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Plans change. Your career goals don’t have to.

Computer science grad strikes the right balance as a professional, new mom and student

Kristen Dhuse, 2017 OSU Ecampus graduate, poses smiling outdoors with her family. Her husband is on the left, Kristen on the right. Between them, seated on a wooden fence, is their daughter Grace.

Kristen Dhuse, right, found ample support from her husband, Ryan, and their 3-year-old daughter, Grace, while pursuing her computer science degree online with Oregon State. Grace is holding her favorite stuffed animal, named Beaver, that she got on OSU’s campus when Kristen graduated last June. (Photo by Jubilant Studios)

By Tyler Hansen

One of the most important items in any parent’s toolkit is the ability to adapt to unexpected change.

It’s how we get another meal on the table within minutes of our children spilling their mac and cheese on the floor. It’s how we know almost intuitively where the nearest bathroom is no matter where we are.

Kristen Dhuse discovered the importance of parental improvisation as soon as she and her husband, Ryan, learned they were expecting a child in 2014. Kristen was a successful engineer in the greater Seattle area and had devised a plan to put her professional life on hold while she returned to school in hopes of becoming a software developer.

3 success tips for parents who learn online

1. Prioritize your time: Determine your other time commitments and when you’re most productive, and use a time worksheet to stay organized and on task.

2. Designate a quiet zone: When it’s time to study, go to a place in your house that is free of distractions, and set boundaries so your family can help you focus.

3. Be an active participant: OSU Ecampus students say they’re most successful when they engage with their instructors and worldwide network of classmates.

Then the baby news came, and amid all the joy came the need to revise her plans. No longer would she be a full-time student in the Oregon State University Ecampus online computer science postbaccalaureate program. She would instead be a full-time mom who also needed to fit rigorous coursework into her schedule.

“I didn’t want to put my dreams of changing careers on hold,” Kristen said. “When my daughter (Grace) was born, I appreciated the flexibility of the Ecampus program. In the quarters where I was taking classes, I could choose the number of classes to take based on what stages my daughter was in, or the season so I could spend more time with my family.”

Oregon State Ecampus – a nationally ranked leader in online education – gives stay-at-home parents and working professionals the ability to work toward a degree and advance their careers without sacrificing their home lives.

Kristen also benefited from help at home, which allowed her to challenge herself academically the way an accomplished professional is accustomed to.

“My husband and daughter gave me a huge amount of support while I was working on this degree,” she said. “I often needed to study in the evenings and on the weekends, so my husband found lots of fun things for he and my daughter to do so that I could have time to study.”

That vital family support enabled her to thrive in a program that is known for its rigor. When Kristen graduated in December 2016, her program GPA was a perfect 4.0.

She, Ryan and Grace – now age 3 – traveled to Corvallis, Oregon, last June for Oregon State’s commencement ceremony. That same month, Kristen started a new job as a software developer in Bellevue.

It wasn’t the plan she envisioned, but thanks to her adaptability, she successfully switched careers – and embraced motherhood in the process.

“I prefer to be optimistic, and I’m very happy with the way things have actually worked out,” Kristen said. “I was very lucky to find a job where I am able to make use of my new degree in computer science as well as my previous degree in mechanical engineering. I think I have found my perfect fit.”

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