Melissa Long is a Secondary English Language Arts Education major from Bend, Ore. As an outstanding 2020 graduate, we interviewed Long on the lessons she learned during college and her favorite memories from WOU.
Where did you transfer from and what has the experience been like?
I transferred to WOU from Chemeketa Community College with my Associates of Arts Oregon Transfer (AAOT). The experience was really rewarding, because I was able to get experience in a classroom after taking a couple of years off of school. It also helped me find the right path to the career that I wanted in life without also needing to navigate living on campus during the first year. The relationship between the colleges was key to the transition, because my advisors knew each other and helped me to bridge the gap between community college, with general education classes to degree specific classes at the university.
Are you a first-generation student? What has your experience been like?
I am a first-generation student, which means that a lot of the knowledge of getting financial aid, choosing a college and degree, and navigating the work/school balance was left to me to figure out. Starting with Chemeketa and transferring allowed me to figure things out on my own and gave me a lot of support throughout my college career. There are a lot of groups dedicated to first-generation students, and there are so many of us at this school that it’s hard to feel alone in your struggles. It has taken me more time than some of my classmates, but I am okay with that because I still made it!
Why did you choose WOU?
I chose Western because of its amazing education program. Before I even knew that I was pursuing a degree in education, I had heard about the program. Once I set the plan in motion to pursue teaching, I couldn’t fathom attending classes at another university anywhere. I would have moved to Alaska to attend a school with such a highly rated program in my field, but I was doubly lucky that it was a 30 minute drive from my house at that time.
Do you have any advice for current and prospective students?
Even if you don’t take the long road to your destination, make sure that you take some time to stop and appreciate the opportunities around you. I didn’t get as involved in extracurricular activities during my college years because I was constantly busy keeping on track, and life happened too many times to count. If I could go back? I would make sure that I took at least one class a year (maybe even a term) for nothing but me.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned throughout your time here?
The biggest lesson I have learned throughout my time at WOU was that I am the most important influence on whether I succeed or fail. It’s so easy to blame the work, the professors, or life in general, but ultimately, you are responsible for your success and failure. Believing in my abilities and pushing myself to constantly improve beyond my last achievement was what got me to where I am, and it took longer than I would like to admit to figure that out!
Who stands out from your time at WOU?
I have built so many amazing relationships during my time at WOU that it is difficult to select a single person that stands out to me. Each professor, group member, classmate, and friend played a part in my story, and I am grateful to them all. The person that I must call attention to right now is Dr. Marie LeJeune. She is a rock to all of her advisees, students, and colleagues. I would not be graduating were it not for her steadfast support and guidance. From day one of being her advisee, I knew that she wasn’t going to let me quit on myself.
What is your favorite building on campus?
The library. I’m sure that is a cliche answer, but it is an amazing building. There is always a nook or cranny to disappear into when you need time to work in private. There are areas dedicated to group work, coffee in the back of the building for fueling midterms and finals study sessions, and someone is always there to help you print, copy, or find a resource. The Hamersly Library was my refuge during week one of my first year at the school, and I have definitely returned there in my last term to simply be alone with my thoughts.
What has been your biggest achievement, success or accomplishment in college?
My biggest accomplishment in college is graduating. Writing that, it seems like a silly answer, because that is the point of attending college. However, that answer holds so very much weight. There were three distinct times during my years at WOU where I thought I would lose everything, never graduate, or fail miserably. So, simply finishing what I started, no matter the odds, is my shining achievement.
What are your plans for after graduation?
For now, my plans are to find a job at a school I love and find a house for my two kittens, boyfriend, and [me]. With everything going on in the world right now, I’ve found it best to focus on the short term goals.