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A novel approach to research makes new paths possible

Ecampus student guest blog post

Returning to college after more than 20 years out of the academic setting isn’t an easy feat. But Ecampus women, gender and sexuality studies student Jennifer Oliphant is proving that she has the dedication, passion and determination to not only excel in her studies, but also go above and beyond to make a mark on her education. Jennifer is the proud recipient of the 2018 Oregon State University Library Undergraduate Research Award for her winning paper, “Sharontheview!” – a graphic novel she wrote during her first term at Oregon State for the Disney: Gender Race Empire course.

Jennifer is one of two LURA award winners who received a $1,000 scholarship, thanks to the generosity of donors Gilbert and Marie Cleasby.

Read the student guest blog post below to learn more about Jennifer, her passions and her work that earned her this award.


By Jennifer Oliphant
Women, gender and sexuality studies student
June 29, 2018

“I first realized I had a passion for mental health when I took a job with Humboldt County Mental Health in their medical records department. I actually surprised myself by accepting the job because I have experienced so much negative treatment at the hands of some uninformed mental health workers in my past. I found myself working at the main mental health facility as an outpatient receptionist, which has put me in direct contact with clients, law enforcement, psychiatrists, counselors, psychiatric nurses and mental health workers of all sorts. I fell in love my first day there! The moment I walked in, I realized this group of people is amazing. We are all working toward the same goal in life – happiness. For some of us, that path is riddled with holes, boulders, detours and extreme hardship that no one should ever have to experience. If it were not for counselors, nurses, psychiatrists and an amazing team of supporters, this path would be impossible. We can do this together. I love seeing our clients every day and knowing that the small part I have in helping them along the path to happiness is important to the larger picture of a life well lived.

Ecampus women, gender and sexuality studies student Jennifer Oliphant is the proud recipient of the 2018 Oregon State University Library Undergraduate Research Award for her winning paper, “Sharontheview!” – a graphic novel she wrote her first term at Oregon State for the Disney: Gender Race Empire course.

My passion for gender and sexuality advocacy was fully realized when, in the days and weeks after the Pulse Night Club shooting, I could not shake a sense of hopelessness, but I knew I could do more to help. I needed to make a change in my life. I remember driving to work the day after the shooting and feeling so lost and in such despair. I remember thinking to myself, ‘These are my people. I need to do something.’ It was then that I realized I wanted to change people’s attitudes and perceptions of gender and sexuality. I knew I needed to return to school to pursue a degree that would allow me to change public opinion, change public policy or somehow create a future that I would want my children living in. I had a passion for gender and sexuality, but I had no idea that that sort of degree was an option.

I tossed those search terms in Google to see what came out for degrees and schools. I was surprised I could actually get a degree related to those topics. Near the top of my search results was Oregon State University, which had an online program that seemed well-rated. I applied to OSU as a women, gender and sexuality studies major and the rest is history. I am also pursuing a queer studies minor.

For my LURA project, I needed to submit a project that had been completed utilizing the OSU library for research on the project. Mine is a bit nontraditional in that it is a graphic novel instead of a research paper. However, I utilized the library extensively for peer-reviewed research and help with my artist statement that would connect my work on the novel to course topics. My graphic novel explores women and the intersection of gender, sexuality and mental health. The novel is autobiographical and explains my early exposure and connections between gender, sexuality and mental health, which is probably the root of where all those passions and interests started. While it does explore my personal lived experiences, the novel is written in a way that people with different lived experiences could imagine themselves within the story. From my artist statement: ‘I would like to note that I left all the characters in my novel with blank skin tone. The color appears to be white, but is in fact just blank, no color selected. This was done on purpose. First, because I wrote what I knew and everyone in this story is Caucasian. I do not claim to understand how persons of color might experience what I experienced. Second, I hoped that the lack of color would allow the reader to ‘color’ in whatever color they might imagine. Additionally, ancillary characters are left without hair, eye and skin color, again to allow the reader to fill in these characters with their own imagination.’

“I was so surprised that not only did OSU have an amazing Ecampus program, but they also had an amazing library that I could use as an Ecampus student so I would not miss out on any of the library experience.”

I was so surprised that not only did OSU have an amazing Ecampus program, but they also had an amazing library that I could use as an Ecampus student so I would not miss out on any of the library experience. I could request journal articles and books and view a number of journal articles without having to wait for someone to scan them to me. I used the ‘Ask a librarian’ feature on the library page, and they got back to me so very quickly. And, Ecampus has their own librarian! At every turn, OSU has exceeded my expectations for my education.

I am not sure what I want to do with my degree once I graduate, but I have some ideas, most that require additional schooling. I am interested in public policy, research and teaching at a university level.”

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