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Unlocking the benefits of an online honors degree

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Meet the new Honors College Ecampus Coordinator and learn more about how Oregon State’s online honors degree works

By Elena Moffet

On the fourth floor of Oregon State University’s Learning and Innovation Center, stacks of welcome boxes are being assembled and will soon be sent to the doorsteps of honors students around the world. Traveling as far as Kiev, Ukraine, and South Africa, these boxes represent an exciting new chapter for Oregon State’s Honors College — the first Fall cohort of students who will earn their honors bachelor’s degrees 100% online with OSU Ecampus.

Their sender?

Leanna Dillon, the brand-new Honors College Ecampus coordinator — in collaboration with her colleague Courtney Lira, recruitment and student engagement coordinator.

Dillon is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable advisor, who has worked with the Honors College since 2011. When Oregon State began offering honors degrees online, Dillon jumped at the opportunity to work with Ecampus students.

“I am so invested and doing this with such joy,” she says.

Every Ecampus student who is accepted into the Honors College meets one-to-one with Dillon before officially enrolling. This gives her an opportunity to set expectations and learn more about each student’s research interests and career goals.

“The Ecampus students I’ve met with so far are really intentional and directed in their learning and goals,” she says. “They’re asking me tough and relevant questions. They want to understand the benefits.”

Leanna Dillon

Leanna Dillon is the new Ecampus Coordinator for Oregon State’s Honors College.

So what are the benefits of an honors degree?

Below, Dillon gives more context for how the Honors College adds value for Oregon State’s online learners through its prestigious degree program.

Honors thesis

The honors thesis is a critical component of the honors degree — not just a requirement that’s fulfilled at the end of your studies. Dillon advises students to take the Stage 1 thesis course as early on as possible.

Assignments for the thesis course help students explore their own research interests more deeply. It then prompts them to find faculty members working and researching in that field. The course also teaches students hard skills like how to write a strong introduction email and how to best ask for a faculty member’s time.

“I talk a lot about how to leverage the thesis and how to make sure you’re making that connection with that faculty member,” says Dillon. “Because the faculty member will be the best person to be a reference for you, or to write recommendation letters for you in the future.”

Research opportunities

Many Ecampus students seek opportunities to become more involved in university research. The Honors College does a lot to facilitate these connections.

Once per term, the college hosts live, virtual Faculty Research Showcases, where OSU faculty speak about their overall research interests, what they’re currently working on, and opportunities available to students. The showcases are recorded and archived on the Honors College website and on the Ecampus Honors College Canvas page. Dillon advises students to think of these sessions as opportunities to connect with potential faculty mentors for their thesis.

Professional development

Skills learned throughout the thesis process directly translate to a student’s résumé, but Dillon will also provide career development through co-curricular activities.

This academic year, she’s collaborating with Kevin Stoller, the Honors College assistant dean of external relations and student engagement, to organize a series of career seminars. These virtual Q&A talks will feature alumni and other community members, who are working in fields relevant to the Ecampus cohort. Professionals will speak about their own career paths and experiences and answer student questions.

Studying abroad

The Honors College also places a strong value and emphasis on experiential learning. As part of this, they offer short-term study abroad opportunities that students can pair with their honors courses.

Recent trips include places like London and France. Students who want the experience, but struggle with financing, can apply for funding through the Honors College.

Additionally, if students choose to pursue a study abroad experience outside of the Honors College, they can apply up to 3 credits toward the honors elective requirement.

Faculty and peer connection

A lot of Ecampus students that Dillon meets are seeking more connection across the board. This has become a strong focus of her initial coordination.

Dillon organized an Ecampus Honors Canvas page that serves as a more formal hub for students. This includes discussion boards, a Padlet wall and links to resources like scholarships, event calendars and past event recordings. This page will work in tandem with a more informal Discord channel that she set up for the cohort, at the suggestion of an incoming student.

“Everything I do with this particular group of students, I want to be very intentional that they can leverage it for their future,” says Dillon

“Part of my goal is that Corvallis, Cascades and Ecampus are not treated separately,” says Dillon. “We are all mingling together. We are all going towards one goal. We are working through the thesis process together. And we can find community altogether.”

Dillon wants to be strategic about how she builds connections and extra co-curricular activities for Ecampus students.

“Everything I do with this particular group of students, I want to be very intentional that they can leverage it for their future,” says Dillon

As a working mom and Ecampus student herself, Dillon knows firsthand how many time commitments modern students have outside of school. She emphasizes her openness to feedback about what’s working — or not — in this new online experience.

“My advice to Ecampus students is to be as involved as you possibly can,” says Dillon. “And reach out. I am 100% here to support each of these students individually.”

Learn more about pursuing an Oregon State honors degree online.

Explore the online Honors College experience

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