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Online students participate in on-campus research event, share their unique interests

Agricultural sciences student Grace Masterjohn, pictured above, found her passion for agriculture as a child participating in a local 4-H program and the Future Farmers of America.

By Heather Doherty  
Nov. 5, 2018

It takes more than four hours to drive from Buckley, Washington, to Corvallis, Oregon. But Grace Masterjohn didn’t care.

Every minute in the car was well worth the unique experience to present her research poster in front of hundreds of Oregon State University faculty, staff, students and community members.

Online students gain access to on-campus research events

Oregon State Ecampus online students are encouraged to participate in the university’s Celebrating Undergraduate Excellence event each year to present their research.

Learn more

“How many opportunities do you have to attend an event at your university where you can talk with people who are doing a lot of the same stuff as you are and gain insight and learn from each other while networking?” Grace says.

An Oregon State Ecampus agricultural sciences student, Grace participated in Oregon State’s 2018 Celebrating Undergraduate Excellence (CUE) event in May, when she shared her results from an observational study on Alpine dairy farming on a 16th generation farm in Switzerland.

Her poster presentation focused on various aspects of organic, grass-fed dairy farming she observed, including how farmers adjust their resources to the climate, convert the pastures to crop land, balance feed and maximize their efficiency and output.

“There was a good amount of people who were interested in my presentation and why I was there,” she says. “This opportunity was super exciting.”

Each year, the CUE event showcases the research and creative work of Oregon State’s undergraduate students. This year, four Ecampus students – Grace and fellow agricultural sciences student Reiden Gustafson, environmental sciences student Zachariah Strife, and women, gender, and sexuality studies student Victoria Keenan (who presented her work remotely from the U.K.) – participated in the event.

“The skills they learn provide better opportunities once they graduate and mirrors the on-campus experience for students.”

WGSS student Victoria Keenan, pictured above on the computer screen, presents her research at CUE remotely from the U.K.

“I often speak with students who are wanting to get involved and be connected to the university beyond their classes,” says Ecampus Student Success Counselor Bethany Ulman, who helped coordinate travel and logistics for Ecampus students participating in the event. “In partnering with the Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and the Arts, we are helping connect Ecampus students to resources and faculty conducting research.

“Not only does it help our online students feel more involved, it also gives them the opportunity to learn and grow in their field. The skills they learn provide better opportunities once they graduate and mirrors the on-campus experience for students. I am happy to be a part of the group that provides those opportunities for students.”

A passion that lasts a lifetime

Grace’s passion for agriculture stemmed from her younger years participating in a local 4-H program and the Future Farmers of America.

“I was showing my animals at fairs and part of my job was to literally talk to anyone who was willing to listen to me,” she says. “I really enjoyed teaching people about where their food comes from and talking about whether their community supported agriculture and the difference between organic vs. conventional farming.”

She wanted to take that passion even further, turning it into the pursuit of a degree and, she hopes, a full-time job working in community development after graduating in June 2019.

She says she chose to earn her degree online through Oregon State Ecampus because it allowed her the opportunity to refine her skills through a top-ranked education and still work three part-time jobs to provide for herself.

“When one of the researchers I’m working with is talking about different kinds of cover crops, nutrient retention in the soil, adding biomass, composition of the soil and how it affects our crop yield, I know exactly what he’s talking about because I learned that in my soil sciences or biology class,” says Grace, who’s earning her Oregon State degree in agricultural sciences online.

“One of my goals was to not have to take out any loans to pay for college,” she says. “By attending OSU online, I am able to save money by staying at home and have more flexibility as I work multiple part-time jobs.”

In her job as a horticulture researcher, Grace says she often uses what she’s learning in her classes directly in her job.

“When one of the researchers I’m working with is talking about different kinds of cover crops, nutrient retention in the soil, adding biomass, composition of the soil and how it affects our crop yield, I know exactly what he’s talking about because I learned that in my soil sciences or biology class,” she says.

And she credits the interactive coursework for helping her learn and retain the information.

“I’m very much a kinesthetic learner, so doing the virtual labs that feature specialized equipment and using the customized lab kits you order through the OSU Bookstore for the biology classes is super helpful to me,” she says. “I love those classes.”

With less than a year to go before she earns her degree, Grace says she’ll continue to take advantage of the experiential learning opportunities provided to Oregon State’s online students so she’s more prepared once she enters the workforce.

“I’m a total opportunist, so anybody I meet is a potential opportunity for something more,” she says. “When you’re physically or virtually meeting so many people at events like this, you never know what’s going to pop up.”

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