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Thrice a Beaver alumna – now a Beaver supporter

Theresa Harper, Ecampus student success counselor

Theresa Harper sits on the corner of a table in the Oregon State University Valley Library. She wears a black long-sleeved shirt with a small OSU logo.

As an OSU Ecampus student success counselor, Theresa Harper’s main focus is current Ecampus students in the colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Forestry, and Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

By Heather Doherty  
October 17, 2016

Like many OSU Ecampus students, Theresa Harper could be described as a “career changer,” having worked in multiple positions, eventually landing on her passion of creating relationships and helping others at Oregon State Ecampus.

“When I saw the success counselor position description I was so excited,” she says. “It had the focus on the student and their development that I really enjoyed from my former advising job, but added in a more in-depth relationship of support that I often felt my advising caseload kept me from engaging in fully.”

Theresa’s main focus as an OSU Ecampus student success counselor is current Ecampus students in the colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Forestry, and Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. A typical day involves working with anywhere from two to six students for in-depth phone or video appointments, with plenty of email and shorter check-in calls in between.

“There is a lot of back and forth communication with students, as well as planning meetings to keep developing new programs, and training to continue to build my academic counseling and coaching skills,” she says.

Theresa says the most common topics she helps students with are time management and prioritizing.

“I like to start with a really honest look at what other things besides school students have going on, and then talk about how many hours are left,” she says. “There are only 24 hours in the day, and for most of us, taking classes takes the time needed away from some other commitment, whether that is family, work, hobbies or even time for health and wellness. Finding the balance that makes you feel successful in all the areas you value is tricky and can take some time, almost always more than a single term.”

“Finding the balance that makes you feel successful in all the areas you value is tricky and can take some time, almost always more than a single term.”

Once an online student herself, Theresa knows firsthand what it’s like to balance school with family and work.

“With two kids (now three), it was nice to be able to work on my courses in the evening so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on too much family time,” she says. “Having had the experience of being a parent and a student and an employee all at once helps me understand the challenges faced by many of our students who truly do not have enough hours in the day to do everything they want to do well.”

Theresa earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, a Masters of Arts in Teaching degree through OSU Ecampus and a Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching – all from Oregon State University. She also earned a Master of Science in Academic Advising degree online from Kansas State University.

Prior to working for Ecampus, she served as an academic counselor for civil engineering students at Oregon State, helping them navigate the structure of the degree while also holding space for their concerns and interests outside of engineering. “I still really enjoy seeing past students’ names listed as project managers or engineers on different projects around Oregon and the world,” she says. “It’s fun to remember when they weren’t sure if they could get through school and see how far they have gone with their OSU degree.”

Before coming to Oregon State, Theresa worked overseas in Sasebo, Japan, as an education services officer in the Navy. In her role, she coordinated a number of opportunities for sailors, including hosting college instructors who live and teach in-person classes on the boat, and helping connect individual sailors to correspondence courses in their areas of interest. “I liked learning what my shipmates cared about outside of the Navy and hearing their stories about what they were learning, what they wanted to do after the Navy and just in general sharing in the excitement of lifelong learning,” she says.

Theresa began her professional experience working in the K-12 system in 4th through 6th grade classrooms, mostly in Toledo, Oregon. “I loved teaching. Every day I got to learn with my students and see the information from their perspective. I also really enjoyed designing curriculum that targeted multiple learning preferences and that supported students with learning disabilities or those who were learning English as a second language.”

As Theresa encourages students she works with to find a work-life balance, she practices what she preaches at home, spending time relaxing and recharging while reading and enjoying dedicated family time. “My husband has a pilot’s license, so we’ll go fly over Reser Stadium on a clear day or take our boys to the beach. In the summer, we like hiking and camping, but I’m a fair-weather outdoors person,” she says.

Read more about the OSU Ecampus student success counselors and their work – and meet the rest of the team, including Bethany Ulman, Tom Casey and Amy Riley.

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