Marilyn Stewart, Educational Opportunities Program

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Marilyn Stewart

Oral History Interview

Interview Transcript

Interviewers:

Jordan Rodgers, Jenny Vorvik, and Viktor Rodriquez

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Biographical Note

Marilyn Stewart grew up in Marianna, Florida. She began her college experience at the Chiploa Junior College with the goal of becoming an accountant. In the mid-1980s, Stewart joined the military for eight years where she continued taking courses and met her husband. She came to Oregon State in 1989 to earn her bachelor’s degree in business and her master’s degree in education. She began her work with the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) at OSU as an office coordinator in 1994 after returning to Benton County. Since then she has held other positions such as executive assistant, office coordinator, operations manager, advisor, and academic counselor. Her current title is acting co-director for EOP.

Interview Summary

Marilyn Stewart discusses her transition from high school to college and several experiences therein. She highlights some of her mentors while noting several courses in which she enrolled while in the military. Moving to Oregon State University, her initial impression was of the campus’ visual beauty. She has held many positions at OSU including: executive assistant, office coordinator, operations manager, advisor, academic counselor, and her current position as acting co-director for EOP. Highlighting the ways in which her poor experience with her high school counselor helped place her on a path of providing assistance to others, Stewart notes several people who have been important to her regarding her work at OSU. In terms of diversity, she feels that it has declined over time, but the Intercultural Student Services has helped this to change. Therefore, recruiting, preparing, and retaining students and faculty of color is the role of OSU as it pertains to fostering diversity. She gives some recommendations on how to accomplish this while highlighting the financial issues that people of color face. Following this, Stewart recounts her hiring process, how she came to the Corvallis community, the role of her programing in providing academic support to students, the challenges of her job, and the overall goal of helping students. In closing, Stewart touches upon her accomplishments, such as her family, joining the military, her college degrees, and student successes.

Students’ Response

Marilyn is a very unique individual. Her success story was very fascinating because she didn’t do as well as she hoped in junior college, so Marilyn decided to not continue college and enlist into the Army. After the Army she decided to go back to college and get a degree and started to work at OSU. She has been here for most of her career and loves it here. At OSU she holds many positions, many of which involves student success. Her program, Educational Opportunity Program, that she personally runs is with student success, specifically with people who traditionally don’t get a higher education. The main goal of this program is to get these students’ help they need to succeed and to get them more involved with OSU.

Prior to meeting Marilyn Stewart, we had not received much information about her, and a majority of what we knew was pertaining to the Educational Opportunities Program. With a little of bit of background research, we found out that the EOP was created to help struggling students adapt to their first year of college. Marilyn is a co-director of the Educational Opportunities Program. As a group we found it interesting how she was able to navigate through the education system, despite being told at a young age that she was not “college material”. The hard times she faced throughout junior college and her years at a four-year university are relatable to us all who continue to pursue higher education. Not being able to cope with upper level classes, and realizing that just because you are good at something, doesn’t mean you would enjoy a career in that field; both situations occur throughout our community on a daily basis. During our interview, we did not focus on stories of discrimination that Marilyn might have faced throughout her life. Instead we saw her passion come out when it came to talking about her work with the Education Opportunities Program, where she is able to help and encourage numerous of students from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds to find their place in the college community. Additionally, we found that our interview with Marilyn made us think most of the TED talk we watched at the beginning of this semester, called “The Danger of a Single Story”. We do not mean this in the sense of reducing a group or culture down to a stereotype, but instead we connected it to the idea that one simple interview cannot come close to accurately portraying the influence a single person has on the people around them. Thusly, it is impossible for us to ascertain or quantify the number of lives that may have improved or been influenced through the Educational Opportunities Program and the counseling of Marilyn Stewart. It was a wonderful experience to be able to work together and meet an esteemed member of our college community, and we would like to thank our teachers, peers, Natalia Fernandez, and of course Marilyn Stewart for the opportunity to work together.

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