The Honors College at OSU-Cascades was made for students like Casey Collier ’19. The Bend native recognized the opportunity when he transferred in the fall of 2017.
“I have always been somebody who likes to achieve my greatest potential,” Casey says. “I like to set myself apart. I like a challenge.” Thinking ahead, he recognized that if he wanted to further his education, the Honors College experience could give him an edge when applying to graduate school.
Casey had earned a scholarship at Central Oregon Community College for his first two years and works as a physical therapy aide at a local clinic, its youngest new hire ever. Transferring to OSU-Cascades allowed him to pursue an Honors Baccalaureate in kinesiology while continuing to work in the field and stay in Central Oregon.
Since he would have only two years in the Honors College, Casey started work on his thesis almost immediately. He wanted it to be related to his major and found both a research project and a mentor in kinesiology instructor Tim Burnett.
Tim was beginning a study on the bioenergetics of rock climbing, which would allow Casey to start from the ground up and get a full picture of the research process.
“The whole idea of the project is that we’re trying to develop normative values for rock climbing metabolism,” Casey explains. “Basically, how much energy are people using when they climb in an indoor environment?”
Answering that question aims to help physiologists, athletes and coaches “create appropriate nutrition protocols for athletes performing long duration/repeated climbs,” according to Casey’s abstract. He and Tim developed a protocol for testing and data collection with both male and female climbers. They wore a mask as they climbed, which captured the gases they exhaled for analysis using a portable metabolic device. Muscle fatigue in the forearms was measured using a handheld dynamometer before and after each climb. The data collected could tell how much energy climbers were using and whether that energy was coming from carbohydrates or fat.
Tim has planned on a sample size of 14 climbers for his study. Sampling is still in progress, so Casey’s thesis describes general trends indicated by the initial results with a couple of test subjects. These pilot tests also helped to validate their testing protocol, and Tim is using the portable metabolic device for other studies.
While Casey compiled the data and crunched the numbers, Tim mentored him throughout the writing process for his thesis.
“It was very one-on-one. He would make revisions and suggestions, which basically taught me how to write a formal, journal-style research paper,” Casey says. “I’m very thankful that I did the Honors College because I was able to work on a real research project. I’m very grateful to have a dedicated and inspiring mentor.”
Beyond the thesis, Casey has completed one internship working for a local chiropractor and is working on a second internship emphasizing public health at Mosaic Medical, a network of community-based health centers in Central Oregon. In both internships and continuing in his job as a physical therapy aide, he’s applying his coursework and research experience.
“I absolutely use what I learned in my kinesiology program every day because I’m working with patients one-on-one, helping them recover from injuries and regain function,” Casey says. “Everything from the biomechanical to the psychological side of things that I’ve learned may apply, which is great.”
As Casey prepares to graduate, he’s weighing multiple — and diverse — options. Graduate school is under consideration, as is Oregon State’s online post-baccalaureate program in computer science. He might go into teaching. He’s also interested in possibly combining kinesiology and computer science to develop fitness and health technologies.
Regardless of his ultimate destination, Casey is satisfied with the path he’s chosen so far.
“I’m so happy I decided to go here,” he says. “I’ve gotten to know all of my faculty members well, and that’s been really important to my learning.” Being in the Honors College, “I’ve gotten to meet people from different majors and have made some great friends through the classes that I’ve taken.”
Recognizing that college is “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set yourself apart,” Casey has pushed himself throughout his time at OSU-Cascades. And he continues moving forward.
Photo credit: Rob Kerr Photography