Alumna: Jessie Oehrlein 

Jessie Oehrlein came to OSSM with the goal of becoming a mechanical engineer. During her time at OSSM, though, others, including Dr. Chris Shrock, professor of Western Civilization at the time, planted seeds in her mind that her passion was teaching. This was due in large part to the fact that many OSSM classmates came to her for informal help across a variety of subjects. 

Today, that prophecy held true, and she is now a professor at Fitchburg State University in north central Massachusetts, a regional university similar in size to Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU).  The subjects she teaches include intro through senior-level statistics and probability and other assorted math courses. She credits her time at OSSM and specifically her independent math studies with Dr. Zimmer as being responsible for her ability to conduct collaborative research, a major part of her work today. 

“While they weren’t research experiences, the independent study prepared me to do research,” said Dr. Oehrlein. “The process of puzzling over hard problems, coming back a week later to discuss them with someone else and trying different possibilities before writing our conclusions is almost exactly what research has looked like for me over the past decade.” 

A native of Oklahoma City, Jessie attended Westmoore High School before coming to OSSM. She learned about OSSM from one of her former elementary school teachers who mentioned it to her family. Before qualifying to enroll, she took part in the OSSM Middle School Math Contest and the Mock Mathcounts Contests, all of which formed her desire to attend. 

After graduating from OSSM in 2012, she attended Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass., where she studied mechanical engineering. After deciding she was more interested in mathematical modeling than engineering, she enrolled at Columbia University in a Ph.D. program in applied math and atmospheric science. During that time, she was also a graduate student instructor, an experience that confirmed her excitement for teaching. 

Many alumni attest to the fact that a significant benefit of attending OSSM is the sense of community and lifelong friendships it creates. That was something Jessie longed for when she came to OSSM and it proved to be true. Recently she took part in an arts group for two years with a classmate and was also in another friend’s wedding.