Layne Converse - Jim Seeley Memorial Scholarship Recipient 2020


“I did not know I was even in the running for this scholarship! My principal set up a Zoom meeting with me and my parents and told me that I had gotten it. To hear that you're getting a scholarship of that magnitude is — you know, it’s life-changing. And as far as education goes, it really gives you an opportunity to just set yourself up for success.”

—Layne Converse, Jim Seeley Memorial Scholarship recipient

When South Coast native Layne Converse graduated from Pacific High School in Sixes, his goal was to become an engineer. “Pacific High had AP-equivalent, dual-enrollment courses where you could get some college classes done, so I dove into the math and science classes they had available,” he recalls. “I really enjoyed that, so I chose Oregon State for its engineering program, and I was heading down that route when I started my first year of college.”

Layne was helped along that route by a renewable $80,000 award from the first annual Jim Seeley Memorial Scholarship, which Mike Keiser and his family launched in 2020 to honor the late executive director of Wild Rivers Coast Alliance (now known as Bandon Dunes Charitable Foundation). Each year, the award goes to two exceptional South Coast students like Layne.

Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic broke out just as Layne was starting college, and he soon found himself attending online classes instead of doing hands-on work in his chosen field. “A lot of things changed for me,” he laughs. Although remote learning gave him a better understanding of the conceptual side of engineering, he also found the field less engaging than he had in high school. A new interest was sparked when he took classes on political science and legislation.

“I kind of dove into public policy and wound up changing my major to that,” Layne explains. “From the outside, they're very different fields. But one of the common things in those two fields — and something I really thrive on — is in-depth problem-solving. In engineering that’s a scientific or engineering process, and in public policy it's a legislative processes. But you still have those processes of identifying your issues, brainstorming solutions, and designing those solutions to make real-world sense.”

Layne notes that his choice of major was also influenced by his experiences growing up on the South Coast. “I have a special interest in the complexities or the specific challenges of working and living in a rural area,” he says. “These are important areas of the state that you don't want to neglect.” While he acknowledges that the lack of economic and career opportunities often pulls youth away from coastal communities, he also emphasizes the strengths that rural communities impart: “I think it really does give you a sense of personal autonomy. Because you don't have as many resources available, you have to find what you need to accomplish your goals. It does instill a kind of do-it-yourself attitude that’s good for building personal resiliency. But also, you really develop strong bonds with your own family and with other families and friends in the area. And you come to appreciate the ties that a small community can have. And I think it's important — whatever the term ‘success’ means to you — that as you reach your goal, you look back and reinvest in those people that invested in you initially.”

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