Grad Profile: Aaron Orr

Arron Orr in a plaid shirt on the beach

We congratulate Aaron Orr class of 2018! From Forest Grove, Orr will be graduating with an major in Earth Science, a double minor in Chemistry and Music, and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems. Aaron is not the first in his family to get a degree, as his father feature graduated from University of California-Riverside.

Baby Aaron Orr being held by his father
Aaron Orr and his father in California when Arron was just a baby

Why did you choose WOU?
I made a gamble: it had the programs I wanted, the small student-to-staff ratio, and was close to home. WOU was the only university I applied to,and I don’t think I would have gone any other direction.

What do you love most about WOU?
’m torn between the professors and my colleagues. I have never had a bad professor at this institution, and I’ve never felt distanced from any of them either. The fact that the faculty continue to interact with students–even after you’re done with their classes–sometimes means as much, if not more, than the subject matter they teach you. However, the same can be said for my colleagues from the departments I’ve been a part of: Earth Science, Chemistry, and Music. They’ve all been kind and caring and never hesitant to help.

Are you an honors student?
Yes, and I’m incredibly proud of how the program is handled. I don’t discuss it often, but the entire program, especially Gavin Keulks, stop at nothing to help you as a student and as a person.

What do you love most about the major/minors you completed?
In Earth Science, Chemistry, and Music there was an underlying sense of camaraderie that always warmed my heart. Staying up late doing petrology with my colleagues, singing with fellow vocalists in chamber choir, and calmly panicking while tackling organic chemistry take-home assignments with my classmates are all memories that I cherish and will continue to cherish.

Outside of the classroom, what have you been involved in on campus?
Peer Mentoring, tutoring, and Earth Science lab assistant are a few things I’ve during the academic year, but I also worked as a Stream Crew Intern over the summer with the City of Salem and it was a wonderful experience. Not only did it show how my skills can apply to the real world, but also how much my professors have set me up to succeed.

What has been your biggest achievement, success or accomplishment in college?
It’s relatively small in the grand scheme of my time at WOU, but working with Dr. Velez and other students in the Music department to make a biographical suite–and have one performed by Trevor Fischer, Rachel Schneider, Emmaly Basaraba, and Jessica McCutchen–was incredibly rewarding and heartwarming.

Arron holding up a rock while his best friend looks for more rocks
Aaron Orr at the coast in Oregon with his best friend Joey

Has there been a class or professor that has been particularly inspiring to you?
I feel like I would be doing all of my professors a disservice if I singled any of them out based on inspiration alone, because they’ve all been amazing. In terms of overall encouragement and help, though, Dr. Taylor from the Earth and Physical Science Department has been an absolute godsend. Even while I was engrossed in the land of Chemistry, Dr. Taylor was looking out for me. It was a close match, but I honestly may have stayed an Environmental Chemistry major if it weren’t for Dr. Taylor’s influence. Not that he actively tried to swoop me away from chemistry, he was just a significant passive factor of why I switched over!

In terms of uniqueness, Dr. Soderlund’s Complexity Theory class was the most interesting, difficult, and rewarding class that I’ve taken. It showed a new way of looking at the world, and how to apply that knowledge to whatever fields you were interested in.

What will you miss most about college?
Colleagues, professors: you know the spiel. Some people say there’s no point in growing closer to people during your final years of college, but I’ve made wonderful friendships this year that I know will continue through my adult life.

What are your plans for after graduation?
Graduate school at Portland State University! I’ll be studying Geohydrology under the tutelage of Ben Perkins, and working as a TA for the department of Geology.

Aaron and Rachel covered in mud after running
Aaron Orr and Rachel after finishing the Rugged Maniac 5K obstacle course

What advice do you have for current and future Wolves?
Academically: sleep will help you more than studying. All-nighters are worthless when you’re running on fumes alone. Socially: You may meet some of your best friends next year or the year after that. Never doubt that a new friend or mentor may be right around the corner.

What do you know now that you wish you knew your first term in college?
It’s okay to worry. Almost none of your plans will stay the same, unless you’ve had a clear plan for your life since primary/secondary school.

What was your Honors Thesis about? How was it to present it at the Oregon Academy of Sciences?
Changes in river water quality in the Willamette Valley. The scope was reduced from all of Oregon to the Willamette to the Lower Willamette because there was just too much data to manage and display. Ultimately, the product was a series of maps showing changes in different Oregon Water Quality Index parameters over time so that users could compare the actual index score to variables that are used to calculate it. Presenting at OAS was excellent! Most other presentations were from professors or graduate students, so it was nice to be able to contribute a poster to the event.

What was the inspiration for your piece performed at the Spectrum Concert?
The song is titled L’amour de Personne, and is one song from a biographical suite that I’m working on. Each piece is supposed to encapsulate a person I know and my relationship with them. The other pieces that are included in the set as of now are The Lotus Flower, L’ange Barbu, and Braided River. I really hope to continue this collection of songs throughout my life.

Is there any part of being a lab technician that is your least favorite?
Every inventory I have ever done. They’re so necessary, but so tedious. My first task ever was an entire lab inventory, and we immediately reorganized after it was done!

Aaron and Rachel standing a field
Aaron Orr and Rachel

Going into grad school do you have anything you are looking forward to?
Being a TA. I’m nervous and excited to see what my responsibilities are and who my students will be.

What do you enjoy most about being a tutor?
The one-on-one learning. As useful as lectures are, being able to take apart content and explain it in a new light can be an irreplaceable experience. It’s a strange dynamic being a student trying to teach other students, but this way I also know exactly what they’re going through.