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Oregon State Ecampus graduate ‘shocked’ by her scientific success

Fisheries and wildlife student puts struggles behind her to earn degree online, change career trajectory

“You are more than you think you are.”

It took Andrea Fuchs a few years – and a fair amount of self-doubt – to come to that realization. Her journey toward earning a degree online with Oregon State University was not without its obstacles and letdowns.

As a kid, Fuchs dreamed of someday working with animals. Those dreams were squelched – at least in her mind – because she struggled in high school math and science classes. She figured she’d never work in any science-related field without being skilled in those disciplines.

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But when a web search for reputable online degree programs led her to discover Oregon State’s fisheries, wildlife, and conservation sciences bachelor’s program, she was overcome with nostalgia. Her childhood aspirations were all she could think about.

“I knew this was the degree for me,” Fuchs recalls. “Even with a major hesitation about being good enough to take science and math courses, I just decided to go for it.”

Her lack of academic confidence didn’t go away, though. In fact, it increased when she learned that the Ecampus fisheries and wildlife curriculum required her to take multiple chemistry courses and labs online.

Fuchs was so intimidated – coping with “a bad case of impostor syndrome” – that she expected to do poorly and need to drop out of the program after her first chemistry class.

Spoiler alert: She earned A’s in every one of her Oregon State chemistry and math classes.

“Her classes were not easy by any means – I worked so hard to succeed. … I found out I love chemistry and how impactful it was to each of my classes.”

On some level, she still can’t believe it. “My younger self would be absolutely shocked,” she says.

According to Fuchs, she owes a great deal of her success to the support and encouragement she received from OSU chemistry instructor Marita Barth.

“Going into Chemistry 121, Dr. Barth made sure everyone knew how much she wanted us to succeed. She made sure that we knew science was for everyone,” Fuchs says. “Her classes were not easy by any means – I worked so hard to succeed. … I found out I love chemistry and how impactful it was to each of my classes.”

The fisheries and wildlife coursework also required Fuchs to do hands-on field work in her local area on Florida’s southwest coast. One such assignment for the Systematics of Birds class sent her to the beach to identify all of the shorebirds she could find in several days.

During the course of her studies, she lived out the beginning stages of her childhood dream by working for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Part of her duties involved helping to track wildlife for the organization’s research purposes.

Andrea Fuchs, an Oregon State University Ecampus graduate in fisheries and wildlife sciences, stands on the OSU campus in Corvallis in June 2019.

Andrea Fuchs once feared the idea of taking chemistry and math classes as part of her Oregon State degree program. Those courses ended up being some of her favorites – and the ones she thrived in most.

Fuchs graduated with honors in June 2019 and traveled to Oregon State’s Corvallis campus to participate in the commencement ceremony. While in town, she met some faculty and administrators from OSU’s Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences.

All of that self-doubt was long gone in the rearview mirror.

She told Ecampus staff then that her long-term career goal was to teach people about animals – especially those less-cuddly creatures, like native snakes – and why they are so important to our ecosystem.

In September 2019, that goal became a reality – and then some – when she became certified and accepted a job to teach biomedical science to high school students.

“Although it’s slightly different from the degree I received, I’m able to take what I learned in all my courses and apply it to my (lessons). I’m so thankful for all the long nights studying the biology and the anatomy of different mammals,” says Fuchs, who noted that she recently had her students conduct a lab experiment after learning how important the blood of horseshoe crabs is to the medical industry.

And what words of wisdom would she give to incoming Ecampus students?

“The advice I would share is that you are more than you think you are,” she says. “You can push harder, you can fight for yourself. And you can earn the degree. It’s possible. And it’s such a great experience.”


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