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Students from all walks of life realize chemistry’s far-reaching impact

With a humorous touch of self-deprecation, Kat White narrates her (impressive) academic history while putting emphasis on the notion that someone her age, 50, is bound to lose track of some knowledge along the way.


Naturally, signing up to take rigorous online chemistry courses from Oregon State Ecampus caused her a brief bit of panic.

“I hadn’t done anything related to math in yeeeaaars,” said White, a Marine Corps and Persian Gulf War veteran who lives in Southern California and is majoring in fisheries and wildlife. “I started off saying, ‘Damn, I have to take chemistry?’

“But chemistry affects so much in the world, and I know it’ll pay off for me in the long run.”

She’s hardly alone in thinking that. Ecampus’ abundant online chemistry offerings equip students from a wide range of science and health-related programs and professions with the necessary skills to further their education and careers.

In cooperation with OSU’s Department of Chemistry, Ecampus offers an online minor in chemistry, as well as four full sequences (General Chemistry for non-science majors and science majors, Organic Chemistry and Inorganic Chemistry) and additional upper-level courses.

White earned a master’s degree in anthropology from Cal State-Fullerton in 2008, and she and two other Ecampus students recently shared their insight into the benefits of the OSU online chemistry curriculum.

Joshua Scruggs is an active-duty member of the United States Coast Guard, currently stationed in Portland. Scruggs, 33, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences and, like White, is taking the General Chemistry sequence this term.

And Annette Whitney, in preparation for medical school, completed the Organic Chemistry sequence last year while working as a full-time nurse and raising four young children in Salem with her husband.

All three students hope to do something markedly different than the others with their knowledge of chemistry, but all three will be served by their skills equally as well. Here are their thoughts on a variety of topics:

Whitney, on how Ecampus fit her lifestyle

“The only organic chemistry courses I could find were at least three days a week, plus a lab, which would have made life very, very difficult. I work three 12-hour shifts a week, and unless I wanted to work every weekend I couldn’t have done it. Taking the courses online with OSU made it possible.”

White, on benefiting from the clarity of the curriculum

“The professors make it clear to the students what we need to know and what is expected of us. They let you know which things to consider while reading and going through the materials. That’s great for me because I don’t have to jot down a bunch of definitions and try to work it out in my old mind.”

Scruggs, on finding relevant areas to apply his knowledge

“I worked for a little while with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, reviewing plans for oil-spill response. Knowing the basic concepts of chemistry is invaluable in being able to evaluate information and know how certain materials are going to react in the environment. You can use this information in so many different fields.”

White, on building a reliable support network from hundreds of miles away

“The professors are personable and are really quick at responding to emails and the questions that students ask in the online forum. Everyone is very engaged. I see what other students are asking on the discussion board, and we often answer each other’s questions and offer help when we can.”

Scruggs, on being properly enriched through online instruction

“For a foundation of chemistry concepts, it’s taught very well. The online labs do a great job of simulating the work and teaching you good habits to get into. It lets you make mistakes and doesn’t prohibit you from learning anything. And whenever you make a mistake with homework or somewhere else, there’s a person there to identify that and help you better understand the process.”

Whitney, on having peace of mind thanks to OSU’s reputation

“A big selling point was the fact that OSU is a brick-and-mortar school. It’s not an online college that is a fly-by-night setup where they just pass out degrees and credits. When I apply to med school, the credits coming from OSU will look better than anyplace else online that I could find.”