Juggling a college course load while three small children dance underfoot isn’t always easy, admits Oregon State University Ecampus student and stay-at-home mom Heather Reding.
Sometimes she’s dancing right alongside them, and other times she might fumble a step or two, but when the footwork turns tricky, Heather gets by with a little help from her OSU advisors.
Heather began her Ecampus journey in 2017, and with support of her family and advisors, she’s discovering that slow and steady really does win the race.
“The biggest thing has been reminding myself: one, I can do it; two, remembering what my goal is in the end; and three, just knowing that you gotta get up and keep moving,” she says. “It’s OK if you fall down, but unless you get back up, you’re not going to go anywhere.”
Heather’s academic advisor assisted with managing paperwork and people, identifying the prerequisites required to become a degree-seeking student and helping Heather maximize the transfer of her existing core credits.
Her Ecampus student success coach, Bethany Ulman, helps her manage her course load, develop smart study tools, brainstorm reroutes and workarounds, and communicate effectively with instructors.
With their help, Heather’s keeping squarely focused on the eventual payout: a B.S. in Human Development and Family Sciences, in anticipation of a day when those small kids grow older and Heather returns to the workforce, hopefully as a high school counselor or community college advisor near Portland, Oregon, where she lives.
‘Step by step, we’re going to get there’
Heather was already a mother of two — Eli, now almost 6, and Odette, now 4 — when she decided to return to school. Her husband, Peter, had just completed an online MBA, and it was her turn to think ahead to career possibilities.
She’d made a few starts at college before, but life circumstances (and a growing family) had intervened. This time, Heather was determined to prevail.
“We agreed after our second child I would go back to school and no matter how long it took, I’d get my degree,” she says.
“It’s OK if you fall down, but unless you get back up, you’re not going to go anywhere.”
Getting to a campus every day was out of the question, but she wanted an online program offering more than simple convenience; Heather knew she’d need a lot of support to successfully balance family and schoolwork demands.
Her dream career involved mentoring young people who were themselves preparing to enter the workforce, and a degree in human development and family sciences delivered online through top-ranked Oregon State University Ecampus aligned with those passions and practical constraints.
After completing a handful of prerequisites over two terms as a nondegree-seeking student, Heather was officially admitted to Ecampus as degree-seeking student in winter 2018.
But life is full of surprises. A third child, Charlotte, came along unexpectedly that next spring, and things shifted again for the Redings. Studying with a newborn on hand proved a major challenge, and Heather’s husband as well as her advisors encouraged her to rethink her course load and personal graduation timeline.
“It was so important to be reminded, ‘You’re still going to succeed; you’re just going to have to slow down,’” says Heather. “Little by little, a step at a time, we’re going to get there.”
Equipping future students for success
Charlotte’s a year old now, and Heather’s still enrolled in Ecampus, working diligently away.
She’s learning that student success isn’t just about making a certain grade or completing X number of credits in X number of years; it’s about picking a path that capitalizes on your gifts, seeking out advisors who meet you where you are and working steadily even when you must work slowly.
“A step at a time,” says Heather. “It may take longer than you want, and it may be hard, but one step at a time.”
What keeps her going, term after term? The prospect of contributing to her family’s financial future, she says, and entering the workforce well-equipped to do what she loves best: mentor young people as they make their own way into the world.
That world is changing fast, and Heather knows that future students will face complex choices and challenges, just like she has. But she’s working hard to prepare herself to be their shining star, just as Heather’s advisors have been for her throughout her OSU journey.
Originally published at Ecampus News.
Photo credit: Chris Becerra