An International Reputation
As a high school student in Singapore, Sathya Ravichandran researched carefully her options for college. A native of India, Ravichandran was not new to travel and cultural diversity so she literally had a world of options. Her choice? Oregon State University.
"I was completely sold on OSU," said Ravichandran, now a junior in the Honors College at Oregon State. "I was looking for a university that had world-class scholars but at the same time was small enough that I could get personal attention. I wanted to be mentored."
Ravichandran said her experience at OSU has been enhanced by the community's acceptance of her culture. She wears the "traditional dress of India" on campus and is proud to talk with people about her country and her heritage.
"People on campus are interested in who I am and my background," she said. "There is an interesting blend of cultures at OSU. The cross-cultural exchange that occurs on campus has been a big part of my education."
Oregon State University for years has attracted an incoming freshman class that has the highest GPA of any public institution in Oregon. But still, it seemed like the cream of the crop -- the valedictorians and students with 4.0 grade points from Oregon high schools -- invariably would leave the state for the likes of Stanford, Harvard or MIT.
No offense, they'd say. You just don't have what we want. And what did they want? Challenging, selective courses taught by top faculty in intimate settings. Scholarship offers that could rival other schools. Additional resources and programs that would, upon graduation, propel them beyond their tasseled counterparts entering the job market. Above all, students said they longed for a sense of excitement and commitment.
So that's what Oregon State set out to create -- a quality public university with all of the advantages of a prestigious small school.
Valedictorians and Star Athletes
Jarrett Coiner graduated No. 1 in his class last June from Springfield High School in Lane County. He was a member of the National Honor Society, boasted a perfect 4.0 grade point average, and was an all-conference athlete in football. Although he could have left the state to pursue his education, Coiner elected to come to OSU. "One of the primary reasons I chose Oregon State University is because they have an excellent engineering program," he said. Money also played a role -- and a major one -- in his decision to stay in Oregon. The Springfield standout received a prestigious $20,000 Wal-Mart Competitive Edge scholarship.
A Multidisciplinary Honors College
No program at OSU has had a more positive, substantive impact on attracting high-achieving students than the University Honors College. Opened in 1995, the multi-disciplinary program was designed to offer challenging courses to small groups of students. Whereas most honors programs focus on the humanities, OSU offers honors courses in science, engineering and other fields as well.
This June, the University Honors College had its first graduating class. "I've been in the program since the start," said Bryce Payne, a West Linn resident who graduated with degrees in computer science and business. "Nobody knew what to expect at first, but I've been very happy. I'm so thankful for the smaller courses it offers and for the opportunity to know and work with some of the best faculty members on campus." As the reputation of the University Honors College grows, the quality of students it attracts continues to increase.
Prominent Oregon State faculty members also are drawn to the Honors College, saying they love the challenge of teaching such gifted students. Said one: "You never know what the students will ask, what they will demand of you. It really keeps you on your toes."
Jennifer Engels of Aurora, who just graduated from the honors program, said she attributes much of her success to the college and its "small classes and individualized attention. It makes the university feel much smaller, something like a small, liberal arts college."
Like many high-achieving OSU students, Engels took full advantage of different programs offered at the university. She was an enthusiastic participant in the Global Graduates Program
-- conducting field geology work in Vietnam -- and received an international degree, reflecting a level of international research, study abroad experience and language fluency that
makes students highly sought in a competitive job market.
A Dream Internship
A growing number of students are pursuing international opportunities, top-tier internships, and other pre-professional experiences that add value when compared to graduates from other institutions.
One such student is Ross Witherell, a junior from Roseburg who is majoring in mechanical engineering. Since he was
a boy, Witherell says, he has been fascinated with the design, noise, and mystery of machines.
This summer he lived "a dream come true," working as an intern with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Witherell told an Oregonian reporter that on his first day, a NASA supervisor allowed him to inspect a device used in space shuttle launches. "They let me check it out, and I found a little bug in the guy's program. I expected to just watch things going on, but (I got) involved right away."