La Grande, Ore.
On June 16 Ruth Longstroth will be among 21 Eastern Oregon University students awarded a bachelor of science degree from the OHSU School of Nursing. Although donning a cap and gown was clearly Longstroth's goal when she began school two years ago, some unexpected life turns along the way made her achievement far from certain.
Longstroth, a 26-year-old Newberg native, didn't go straight to college after high school because she hadn't yet pinned down an academic focus. Instead she enrolled in Bible School in New Zealand, where she said she got a calling to be a nurse. "With nursing," she says, "I'm not limited to one area," either geographically or in the health care field. "I'm able to help people no matter where I am."
Longstroth set her sights on attending OHSU School of Nursing in Portland and spent the next two years racking up credits at Portland Community College. In the meantime she learned that OHSU's Portland campus wasn't her only option. In fact, OHSU School of Nursing has four campuses in Oregon: Portland, Ashland, Klamath Falls and at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande.
Eastern Oregon University appealed to Longstroth because her husband, Troy, wished to earn a master's degree in teaching, which is offered by the university's School of Education and Business. Moving to La Grande, she says, "enabled us to both go to the same school and get our education without commuting."
Because Troy's one-year program ended a year before Ruth's did, the couple figured that Troy would spend that second year in La Grande working as a local substitute teacher before they began a dual job hunt. An unexpected pregnancy altered those plans -- and put Ruth's schooling in jeopardy.
With Ruth pregnant, the couple decided Troy should secure permanent employment to support the family financially. Although he got a job teaching Spanish in middle school, it was 175 miles away in Redmond. With still another year of schooling to go, Longstroth was unsure she'd be able to finish.
"I thought, first I'm pregnant, then I'm moving -- that's a double whammy."
Longstroth's teachers and school administrators strongly encouraged her to remain in the program. Administrators assured her that they could accommodate her delivery -- which was expected to be during summer recess -- and that she could complete her coursework and clinical training from Redmond by becoming a rural frontier delivery student.
The OHSU Rural Frontier Delivery Program provides baccalaureate education to students in rural communities with the hope that students will remain in their communities after graduation. It is offered to students through the distance-learning delivery system at Eastern Oregon University and uses local community resources for clinical learning experiences.
In Longstroth's case, teachers shipped videotapes of classes for her to watch, and her clinical instructor visited her several times to observe her in action and discuss her experiences. Despite being far from any OHSU School of Nursing campus, Longstroth found nearby clinical opportunities at the Deschutes County Health Department, where she focused on maternal and children's issues, and at the county's mental health department, where she assisted children enrolled in local Head Start programs. She hopes to secure part-time work as a public health nurse after graduation.
Longstroth's transition to distance learning wasn't easy. After giving birth in August 2000 to a daughter, Tyndal, she fell behind in two classes that fall. But a supportive family and faculty helped her through. "I've been really impressed with the program," said Longstroth, who lauds OHSU faculty and staff for their compassion and flexibility. "I felt they were just so supportive."
For their part, faculty and students recognized Longstroth's efforts by awarding her the OHSU School of Nursing Perseverance Award. She will receive the award at the OHSU School of Nursing's Convocation and Awards Ceremony on June 15. Now that she's graduating -- with honors -- Longstroth appears ready for the next adventure. She and Troy are in the dreaming stages of living abroad, most likely in a Spanish-speaking country.
"With Troy as a teacher and me as a nurse," said Longstroth, "we really are able to travel and work all over the world."
Convocation and Awards Ceremony for 21 recipients of the bachelor of science degree from OHSU School of Nursing is planned for Friday, June 15, 2001, 10 a.m. at McKenzie Theatre, Mary Jane Loso Hall, EOU campus.
The Graduation Ceremony is planned for Saturday, June 16, 2001, 10 a.m. at Community Stadium, EOU campus.