Some students who grow up near a university feel the urge to spend their college years further away from home – no matter how good of a fit that college may be. Kylie Roth, this year’s Julia McCulloch Smith recipient never felt that way. Despite growing up close to Western Oregon University as a native of Dallas, Ore., Roth recognized that WOU was the right choice for her and stayed close to home. In fact, she lived with her parents and commuted to WOU all four years.
Roth knew she wanted to go to a small campus. “It felt like a private school without the private price,” she said, adding that she finds campus to be “absolutely gorgeous” and loves all the trees and squirrels. What Roth wasn’t sure of was what she wanted to study. So picking a school that felt right outside of academics was a good place to start.
Working through the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum led her to pursue psychology as a major during her sophomore year. She talked with one of her psychology professors and realized that everything she was passionate about could be fulfilled through that field.
For more than three years, Dr. Chehalis Strapp, head of the Psychological Sciences Department, witnessed Roth’s skills and strengths both in and outside the classroom. Strapp observed Roth mentoring an “at risk” middle school student at Talmadge Middle School. “I was highly impressed with Kylie’s work at Talmadge,” Strapp said. “Kylie was a positive role model, a good listener, and helped her student make academic improvements.”
Roth appreciated working with Strapp and other faculty. “At WOU there are unlimited opportunities for hands-on experience,” she said. Roth appreciated that her major required a lot of research, which gave her multiple opportunities to experience new things. “I was able to find out what I’m good at, and what I’m not.”
That hands-on experience went beyond the classroom. Roth’s curriculum vitae is as long as many who have been in the professional world for several years. She did not waste a moment at WOU. Her activities included: WOU Ambassador, secretary for the National Society of Leadership and Success, participant in two Alternative Break trips, student worker at the The Research Institute Child Development Center, childcare provider for Polk County, and an intern at Family Building Blocks, to name a few.
It’s difficult for her to pinpoint one activity that has really shaped her life and career goals. “I feel like a lot of these experiences have impacted me,” she said. They have led her to the realization that she wants to work with children, particularly infants to 10-years-old.
She plans to take a year off after graduation and work in human services with children, then attend graduate school for social work or school counseling. “Right now everything is up in the air, which is kind of stressful,” she said, but she’s not too concerned. In fact, the advice she has for students just entering college is, “It’s ok to not know what you want to do. I wish I would have known it’s ok not to know.” She hopes students try new experiences, even if they might be uncomfortable. She encourages students to talk with their professors and, “take advantage of it while you can.”
Finalists for this award are: Courtney Greif (North Bend, Ore., B.S. psychology), Anusha Hoda (Independence, Ore., B.S. biology), Carlee Nelson (Grants Pass, Ore., B.S. elem./middle education), and Amy Ringering (Dallas, Ore., B.S. gerontology).