Amy Riley is the director of student engagement in the Office of Student Success. Before she assumed her role with the college in January 2018, she worked for Oregon State’s Ecampus, first as a student success counselor and then as a student success manager. She’s also served in student service positions at City University of Seattle and DeVry University, and served as a family development/health coordinator with Kitsap Community Resources. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Washington and her master’s degree in Distance Education Leadership from the University of Wisconsin – Platteville.
What made you decide to get into this field? Is there one specific moment that inspired your career path?
“I originally started my career in social services. I stumbled into admission advising in higher education almost 15 years ago and haven’t looked back. Since then, I’ve worked in admissions, academic advising, academic counseling and various student success and outreach programs. Social service and education are really both focused on helping others achieve personal growth, so in many ways they are similar. But when I attended my first commencement ceremony and saw a student I worked with walk across the stage to fulfill a lifelong and life-changing goal, I knew there was no going back. This is where I needed to stay, to do whatever I can to make more of those moments possible.”
Why did you choose to work at Oregon State/CPHHS?
“My family and I came to Oregon from Washington state a little over six years ago. I had a goal to get a position here at Oregon State once I knew we were coming, so I was keeping my eyes out for positions that looked like a good fit. Oregon State is such a fantastic institution, and the public land grant mission is something I admire.
“I spent my first five years at OSU working in Ecampus and supporting online learners specifically. While I love online learning, and the access it provides to diverse groups of learners, I couldn’t help but get excited about this position when I saw it open in the college. The specific focus on student engagement and the dedication that CPHHS has to serving communities and supporting well-being really joins my experience in education with my background and interest in social and community service. It’s a win-win!”
What is your favorite part about working as the director of student engagement?
“I believe wholeheartedly that our experiences outside of the classroom provide incredibly positive impacts on academic and professional success. I’ll get to immerse myself in things like leadership development and community building for students.
“When you can see that a student finds that sense of belonging and they realize that they have the skills to turn their academic interest area into a career, it’s extremely rewarding. I also really enjoy being creative and trying new things, as well as working with different partners across campus to support the student experience. This role will provide all of that and more.”
What is your favorite part about working in the Office of Student Success?
“The people here are wonderful! They care about each other and they dedicate themselves to supporting students. I think my favorite thing here is that the focus truly is grounded in student success. The OSS has been really strategic in how they staff the space so that students have access to the people who can support them – in one central place.”
What do you believe is the greatest accomplishment you’ve had in your career so far?
“I believe my greatest accomplishment is actually being selected to serve in this role. The opportunity to work as the director of student engagement in a fantastic academic college – at one of the best research universities in the country – is such an honor. I’ve worked hard to progress through my career in higher education, but I knew that I needed an advanced degree to be able to keep that momentum.
“I went back to school as a non-traditional student in 2015, while working full-time and raising my two children. I completed my master’s degree about 18 months later and was able to be more competitive for positions with higher levels of responsibility. Being here affirms my decision that this path was the right one, and it feels like all the hard work is paying off.”
How do you strive to affect people’s lives with your work?
“I hope that with my work I support the growth and achievement of others. Success looks different for everyone, but I do believe firmly that all people come with what they need to be successful. By providing opportunities and experiences that allow the people around us to recognize their strengths and put them into action, we improve pathways for personal achievement.”
What is the best advice you ever received, and who gave it?
“There’s a Thomas Edison quote: ’If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.’ It’s not necessarily spoken advice, but when I started my college career in the ‘90s, one of my aunts gave me a small flipchart of quotes labeled ‘being a student.’ It’s traveled with me from desk to desk for 20 years, and I still have it in my office. This particular quote by Edison is my favorite. It’s an important reminder to take chances and trust ourselves more.”
What is one surprising thing about you that not many people know?
“I’m a bit of a thrill seeker and have jumped out of three perfectly good airplanes on purpose. It was amazing every time!”
What are your favorite activities outside of work?
“Traveling is one of my all-time favorite things. We try to take small trips when we can with our travel trailer and can’t wait to take the kids on some international trips as they get a bit older. I also enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and skiing.”