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With a dream at close range, no obstacle is too great

Her dream was a career in rangeland management, and she was ready to go above and beyond to get herself there – so Maria enrolled online at a university that would do the same.

By Julie Cooper

Maria Carpenter envisioned what she wanted her future to look like and didn’t take a backward glance until she made that vision a reality – no matter what obstacles stood in her way.

The key to that future was a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences. But the basics wouldn’t cut it; she needed a program that would provide the field-based skills she needed to get ahead on the path to her dream career in rangeland management.

So when choosing between three schools, the top-ranked education delivered online by Oregon State Ecampus was the clear choice for her.

Then an unforeseen obstacle threatened to slow her progress toward the future she’d planned.

Like many Ecampus students, Maria juggled a packed schedule as a full-time student, working professional and parent. But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she faced a struggle all her own.

Her indispensable support systems at home and at school provided the encouragement she needed to keep moving forward.

“I wasn’t able to participate as I had planned,” Maria says. “Instead of feeling defeated, the Ecampus staff called me regularly – they were so helpful with being able to keep me going, working with me to reduce my credits and motivate me. It allowed me to go through treatments and surgeries and persist.”

She worked frequently with her Ecampus advisors, Dawn Moyer and Melissa Millhollin, to adjust her course schedule and check in to stay on top of important deadlines.

“Earning my degree means that I accomplished something far bigger than myself and it gives me a sense of pride that I didn’t even know existed.”

Her determination and strong connections with her advisors brought her to the finish line in June. She traveled from her home in Mather, California, to Oregon State’s Corvallis campus to receive her diploma and meet her advisors, peers and faculty face to face.

Maria Carpenter at Oregon State's Corvallis campus celebrating her graduation with her three kids smiling by her side. Maria wears her cap and gown, a yellow stole and holds a bouquet of flowers wrapped in pink paper.

“Earning my degree means that I accomplished something far bigger than myself and it gives me a sense of pride that I didn’t even know existed,” says Maria, who is now healthy and well. “I was able to show my three children how to persevere, succeed and never give up. It means that I was stronger than I believed and that I am capable of accomplishing any goal I set for myself.”

Her Oregon State education paid off with more than a degree. Even before graduating, Maria had begun to make moves toward her career.

She received a summer internship with the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. Maria’s advisors assisted her through the application process, answered any questions she had and helped instill confidence in her ability to thrive in the internship while enrolled in summer classes.

She simultaneously earned credits toward her degree and strengthened her professional skills. After graduating, she was placed in a full-time position with the BIA as a rangeland management specialist. She also earned a pay increase as a result of her membership in Oregon State’s chapter of the Alpha Sigma Lambda collegiate honor society.

Maria is an enrolled Alaskan Native tribal member from the Native Village of Unga. In her current role, she enjoys working with Native American communities across California to monitor land-use permits and leases, conduct soil and range inventories and compliance site visits, network with other agencies to leverage funding, and provide various other services that maintain the health of rangeland environments throughout the state.

“Being able to go into a job and have that knowledge base and hands-on experience already was perfect. It really set me up for success,” Maria says.

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