OSU, community provides nontraditional students with support

INTO OSU is housed in the International Living Learning Center on the south side of the OSU campus. INTO OSU provides international students with information and support to adapting to and living in the U.S., as well as working towards being successful OSU students.

Brock Hulse, News Contributor

Financial, academic help opportunities available to students in need of assistance.

Every student attending Oregon State University has a unique and varying background compared to their peers. These backgrounds range vastly, from differences in family type to living situations to state or country of origin. Because of these differences in students, OSU provides several organizations and programs on campus to assist students in their path towards success in higher education.

Human Services Resource Center 

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The HSRC provides students with services that assist them with the effects of hunger, poverty and other basic human needs so that students can work towards their education without such needs standing in their way, according to the Human Services Resource Center’s webpage.

The HSRC works to help many different kinds of nontraditional students, including students returning to college after a prolonged absence, students who are parents, military students and students who did not begin attending college directly after high school, according to Carmen Wilson, a graduate teaching assistant with the HSRC.

One of the programs provided by the HSRC is their textbook lending program, according to Wilson. Through this program, the HSRC gives out free textbooks to fee-paying students. Priority is given the first week of each term to students who fit certain criteria within TRiO Student Support Services, Educational Opportunities Program, first generation and student veterans.

“You are able to rent out textbooks for the term and then give back to textbook once the term is over,” Wilson said. “It is new as of last year, so right now it’s in the infancy stage, but we try to cover a wide variety of classes, we try to cover a majority of bacc core classes, different departments, things of that sort.”

The HSRC also collaborates with many different offices across campus in order to make sure that nontraditional students are able to get the best care they can receive, including the Family Resource Center, University Housing and Dining Services and TRiO SSS, according to Wilson.

Community Outreach, Inc. 

There are also resources in the Corvallis area outside of campus that are able to help nontraditional students, according to Kari Whitacre, the executive director of Community Outreach, Inc.

COI has the goal of helping people to help themselves, according to Whitacre. The organization does this through a case manager-focused program, where they work with each person individually to help them identify the goals that they have for themselves, and then assist with working through the system so that they can get to the next step.

“It’s that person who can do the individualized case management, or care coordination of those people experiencing that type of situation that allows them to move from what they deem as their goal, to actually implementing their goal,” Whitacre said. “Really just trying to take the person and look at them holistically to see what you will need to be successful no matter what you do in life.”

According to Whitacre, the process of someone achieving their ultimate goal leads them to higher education past a GED or high school diploma.

“I would probably say at least half of our clients are on some career path that includes higher education of some sort,” Whitacre said. “It is a collection of community partners that help move somebody into the space where we would consider them a nontraditional student.”

One of the largest problems that tend to hold students in need back from achieving their goals is the belief that they are simply viewed as ordinary students, and that their needs are not acknowledged, according to Whitacre.

“All of these barriers to be able to be successful lie in front of this person, those transportation barriers, the technology barriers, even the ability to study in a quiet space, those are all barriers when you’re living in a homeless shelter,” Whitacre said. “There are all these factors that play into it, but society just expects us to be like, ‘Well, yeah you’re a student, so you’re just like this person here, let’s roll with this’.”

“I think before they ever even start writing their first paper they are, in my mind, successful because they have jumped through a billion different hoops just to get into that chair,” Whitacre added. “I would say that’s their biggest barrier, is the preconceived notion that they have the same criteria that everyone else does, when really they’re starting way back here, while the rest of us would start (up) here.” 

According to Whitacre, one of reasons that the case manager program works so well is the wealth of opportunity that exists in Corvallis.

“Here (at COI), we have on-site daycare, our daycare is a sliding fee daycare, so we’re able to take a lot of nontraditional foreign students who are going to OSU, and helping them to meet that funding gap so their kids can be in a safe and structured environment while they’re going to school,” Whitacre said. “Taking it back to the care coordinators and case managers, that’s their job, is to know off the top of their head, ‘Oh, this person needs this, how do we get them to that?’”

INTO OSU 

INTO OSU is the combination of OSU and INTO University Partnerships, which is an organization that provides vast market knowledge and student recruitment, as well as contributes to the overall student experience. INTO OSU is currently partnered with 20 universities in the U.K., U.S. and China, with OSU being the first and currently largest of all 20, according to the INTO OSU website. 

According to Julianna Betjemann, the director of student experience at INTO OSU, they work with international students starting from before they arrive in the US and continuing through their time in the program, to acquaint them with living in the US and being successful students. 

“It starts with a Pre-Departure Guide document sent to students pre-arrival, pre-arrival online modules and then on-campus orientation and the Student Handbook,” Betjemann said via email. “We have staff in-center whose roles are designed to assist students with these issues. And we have ongoing programming throughout the year, including a required course, to provide continual education to students during their time at INTO OSU.”

There are many things offered by INTO OSU to help students become more acquainted with living in the U.S., according to Betjemann. These include the program’s welcome desk and many advisors that can both direct students to resources, as well as help them better understand the U.S. and specific topics that students may run into. Multiple events and workshops are also offered throughout the year to help students with their English and academics, and exploring Corvallis and Oregon, Betjemann added.

Another resource students have access to is the INTO OSU Learning Center students are able to access writing and pronunciation tutors, according to Betjemann. These tutors assist students within the Academic English program with writing, grammar, reading, vocabulary, pronunciation and listening skills. Additionally, Pathway Tutors for those in the Pathway programs are available to assist with these skills, and subject-based tutors are available for students in subjects such as chemistry, math, anthropology, biology, engineering, computer science, business and health, Betjemann added.

“There are also many resources in the Learning Center for students to use. We have a DVD library and a library of books for check ou. The books are sorted into level so students can find a book suitable for their language level,” Betjemann said via email. “Conversants attend certain classes once per week and work in small groups with students under the direction of the instructor. They often have particular topics to discuss such as weather, food, travel, etc.” 

“We also provide a collection of language-based games for students to play either in their conversation groups or during their free time,” Betjemann added in an email. “We have three computer labs available for students, they can use the installed software to practice pronunciation skills and print and scan documents.”