Q&A with Dr. Mary Ellen Dello Stritto

Mary Ellen Dello Stritto, PhD is the Assistant Director of Research for Oregon State University Ecampus, where she is involved in the design and implementation of research studies on online education. She manages and oversees the statistical analysis for the research unit. She also directs the Research Fellows Program for faculty and edits a yearly white paper series. Her background is in psychology with a specialization in quantitative methodologies, survey design, and statistical analysis.


Tell us a little about the journey that led you to your current role in higher education.  

I have had a rather curvy path in my twenty-plus journey in higher education. After earning my masters’ degree in Psychology, and beginning my doctoral program, I began teaching at a community college in southern California. Unlike many of my peers who were teaching the introductory psychology courses, I had the opportunity to teach the Psychology of Women and Human Sexuality. The years I spent teaching those courses helped shape my research interests and experiences. As a doctoral student I also worked in a county mental health research unit, as a statistician for a health psychologist, and a research methodology consultant, and in institutional research. These positions provided me with a diverse set of experiences, in different sized public and private institutions. After completing my doctorate, I was a professor for two different universities in the mid-west. In 2005, I moved to Oregon and started teaching at a small regional state university where I stayed for 11 years. In addition to teaching, I worked for a research institute, was the director of the campus women and gender center, and directed a campus-wide sexual violence prevention and response program. These diverse experiences in both academic affairs and student affairs provide me with a broad view of higher education. When I applied for my current position as the Assistant Director of Research for OSU Ecampus, I had no experience in online education. However, my broad-based experience and background in research, diversity and higher education have been strong assets for my current work. 


What was one of the key things you have learned in the past year? 

As a researcher, I am constantly learning new things. One of the key things that has been reinforced for me in the past year is that you never know when the metaphorical seed that you plant - the ideas that you put out into the world will take root and grow. I recently had a conversation with a person that took over a job that I once held. It was very rewarding to find out that all of the advocacy work I had done had laid the groundwork and was the foundation for remarkable growth and progress in the program. It is sometimes difficult to know that it may take years to see the fruits of your hard work, but it is no less rewarding! So, the lesson reinforced for me is to be patient, and remember that if I am not seeing the immediate impact of my work, it takes some time to “bloom”.  


What self-care strategies do you use?

My self-care strategies may seem deceptively simple. For many years I have been coaching students that I work with that self-care is about three things: eat, sleep, exercise. Often when we are busy, over-taxed, and stressed one or more of those key self-care elements is compromised or falls away. Adequate sleep, healthy eating, and regular exercise are significant buffers of stress. I try to always make those three seemingly simple things a priority. Movement is a primary self-care strategy for me, so I take walks outdoors every day. Being outside helps me think, and serves the purpose of centering me and counteracting the negative effects of stress.   

What advice would you give to a new professional entering the field of higher education? 

My advice to a new professional is to be open to a wide variety of opportunities that may come your way. In some cases, individuals with advanced degrees have followed a rather linear path in their education and they may even have a vision of a defined career path moving forward. However, my advice is to be open to opportunities that may deviate from your intended path. It is often in those “left and right” turns, or those job choices that you make that may not seem logical or obvious that will provide experiences that can have significant consequences for your future self. It is through these varied experiences that you see what you like or dislike, find weakness or areas of strength that you did not fully understand. Another bit of advice is to seek out mentors who can help you in your professional journey. I have found that having multiple mentors allows you to seek varied types of support and advice from individuals in different areas and stages of higher education. Finally, it is also important to realize that as a new professional you have valuable insights and experience that you can use to mentor those who are just entering higher education. I am fortunate to both be a mentor and have wonderful mentors who continue to support me over the years. 


What’s your favorite “Oregon” activity? 

My favorite “Oregon” activity is kayaking. I really enjoy taking a kayak out on remote rivers and lakes. I have had many inspiring encounters with wildlife while kayaking. There is nothing like the experience of being a lone kayak surrounded by the Oregon wilderness.

Who inspires you and why? 

I have recently been inspired by the bold young women who are using their voices and speaking out for social and environmental justice. I am inspired because they are actively engaging in world issues by clearly articulating their concerns and promoting change. I am inspired because they are exhibit such courage and confidence that I did not have when I was a teen! It inspires me to do what I can to support and encourage the activism of young people in our community.

You can connect with Marry Ellen through email maryellen.dellostritto@oregonstate.edu and on linkedin.com/in/mary-ellen-dello-stritto-05bb461

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