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Taylor Robinson in graduation gown, standing in forest

Science Professional Pursuits Program helped zoology major jumpstart her career

By Martha Wagner
Taylor Robinson, zoology graduate of fall 2019

One course, one lecture, one professor — and one or more hands-on experiences can have a pivotal impact on a science student’s future as they head toward graduation. For Taylor Robinson, who graduated with a degree in zoology in fall 2019, one of those experiences in the College of Science was the Science Professional Pursuits Program (SP3) that she enlisted in during her last term.

Robinson, 26, registered for the course in 2019 with no prior knowledge about the program, but she knew by the second class that it was a perfect fit for her as a senior nearing graduation – even though it is designed to be a three-term series of one-credit classes and she would only participate during her last term.

Robinson transferred to OSU from Orange Coast College in California. “Of all my experience in college, SP3 was one of the most important classes I took – the only one that taught me very practically how to be my best, most confident self in the job market.

“SP3 seemed to be more helpful than many of us in the class had imagined,” Robinson says. “Business majors know how to market themselves and give presentations, but I would say that a lot of us in the sciences are not as skilled in marketing ourselves. We learned how to do that. … I think this type of class should be a requirement for all students – helping us to better understand our skills and prepare for interviews and career fairs, learning how to use LinkedIn and make a good LinkedIn profile, and getting 1-on-1 coaching.”

Word of mouth about SP3, first offered as a pilot course in 2017, has spread in the College of Science. Some 150 to 200 students have now taken the course, according to Tamara Mitchell (’07) , associate director of Learning and Design, Integrated Professional Development and Industry Programs. Each SP3 cohort has an average of 50 to 70 students who interact with one another in small groups of six to eight students.

“I think this type of class should be a requirement for all students – helping us to better understand our skills and prepare for interviews and career fairs, learning how to use LinkedIn and make a good LinkedIn profile, and getting 1-on-1 coaching.”

SP3 is open to all College of Science undergraduates in good academic standing with sophomore or higher status. What makes it especially valuable, says Mitchell, is that the course is individually tailored to meet student needs with content delivered through learning methods ranging from workshops to 1-on-1 coaching to mock interviews and special events like Science Pro. “We pride ourselves on equal access and diversity,” she adds. “Our goal is to ensure that all science majors gain the professional skills and social fluency necessary to be career-ready and poised to enter the workforce or graduate school. We’ve gotten very positive feedback from students.”

As a transfer student with limited resources, Robinson juggled nearly seven years of working in a retail job while attending classes at two colleges to earn her degree. She grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles and was always interested in animals – from dogs and cats to snakes, so she came to OSU interested in majoring in veterinary medicine. Eventually she switched to a zoology major.

Robinson is currently working as a veterinary assistant part-time at a Corvallis small animal clinic. In June, she plans to move back to Southern California where there are more job opportunities to work with animals – for example, in zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and in dog behavior specialty vet clinics.

“I’m still open to lots of ideas, from working in animal rights to my dream job of working at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand,” she says.