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Behind the scenes with Autumn VanderLinden, natural resources academic advisor

Autumn Granger, wearing a vibrant red shirt, looks to her left and smiles.

By Heather Doherty  
April 30, 2017

With a love for the outdoors, Autumn VanderLinden knew her role as an academic advisor in OSU’s College of Forestry Natural Resources Program was the right fit for her. Autumn primarily works with Oregon State Ecampus online students earning a degree in natural resources, and says her passion for the outdoors matches that of the students she advises. Autumn previously served as an academic advisor in the Department of Horticulture at OSU, as well as a counselor for TRIO, a federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, at Linn-Benton Community College. She earned a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing and a minor in economics from the University of Oregon and an M.S. in Counseling from Oregon State.

Briefly describe your role as an Ecampus advisor.

“I am like the GPS on your car. You, the student, are the one driving. I see it as my job to help you stay on track toward your final destination. You may make a wrong turn or get stuck in a roundabout along your journey, but I am here to help you find your way back on the path. I will also help you navigate all of the rules of the road – in this case, OSU rules and regulations, as well as those that are specific to your degree program.” 

What made you decide to get into this field of study?

“I have a B.S. in Business with a marketing emphasis, as well as a minor in economics. That degree led me to a series of jobs, one of which was in admissions at Western Oregon University. While at Western, my eyes were opened to other opportunities available working on a college campus with students. To get a job in advising, I knew you had to have an advanced degree, so I went back to school and landed in the M.S. in counseling program here at OSU.

“My first job upon graduation was with a TRIO program at a local community college. Being a first-generation college student myself, it was a perfect fit. From there, I moved into Ecampus advising for the horticulture degree at OSU. My last three years have been spent with the natural resources program. I also advise for the renewable materials program on campus.”

I think that one of the most fascinating aspects of this degree is all of the different directions it can take you.”

What do you like most about advising natural resources online?

“Without hesitation, it is the students. I have the best students. My students are thoughtful, prepared and dedicated to what they are doing. They make my job really easy!”

Autumn Granger, academic advisor in OSU’s College of Forestry Natural Resources Program.

“I am like the GPS on your car. You, the student, are the one driving. I see it as my job to help you stay on track toward your final destination,” says Ecampus natural resources academic advisor Autumn VanderLinden.

What are the benefits of online learning?

“I think that the main benefit of online learning is the flexibility. You don’t have to go anywhere to get your degree – it can all be done where ever you happen to be.”

What would you say is the most fascinating aspect of this field of study?

I think that one of the most fascinating aspects of this degree is all of the different directions it can take you. There are some degrees that lend themselves to a specific and well-defined career path, natural resources is not one of those degrees. My current students work in a variety of settings and for a variety of agencies. For example, I have a number of students working in interpretation at places such as the Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mount. St. Helens or the Oklahoma City Memorial. I have a student working as wildlife technician doing surveys for goshawk, harlequin duck, amphibians and working on habitat inventory and improvement projects. Another student is working for the Bureau of Land Management with the wild horse and burro program. This is just a small sample of some of the directions a natural resources degree can take you.” 

How do you build a genuine connection with students who, in many cases, you’ll never meet in person?

I just try and be myself. I think, for the most part, that comes across. I also use technology to try and aid in the process. Tools like WebEx and Skype are great for being able to put a face with a name. I also try and follow the student’s lead. Some of my relationships with students are very business-like and others are very open: I know what their kids are up to, what the weather is like where they are, etc. One relationship is no less genuine than the other.”

Are there any common questions or themes you hear from NR online students? If so, what are they, and what do you tell them?

“Ha! The most common question I get from current students is, ‘Have I taken all of Dave Stemper’s classes yet? If not, where can I use the classes that I have not taken?’ Dave Stemper is a fantastic instructor in the OSU College of Forestry and teaches many online classes. Dave and his classes are extremely engaging and interactive, and he recently won an award for promoting student success within the College of Forestry.

“The next most frequently asked question is ‘When will I graduate?’ It takes most students 2-3 years to complete the natural resources degree online. This assumes that a student is attending school full time. The shorter end of the timeframe would mean that a student has come in with transfer work already out of the way: Key foundations like biology, chemistry, math, statistics, etc.”

“Get experience. Sometimes it is not so much what degree you earn as much as it is the practical experience that you have gained.”

Prior to being a natural resources advisor, you served as the primary advisor for horticulture online. Describe that transition, and how your previous job has helped you in your current role.

For the most part, I think the transition to NR from Horticulture was relatively easy. I had the benefit of already being employed by OSU, so I didn’t have to learn all of the academic regulations and rules and all of the other bits and pieces that come along with advising students. All I really had to learn was the NR program itself. Even then, there is a good amount of overlap with NR and HORT in terms of course selection, so I was familiar with a lot of the classes that my future NR students would need to take, when they are offered, etc.”

What advice would you like to give to students?

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your advisors are here to help. So many of my students start our conversations with ‘I’m so sorry to bother you…’ You definitely are not bothering me or any other advisor, that is what I am here for and why they pay me the big bucks!

“Get experience. Sometimes it is not so much what degree you earn as much as it is the practical experience that you have gained. I would encourage all students to get as much hands-on practical experience as possible, including volunteering, internships and studying abroad. Not only is it a good way to determine if you are on the right path, it is a great way to start forming those connections that could lead to a job after graduation.”

What are your favorite activities outside of work?

“I love to kayak. I run, but not very fast. I am an avid reader. I like to spend time with my family, which includes a husband, two kids, three cats and a bird who thinks he is a cat (he meows and purrs).

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