Grad profile: Kaylee Church

Name:  Kaylee Church
Age: 21
Major/Minor: Mathematics/psychology
Hometown: Damascus, Ore.
Favorite campus event: New Student Week/Wind Down Wednesday
Best study spot: Study room in Math building
Advice to incoming freshman: “Don’t doubt yourself, go with what you like in your activities and studies.”

Affordability is what put WOU on Church’s radar when she began searching for colleges. Out-of-state tuition deterred her from looking outside Oregon, and when it came to scholarships, WOU offered the best package.

“I started off very nervous. My first visit to campus was on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, and I didn’t think about the fact the most people had gone home, I just wondered if anyone lived here and where the students were hiding!” she joked.

After participating in the Summer Bridge program through the Student Enrichment Program (SEP), she had a new outlook on the university.

“I was so relieved. I felt like I knew so many people after that and I realized what a loving campus and community WOU was.”

In high school, she identified as shy and was less forward about seeking out leadership opportunities. As a student in SEP, they offered encouragement in studies and student involvement. Through their support, she completed a Discover Leadership certificate, which lead her to joining PLUS team.

“WOU is good at recognizing the potential an individual has. I really don’t think you have that kind of care at other state universities. For example, I came to PLUS Team as a very shy, quiet freshman and they saw the potential I have, and I’ve now held the coordinator position.”

Church made sure to get involved in many areas of campus; she is a student in the Honor’s program and completed a thesis, which was presented at the Academic Excellence Showcase in May. Additionally, she is part of Math Club, Residential Conduct Board and Committee, and intramural softball and volleyball teams.

The first year of her studies, she was only certain of a psychology minor.

“I found myself missing math classes, but when I would ask if I could take a math class, I would be told no because I wasn’t a Math major. I thought, well, you have to be this amazing math genius to major in it.”

Discussions with her older brother helped her realize that an interest in the subject was more important than simply being good at it. Plus, as he pointed out, a degree in math was a very valuable credential to have after college.

Once she decided to pursue a math major, she met several individuals who helped shape her degree and career goals.

“My advisor, Dr. Mike Ward, guided me and got me on a hard-working path. He was a strict professor and that made me start off with the right focus. He recently retired and I owe him so much. Go Mike!”

Other faculty and staff also showed their support through the years.

“I have loved my classes with the Beavers (Drs. Scott and Cheryl). They are the power math couple here at WOU,” she joked.

Don Boderman, of SEP and WUC/SLA, pushed her to become part of SEP and Summer Bridge.

“He always had a lot of faith in me and supported my goals. Plus, he was always there when I needed a hug!”

Making use of WOU’s strong alumni network, Kaylee recently connected with Steve Petretto ’02 who offered advice on how she could use her math degree in a non-teaching capacity.

“I’m looking toward careers in finance, and there are so many avenues in marketing or statistics. Steven was an awesome contact because he is a WOU graduate who has been using his math degree in the finance world. I’m looking for jobs as a financial analyst because it’s a good way to get my foot in the door.”

She is considering the possibility of graduate school in the future, but right now she is enjoying the accomplishment of completing an undergraduate degree.

“I think graduating from SEP has probably been the most sentimental part because they recognize that it’s not always easy when you come from challenges. It means being part of the first generation in my family to do this—it means overcoming. This new chapter is scary and satisfying all at once.”

With her sights set on the Seattle-Tacoma area for finance work, she admits that the small, county feel of Monmouth will missed. As a marathon runner, many memories have been made on the aptly named Church Street.

“It’s where some of my longer runs have been accomplished. In a ten minute run, I could get away from everyone and it was very therapeutic to sit out there, just to think and pray.”

She will also miss the activities of New Student Week, especially since she has served as a coordinator.

“It’s all positive memories to me. It’s a week of possibility and discovery, there’s so much drive because you’re shaping the student’s mind. I’ll miss the excitement on the new student’s faces.”

Most important of all, Church wanted to highlight her appreciation and love for family as she graduates.

“I owe it all to my mom, she has kept our family together, and she’s been my role model. She’s the reason I’m here. She’s an amazing and strong woman—Go Mama!”