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Online student spreads her wings, lands leadership role in on-campus club

Fisheries and wildlife sciences Ecampus student Megan Blackwell, pictured above with a Yellow Warbler during an internship for one of her classes, says she sought out a leadership position in an on-campus club in order to better connect with campus and build her leadership skills.

By Heather Doherty  
Dec. 13, 2017

It might seem intimidating at first, but sometimes all you need to do is spread your wings to allow your aspirations to take flight.

As an Oregon State University Ecampus fisheries and wildlife sciences online student with a specialization in avian biology, Megan Blackwell wanted to stand out among her peers and knew adding club participation to her résumé would do just that.

A quick online search was all it took to find OSU Bird Nerds, a club that met her passion of working with birds, would enhance her experience at Oregon State and better position her for her future career.

Her only obstacle, or so she thought, was actively participating from her home in Ashtabula, Ohio.

“I initially made contact with the club through the president at the time. I found her email address on the Bird Nerds website and asked if there was anything I could do for the club as an OSU Ecampus student, such as designing a newsletter,” she says.

Megan was offered the OSU Bird Nerds publicity and public relations chair and internship chair positions for the 2016-17 academic year – even though she isn’t physically on campus.

Megan was offered the publicity and public relations chair and internship chair positions for the 2016-17 academic year – even though she isn’t physically on campus, or anywhere near campus for that matter.

“The best part of my experience has been making connections and being involved,” she says. “I enjoy communicating with all of the other officers. These students live 2,000 miles away from me yet I feel like I truly know them.”

Megan spends five to 10 hours per week working for the club, remotely connecting to meetings, updating its website and Facebook page, finding bird-related internships for the newsletter and creating event fliers.

“I became an officer because it gave me the opportunity to be a part of the leadership of a club at OSU,” she says. “I wanted to be able to show my leadership abilities to faculty, scholarship committees and future employers.”

“I enjoy communicating with all of the other officers. These students live 2,000 miles away from me yet I feel like I truly know them.”

Megan is one of several online students who have sought opportunities within on-campus clubs, recreational sports and cultural resource centers.

“Engaging with a campus community is a great way to enhance your overall experience as a student at Oregon State, no matter where you live,” says OSU Ecampus Student Success Counselor Bethany Ulman. “However, we’ve found that many online students aren’t aware that they, too, can make a difference by participating in a campus-based club.

“After realizing this, we began actively working to get the word out and helping connect our distance students with campus, and we’re happy to say we’ve received great feedback from both club presidents and online students who are excited for this partnership.”

Currently, more than 100 on-campus organizations have identified themselves as being willing and able to engage Ecampus students in their clubs from a distance.

Ecampus students interested in joining an on-campus club, rec sports or cultural resource centers can find more information by visiting the student communities page and searching for an organization that matches their needs and interests.

“If you’re looking to get involved with a club, do not be afraid to reach out and ask if they’d be willing to let you do something for them,” Megan says. “Even if you can’t attend meetings via phone or webcam, you can still have an impact on the club. Most clubs are wanting to involve Ecampus students but do not know how to, so provide suggestions on how you could help.”

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