The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Sue Borden Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

July 28, 2015


“The Creation and Growth of the SMILE Program”  July 28, 2015  Location: Borden residence, Corvallis, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Borden describes her family background, upbringing and interests growing up in Iowa, including her early facility for math and science. She then discusses her experiences at Iowa State College, including her academic progression, her involvement with music, and her activities as a member of student government. A continuing theme throughout Borden's session is the lack of overt encouragement that she received to pursue a career in math or science.

Borden next turns her attention to her move to Oregon State College to pursue graduate studies in mathematics. She recalls her initial impressions of the region, her participation in the band program, the state of the Math department, and the research that she conducted as a grad student. She likewise recounts her work as a computer programmer, noting a summer job that she held at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory as well as her position with the OSC Oceanography department, including her interactions with Oceanography chair Wayne Burt.

From there, Borden shares her perspective on music culture in Corvallis, recalling her involvement with the Corvallis Symphony Orchestra, her co-founding of the Corvallis Community Band, and her memories of performing in the Mitchell Playhouse and at Gill Coliseum. She then outlines her return to teaching once her children were grown, noting her work at Linn-Benton Community College and with the OSU Math Department, and reflecting on different techniques that she used to assist her students with a subject that is often difficult.

The remainder of the session is principally devoted to the history of the SMILE program at OSU. Borden relays her understanding of the program's creation by Miriam Orzech, the means by which she was enlisted to serve as program director, and the early decisions that Orzech and Borden made as they organized the fledgling initiative. She also discusses the ways in which the SMILE curriculum was developed, the growth of the program to include a broader base of communities across the state, and SMILE's receipt of a Presidential award from the Clinton administration in 1999. The session concludes with thoughts on the current status of SMILE, an overview of Borden's involvement with the OSU Retirement Association, and her thoughts on change in Corvallis and at OSU.