Masters student Lynae Nelson seems wise beyond her years. Indeed, at first glance it would be easy to mistake the petite, elfin young woman as an undergraduate. But once you spend a few minutes with Lynae, you immediately become aware that you are speaking to not only a hard-working student, but a loving wife and mother, and an extremely well-grounded public servant.
Yet it isn't just personal focus that allows Lynae to balance these many roles. She acknowledges that the carefully-cultivated balance between her academic and family life is made possible through scholarships including a UO Diversity Building Scholarship and General UO Scholarship.
As a soon-to-graduate student in the Family Therapy Program in the UO College of Education, Lynae muses on the life choices that brought her to the UO. "Right out of high school, I didn't want to pursue my education. I wanted to go out into the world, to work in orphanages and travel. But the things that have been best for me in life," she states ruefully, "have been those things I didn't want."
Despite a lukewarm start to her college education, Lynae is thrilled with graduate classes at the UO. "I'm having a tremendous amount of fun in the program. I find master's level work challenging and stimulating." She especially appreciates being able to delve into specific passions and to tailor her research around her passions. Perhaps most importantly, Lynae is pleased with the sense of community within the College of Education. "I really appreciate the cohort-style program because we get to experience life together. We have the ability to watch each other and received feedback. It's a major strength of program," she says.
And as if pursuing a graduate degree wasn't enough for any student, Lynae has an entire life outside of academics with her husband Brian, who is a full time student at Lane Community College, and a daughter, age 10. With two full time students in the family and a young child, scholarships make all the difference. "We have the challenges of daily life," she sighs. "My husband and I have had to be very wise with our money. Our scholarships help us to not worry about extra loans. We're fortunate that my husband also has received scholarships. We wouldn't be able to go to school without them."
When not in school, Lynae and her husband are also actively involved in the Eugene community and work hard to impart an ethic of service to their daughter. "My husband and I both are chomping-at-the- bit to get our daughter out of the country. For right now, we include her in our community services work and take her with us when we feed the homeless, work with street youth, or volunteer at clothing drives." Lynae remembers her own experiences traveling and volunteering as a teenager, "I'm inspired by my faith and by my past experiences traveling outside the country and seeing other people's circumstances. I went to Haiti before the earthquake and I can't even imagine how it could be worse than it was then. There's something important about stepping outside yourself. I see that there is a need for people to connect and share their pain, their experience. It helps you to get out of the "me, me, me" attitude and to realize there's so much more to life."
For Lynae, her experiences traveling, volunteering, and completing her internship hours through the College of Education were an important part of her own personal discovery. "Getting the focus off of you, helps you to find yourself" she confides.
Looking toward the future, Lynae would like to pursue a PhD, to work in a community-oriented mental health program, and maybe even teach. No matter what path she chooses one thing is clear: this Duck plans to make her mark through a life of compassion and service toward others - an impact made possible through the gifts of UO donors.
As she puts it, "Thank you seems too simple. When you are on the receiving end of a gift, it's easy to take it for granted. But school wouldn't be a possibility for me and my family without the generosity of donors. I feel so much appreciation."