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Graduating student spotlight: Tori VandeLinde

Student follows passion, lands dream job

Tori VandeLinde will graduate with her master’s degree in Public Health – Health Promotion and Health Behavior on June 16 and she’s already landed her dream job. In July, she’ll start with the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, where she will be working on its national sexual violence prevention project.

What led you to choose your degree?

I always knew I wanted to be in a helping field, and after taking a few community health classes during my undergraduate program in Montana, I loved the fusion between science, creativity and compassion and chose that as my bachelor’s degree. The OSU program gave me a great opportunity to continue pursuing my passion.”

Did you face any significant challenges while pursuing your degree?

“When starting my master’s program, I wasn’t entirely sure which health topic I wanted to land in, I only knew generally I wanted to be in women’s health. It was intimidating coming here straight from my undergraduate university when it felt like my peers had tons of experience, had it all together and knew exactly what they wanted to do with their careers. I was also worried about long-term employment in my topics of interest. When they told us at Graduate School Orientation that imposter syndrome affects every graduate student, they weren’t lying.

“I started my time here while working part-time at a coffee shop, and I felt like I didn’t belong since it seemed like so many other people were already working in their topic areas or already had full-time employment experience in their area of interest. Jessica Gorman encouraged me to continue pursuing the topic area I loved and reasoned that by becoming a stand-out in my field, I wouldn’t need to worry as much about long-term employment.

“After receiving that advice in my first year, I stayed vigilant on looking for job openings and ended up in my ideal student role as the sexual health and wellness graduate assistant at Student Health Services Prevention & Wellness. I’m so grateful to have been able to work with Michelle Bangen, who helped me find a way to create a niche in the field to fit my interests and has provided me and other students so many opportunities to elevate our work and take ownership of our accomplishments.”

What is your proudest accomplishment while at Oregon State?

“I was selected to present a poster at the 2018 NASPA Strategies Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Conference on the work I’ve done at Student Health Services Prevention & Wellness and how that work was informed by my internship with the Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force. This was not only a great professional development opportunity, as I learned from others working in college sexual violence prevention, but it was also an incredible networking opportunity.

“I was expecting to enter the conference as a novice, but we ended up being so busy at our poster session that we couldn’t break for water! It was such a great feeling knowing that other campuses and other professionals found my work at OSU valuable, and it was humbling and inspiring to learn from professionals across the country.”

What’s next for Tori?

“I am moving to Sacramento, California, in July and starting my new job with the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault as a training and technical assistance specialist for prevention. This role will allow me to apply the skills I’ve learned in my current job, during my internship and in my academic classes. I’ll partner with other programs across the U.S. in their sexual violence prevention efforts through research, developing new materials and providing support for trainings.”

How has being in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences prepared you for what’s next?

“Not only has the College of Public Health and Human Sciences given me the technical skills to prepare for my career through the MPH coursework, but being here has also given me the passion and professionalism needed to succeed in my field. Jessica Gorman and Peggy Dolcini have been two of my greatest influences within the college and have connected me to growth opportunities, such as bringing me in on research projects and offering to help build skills I know I’ll need for my career. They have given me ample opportunities to apply what I’m passionate about to different projects and have shown exemplary leadership and professionalism.”

What advice do you have for current students?

The best advice I have for students is to take advantage of their resources while they’re here. The advisors and professors we work with are incredible resources for research experience, academic guidance and career advice. We’re so lucky to be on a campus that has such a strong connection to the surrounding community, and I would encourage any student to seek out those connections.

“And I have to echo the advice I received from Jessica as a first-year MPH student — find and follow your passions without fear. Make the most of your time here by engaging in projects and topics that bridge your technical interests in the field of public health with what gets you out of bed in the morning and lights your fire.”

Any final thoughts about your time at Oregon State?

“I am so grateful for my experiences here, and I would not be where I am without the help and support of Michelle Bangen and Todd Gibbs at Student Health Services Prevention & Wellness, the Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force, the OSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women, Jessica Gorman, Peggy Dolcini and the rest of the Health Promotion and Health Behavior, and the College of Public Health and Human Sciences faculty.”