For many young people, a college degree is the key to their future, opening the door to a rewarding career.

But life is about more than just work.

As they prepared to pick up their diplomas at Oregon State University’s 148th annual commencement ceremony on Saturday, several soon-to-be graduates took some time to talk about their dreams for life after college.

Paisley Green, a self-possessed 23-year-old with short black hair and a discreet silver nose ring, hopes to turn her master’s degree in English literature into a job as a high school teacher.

“I’ve been applying for jobs in and around Oregon,” said Green, a native of Chandler, Arizona.

But her vision doesn’t end there.

“My big dream would be to be a museum curator,” she confessed.

Basim Iskandarani, a married 31-year-old from Medina, Saudi Arabia, who picked up a master’s degree in computer science on Saturday, realized one dream when he completed his thesis project by designing a computer game called “Ohm’s Law” that teaches the basics of physics.

“By playing it, you’re learning,” he said.

A college teacher back home, he’ll return to OSU in the fall to begin a doctoral program in computer science, which he hopes will help with his career. But he has another ambition as well.

“To be a good example for my family,” he said. “That’s first.”

Elizabeth Alice Rios proclaimed her lofty goals with a glittering hand-lettered mortarboard that read, “In a World of Ordinary Mortals, I Am a Wonder Woman.”

The 27-year-old from Boring, now the holder of a master’s degree in civil engineering, is preparing to start a job with the Washington Department of Transportation in Tacoma. But what she really wants is to be an inspiration to her 13 brothers and sisters, numerous cousins and others who want to pursue a technical career.

“My dream in life is to be a leader in our society and to help and assist anyone who wants to go into engineering, especially female STEM students in the Latino community,” she said.

At 23, Mac Myers of McMinnville already has a dual bachelor’s degree in marketing and entrepreneurship and a pretty sweet gig working in Nike’s Innovation Accelerator, which he describes as a “startup studio” for new initiatives within the company.

He actually picked up his diploma winter term but wanted to walk with his class on Saturday “for the experience — and for my mom.” He had a neon-green athletic shoe insole glued to the top of his mortarboard so his mother could spot him in the crowd.

Myers hopes to build on his work at Nike to follow in the footsteps of his father, who owns a lumber mill in Sheridan.

“I’d love to use the experience I get there and eventually get my own business,” he said.

Sarah Koonse, a 21-year-old Los Angeles native, is moving to San Diego, where she plans to turn her bachelor’s degree in zoology into a job as a veterinary technician.

On Saturday, she wore a custom-decorated mortarboard that spelled out her philosophy of life in blue and silver glitter: “Happy as a Clam.”

“My big dream probably is to just live in a happy home with my happy pets and continue dancing — probably in San Diego,” she said. “I feel like San Diego is a happy place.”

Robin Wortman, a 22-year-old who grew up in Portland, was one of 276 OSU grads picking up two degrees on Saturday — one bachelor’s in forest management and another in forest engineering. She wore a black hardhat for commencement, along with a green stole denoting her membership in Xi Sigma Pi, the forestry honor society. She enjoys camping and timber sports, especially log rolling, and this year she served as captain of the OSU timber sports team.

All her hard work in college has paid off with a temporary position with the Forest Service in John Day, a job that she hopes will turn into a career with the federal agency. Mostly, though, she just wants to keep on doing the things that make her happy.

“I just want to live somewhere kind of small, enjoy my job, go out and adventure all the time and keep doing lumberjack shows,” she said.

She’ll be competing in Brownsville next weekend. Don’t bet against her in the log-rolling event.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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Special Projects Editor

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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