WOU in the World

One of the priorities for Western Oregon University is high-impact learning opportunities. The university strives to give students the chance to get hands-on experience in their fields before graduation.

In some cases, that means internships and practicums. In others, that means students volunteer in local or national communities to support residents while building life skills. Still others welcome visitors to campus and create creative and interesting presentations about what they are studying in order to share their knowledge.

Photo caption: WOU students Javier Garcia (left) and Marnasha Fowlkes put together support bags during Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service this year.

WOU alumni often cite practical work skills as one of the best things they gained while at WOU. And many of them are able to parlay their work experience into valued contacts in their industry, setting them up for employment after they leave Monmouth. Although WOU creates dozens of outreach opportunities and on-campus events each academic year, here are some highlights from recent months:

Alternative Break

Each winter break and spring break, teams of WOU students volunteer in distant countries for the benefit of the communities in the area. This past winter, 27 volunteers on three student-led teams traveled to international locations to give their support to community partners while gaining valuable experience. During winter break 2017:

A team volunteered at an animal rescue center in Cusco, Peru, working alongside biology faculty from a local university. The team repaired a duck habitat, fed and cleaned the animals and built new bird houses.

Photo caption: The Peru team (left) worked in a rescue center zoo at a university in Cusco. The team was invited to Chocolatada (Christmas party) where they got to spend a day with the kids from their children’s project. Team leaders were WOU students Blanca Escobar and Janie Ramirez Manzo; team members included Claudia Maciel, Daisy Chavez, Damaris Martinez, Hannah Spencer, Leticia Palacios Harness, and Rebecca Bond. Their advisers were Gary Dukes and Ted DeChatelet.

A team spent about two weeks in La Carpio, one of the poorest areas in Costa Rica. Students focused their efforts on helping at-risk youths in a daycare center. They worked alongside local staff to improve the educational, emotional and hygienic conditions of the children.

Photo caption: The Costa Rica team (right) worked with children at a preschool in La Carpio, one of the poorest communities in Costa Rica. They planned activities and lessons, painted a mural, and deep-cleaned the church and preschool. Team leaders were Amy Watkins ’17 and Courtney Cunningham ’18; team members included WOU students Ann Marie Matagi, Carter Craig, Efrain Quevedo-Ramos, Haley Morris, Kylie Brandt, Madison Adrian, Samantha Dunaway, Tiffany Lewis, and Veronica Villarreal. Their advisers were Don Boderman and Kaylyn Taylor.

Another team volunteered in the northern-most province of Thailand, Chiang Rai, which borders Myanmar. The students worked with young children and adults from surrounding hill tribes and local villages. WOU students taught English alongside local teachers, including creating and leading a lesson plan each day. The team contributed positively to the potential of hill tribe children to gain future employment in an area where English knowledge is in demand.

Photo caption: The Thailand team (left) worked with a foundation that provides English education to hill tribe children in northern Thailand. Team leaders were Jaide Wa’a and Melissa Garcia; team members included WOU students Jaime Hernandez, Kaiana Bradley, Melissa Price, Ploypairian Khotchamit, Rebecca Tew, and Sara Hankins. Their advisers were Adry Clark and Deborah Diehm.

For spring break, 18 WOU students volunteered in Houston, Texas, which was ravaged last year by Hurricane Harvey. They worked on service activities such as volunteering in Houston’s food bank and removing storm debris. Another team went to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, where they volunteered in the forest fire relief effort by doing trail work, river restoration and working in a community garden.

In December, more student volunteer activities are planned in Mexico and Honduras. Learn more about Alternative Break at wou.edu/slcd/ab.   


Community Outreach

WOU students are all over the Monmouth, Independence, Dallas and Salem communities, working and volunteering at events that make a difference for residents. One of the recent assignments was early in January, when a team of American Sign Language Interpreting Studies students lended their skills to the TEDx conference in Salem.

Seniors in WOU’s program got valuable, real-world interpreting experience by sharing the stage with presenters at the independent TEDx Salem event. It was the second year that WOU students worked on the project, which required more than a month of preparation for each student.

Photo caption: Artist-in-Residence Cayla Skillin-Brauchle shares about traveling to Mumbai and certifying the truth during TEDx Salem 2018. Sarah Ratto ’18 interprets. Photo by Carlee Wright.

Every student was assigned a professional interpreter as a mentor, and together they worked through the material to determine the best approach. Often, the presenters’ topics were somewhat esoteric or dealt with concepts the interpreters were unfamiliar with, so students were able to increase the breadth of their sign “vocabulary” as well as figure out how to convey abstract ideas.

In addition to interpreting during the live TEDx talks, the WOU students created translations for the video versions of the presentations that live on YouTube. So after their appearance on stage, the students further tweaked their interpretation for the video.

One student who worked the event in 2017 said she used that video as a work sample for employers. Multiple students were offered positions as interns or employees for different companies.

The presence of WOU students at the event not only helps seniors in the interpreting studies program, it also shows that WOU is a partner in supporting residents in local communities. The TEDx event is just one recent example of many such interactions.


Academic Excellence Showcase

WOU also prides itself on bringing community members onto campus for cultural performances, sporting events and educational opportunities.

One of the latter is the annual Academic Excellence Showcase (AES). Presented by WOU’s Program for Undergraduate Research Experiences, AES allows WOU students to share their research on a huge variety of topics. There are presentations given as a talk, panel, poster or performance (for creative arts students). All of the projects are student-created with support from a faculty adviser.

A major part of the event is the Presidential Plenary, which is a keynote address on a specific theme. Last year’s plenary revolved around the solar eclipse that crossed the United States in August. The 2018 topic is “power,” and the plenary session will be about the many meanings of that concept.

In addition to the keynote, the day’s schedule is chock full of field-specific sessions involving a collection of presenters.Both faculty and staff members on campus support student success as demonstrated in AES.

Photos: Examples of previous student poster session presentations.

The free event routinely attracts hundreds of visitors throughout the day and into the evening. This year’s event will be May 31 on the WOU campus. Learn more about AES at wou.edu/aes.