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Winning on the water and in the online classroom

A photo of Fiona Wylde holding a paddleboard and paddle. Fiona is a geography and geospatial science student

While traveling the world as an elite stand-up paddleboarder, Fiona Wylde is also pursuing her geography and geospatial science degree online with top-ranked Oregon State Ecampus.

SUP world champion Fiona Wylde connects her love of the outdoors to a passion for the environment with Oregon State

By Tracy Scott

High winds, cold water temperatures and choppy seas would send most people running for shelter. But with salt spray covering her exposed skin and the sun blazing overhead, it’s just a regular day at the office for Fiona Wylde.

A student pursuing her bachelor’s degree online through Oregon State University Ecampus, Wylde needed a rigorous program that would allow her to further her education while offering the flexibility to sustain her career as a world champion stand-up paddleboarder (SUP) and windsurfer.

Wylde knew early in her high school years that she had a passion for the outdoors. Her love of the water eventually led her to compete on the world stage beginning as a teenager — and it’s led her to her current status as a three-time SUP world champion, including in 2021.

It was during her early years of competition that she enrolled in Oregon State’s online geography and geospatial science bachelor’s program part time.

A photo of Fiona Wylde seated at a desk, reading a book and holding a pen.

Fiona Wylde is a three-time SUP world champion and also one of the world’s leading competitive windsurfers.

“I was (starting) the peak of my career and competing in a lot of different water sports and had my career rolling,” said Wylde, who grew up and lives in Hood River, Oregon. “I needed to find a university that would allow me to pursue my goals and dreams in sports but also study and receive a bachelor’s degree.

“It’s incredible, especially as an Oregonian. I’m traveling all over the world, and I take my university with me wherever I go. My university connects me to home. So in that sense, there’s no other place that I’d rather be.”

Professional athletes demand a rigid training schedule and plenty of rest. Despite a hectic lifestyle that includes SUP competitions and windsurfing events in far-flung places such as Greece, Barbados, China and Hungary, Oregon State Ecampus allows Wylde to excel both in the online classroom and on the water.

“One of the things that I’m constantly impressed with is the depth of material that we’re able to cover in an online setting,” Wylde said. “I’m thoroughly impressed by how interactive and engaging and honestly fun it is. It’s been a blast learning.”

Ecampus enables students to build a sense of community among peers despite the distance between one another. Wylde credits her academic success to the support she receives from her instructors, classmates and academic advisor.

“A lot of the professors go out of their way to make sure that we have personal feedback … and that has been able to create quite a genuine connection with other students.”

When they connect, it’s often via email, phone and Zoom. She didn’t expect such personal attention in an online educational environment.

“A lot of the professors go out of their way to make sure that we have personal feedback from different students on the projects we’re working on,” she said, “and that has been able to create quite a genuine connection with other students, and I really appreciate that aspect of it.”

Wylde is looking forward to new adventures working in the field once she completes her geographic and geospatial science degree. With a focus on research in her studies, she hopes to use her degree to bring environmental solutions to geographic regions around the globe.

“I hope that I’d be able to combine my experience on the water and my geospatial knowledge in looking to create more solutions for clean water in areas that really have limited access to clean water” she said. “I think clean water awareness is a really key part of our society going forward.

“I want us all to live in a healthier, safer world.”


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