’t do so well the first time in classes long ago and is feeling a little intimidated by college classes as an older-than-average student.
“It can feel like a revelation to discover that differences like these and life experiences that bring students to OSU Ecampus often unite them more than divide them. Sharing your own experience and wisdom gained as well as learning from others is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed, in my opinion.”
Tell us something surprising thing about you that people don’t know.
“Well, I was once in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. True story. (I was 7.)
“Also, I have a weird history with law enforcement, I suppose: I once got stopped by the Secret Service when I tried to give a note to former President Ford at an event in Austin when I was 18 (as I remember it, the note was from my mom whose family grew up next door to his in Alexandria, Virginia). I was stopped by the royal equivalent of the Secret Service before I literally ran into Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip while walking on what seemed to be a very run-of-the-mill street in London.
“I made friends with a police dog when crossing into Mexico. How was I to know that it’s not cool to distract working dogs? On one of my very first trips driving on my own after getting my license, I was pulled over for driving a car that matched the description of a robbery getaway car. What are the odds?!”
What are your favorite activities outside of work?
“We are pretty busy with basketball, dance, school activities and OSU events. In the good old days, I used to love to fly fish and still do when I get back home to the rivers I know in Texas. I’m a recovering antique hunter (I like to refinish pieces I find but have more ‘in progress’ than complete at this point). I travel as often as possible and collect heart-shaped rocks sort of obsessively.”
If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
“Oh! ‘Gone with The Wind,’ without a doubt.”