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‘Choose your own adventure’ in online liberal studies degree program

Oregon State’s online program fit Janine Romero’s on-the-move military lifestyle

“Though she earned her degree from a distance, Janine Romero found connection to the university through her classmates and instructors, as well as military representatives at OSU who helped answer questions about transferring her husband’s military benefits and balancing school with home life as a military spouse. (Military photos used in this video are courtesy Madeline Settle.)

By Julie Cooper
Nov. 16, 2018

Devoting 15 years of work to anything is a big deal, whether that’s a job, a home, a relationship, or – in Janine Romero’s case – a college degree.

She started working toward her bachelor’s degree at the age of 19 while living overseas with her husband, Lee, who is active duty in the U.S. Air Force. Constantly moving to new locations including Europe with her husband meant Janine’s degree pursuit moved at a stop-and-go pace.

“I had all these transcripts from all these different schools, and I didn’t have a degree,” says Janine, who now lives on the Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico.

When she finally took stock of all the hard work she’d already invested, she realized she’d need to try something different to reach the finish line. So she looked for a degree program that would go anywhere she did.

To ensure that her long-earned degree would be tailored exactly to her goals, she didn’t settle until she found the perfect fit: a military-friendly university that offered a rigorous and well-rounded education to fulfill her interest in both the humanities and the sciences.

Janine drew from theater, music, literature, philosophy and natural sciences to inform her liberal studies education – or as she calls it, her “choose-your-own-adventure degree.”

She found her match in the Oregon State University Ecampus liberal studies degree program online.

Offered by the OSU College of Liberal Arts, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation for best online liberal arts colleges, the liberal studies program allows students to draw from a variety of subjects and design their own major.

At a critical fork in the road of her career, Janine was able to earn a degree in a program where she could, in fact, have it all. She drew from theater, music, literature, philosophy and natural sciences to inform her liberal studies education – or as she calls it, her “choose-your-own-adventure degree.”

“I was always afraid that I would just be a number as an Ecampus student. I feel like the instructors here, they know who I am, and it’s because I was able to engage with them as often as I did.”

Her personalized education prepared her to not only make a career out of her lifelong passion for theater, but it also enabled her to pursue new interests that surfaced as she gained work experience.

In 2014, she began working with Upward Bound, a federally funded program that helps low-income and first-generation students prepare for higher education. Working with students at her local community college, she began to see a future for herself in college outreach, tutoring and mentorship.

She was also able to teach theater and creative writing during the Upward Bound summer program, bringing arts and humanities education to rural Clovis.

“I feel like I earned a degree in rhetoric,” she says. “I really know the messages that people are trying to communicate, how they communicate them, where they go, who hears them and who sees them.”

The strengthened critical thinking and interpersonal communication skills she gained while learning online with OSU Ecampus earned her a position as an academic specialist with Eastern New Mexico University Upward Bound, where she now advises students and helps them reach their academic and career goals.

Gain personalized support while earning your degree online

“The military resources here at Oregon State were wonderful,” Janine says. “Every question I had, every phone call I made, every email I sent was returned to me; and it was kind, knowledgeable and informational.”

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Though she earned her degree from a distance, Janine found connection to the university through her classmates and instructors, as well as military representatives at OSU who helped answer questions about transferring her husband’s military benefits and balancing school with home life as a military spouse.

“The military resources here at Oregon State were wonderful,” she says. “Every question I had, every phone call I made, every email I sent was returned to me; and it was kind, knowledgeable and informational.”

In her classes – just as Oregon State’s on-campus students do – Janine practiced speaking with her conversational partners for foreign language courses, communicated with her instructors, experienced hands-on learning through lab kits and took (virtual) field trips around Oregon that helped her feel connected to the university’s physical location.

“Nothing was far away,” she says. “I was always afraid that I would just be a number as an Ecampus student. I feel like the instructors here, they know who I am, and it’s because I was able to engage with them as often as I did.”

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