It’s a trek and far from home, but the experience at Oregon State is worth it - Gilroy Dispatch: Mark Derry

It’s a trek and far from home, but the experience at Oregon State is worth it

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Posted: Friday, September 14, 2012 5:03 pm

It’s a long drive to Corvallis, OR – 10 hours – so there’s plenty of time to listen to tunes, chat with your daughter, check out the latest scenery and just think.

It’s the just think part that’s unusual in our busy worlds. Mariah went back to Oregon State University a little early to land a coffee shop job (fingers are crossed), talk to her counselor, sit down with the financial aid experts, train with teammates for the upcoming women’s rugby season and help the team with a few fund-raising projects.

We left after the newspaper’s deadlines Thursday night and made it to Redding, CA before rising, if not shining, the next morning for the 5-plus hours of driving left.

It’s worth the trek.

Miss Jenny and I have plenty of college hunting experience on our parenting resumes. We’ve scoured all sections of the country. Our oldest went to Loyola University in Chicago, the middle daughter, after a two years in Pennsylvania, is in Nashville, TN now finishing up in nursing school. We’ve visited schools near and far, from southern California to Washington, D.C.

So, if you’re a parent who’s into the process with your child or just starting to seriously consider options, OSU is a more-than-worthy contender if your child can stand a few months of rainy weather.

The campus is everything one imagines an idyllic college setting to be. There are expansive lawns, an abundant variety of huge trees and impressive buildings, old and young, that meld together imparting both a sense of tradition and of progress. One building on campus is particulary striking. Rather Harry Potter Hogwarts-like, the properly named Waldo Hall is a brick landmark with four stories, turrets and brick and stone. A stone’s throw away is Weatherford Hall with an archway entrance that’s so stunning many OSU grads choose it as a spot to tie the knot.

With the aesthetics go the academics. OSU is a helpful place. The culture is supportive for students making the transition to life on their own, but it’s not a hand-holding institution. The rules are clear, the help, if you need it, is there and the rest is up to the student.

From our questions, the textbooks and assignments we’ve seen and the students and teachers we’ve talked to, the curriculum is rock solid. Students don’t have to choose majors out of the gate, but they must choose after completing their sophomore year. Like most things at Oregon State, this makes sense. A student can try classes in different genres, work on fulfilling general credits, talk with their counselor and then make a decision. There are myraid offerings for academic majors.

A beautiful campus, fantastic academic opportunities and a top-notch teaching staff cover the basics. Getting out in four years, which Oregon State works hard to make a reality, makes up for the out-of-state tutition costs. Plus, the hassles that go with the plague of impacted classrooms and furloughed teachers that have made most California university experiences into at least 5-year stints, do not exist.

Then, you add in the intangibles. Here’s a random list through a father’s eyes of things I really love about having a daughter at Oregon State University:

• The colors, black and orange, orange and black. Colors that match my beloved 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. (Just love writing those WSC words.)

• The dorms and food offerings. Not spartan, not luxurious, just common sense and plenty of food options.

• School spirit. It’s everywhere – and in a down-home American youth spirit positive way. The students love the Beavs, and they wear the colors with pride. Walking to perfect Reser Stadium Saturday to watch Oregon State knock off 13th-ranked Wisconsin, the streaming sea of orange is absolutley impressive. So is the back-and-forth, around-the-stadium cheer of “O”-“S”-“U” that engages 42,000-plus students, alumni and fans in a deafening and competitive ping-pong yell. Rushing the field with Mariah after the victory (yes, they happily let that happen without any ill results) was “the bomb.”

• It’s a college town. Everybody knows it and embraces it. There’s a core downtown with good restaurants, shops and banks. It’s a few blocks from campus and the merchants embrace the students. At one store, the proprieter, after learning that Mariah played rugby, offered to put a prlmotional poster with the team’s schedule in the window.

• People are generally helpful and nice there. Mariah has met great friends. Her counselor has been accessible and helpful, the students at the bookstore and on campus are happy to have a good job and the atmosphere is congenial.

• The influence of academia lifts the culture. Art, celebratory festivals and fun ideas abound. For every interest, there’s an outlet.

• Oregon State is an “underdog” university, and that sparks the student spirit. The cache of Stand-off-ford or the trumpeting march of the Mighty USC Trojans are, happily, missing. The achievements, athletically and generally, somehow seem more worthy because the campus is not home to the “rich and famous” alumni who rain money on the institution.

• Jimmy John’s sandwich shop. It’s directly across from campus, they stay open late and deliver via bicycle to the students within a prescribed time frame or the sandwich is free. Important to have when you’re up late studying for a midterm. If there were a Jimmy John’s here, the other sandwich shops in town would be in big trouble.

• The Willamette River. It runs next to downtown and upon its banks a grass-covered promenade winds its way for a half mile or so. You can sit or walk by the wide river, enjoy the wildlife, the shade, or the beautiful colors of an Oregon fall while just thinking about how lucky you are to have a daughter taking advantage of such a great opportunity. Go Beavs!

Reach Editor Mark Derry at editor@garlic.com

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