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Editor’s note: This article is part of a series profiling winners of the 2011 Outstanding Alumni Awards, which will be presented at the annual American Association of Community Colleges convention this month in New Orleans.
The fact that Rosaria Haugland attended community college after she had obtained a doctorate degree in Italy and one in the U.S. says a great deal about her and about community colleges.
Haugland was born in Italy, the fifth of six children whose father died when she was 6 years old, leaving the family in relative poverty. Nonetheless, she became the first member of her family to graduate from college.
“I would have liked to have gone to medical school, but that was seven years plus training, so I chose the field that was closest to it—biology—and got a doctorate from the University of Milano,” Haugland says.
While working as a research microbiologist at Milan’s Farmitalia Research Institute, a friend of a co-worker offered to sponsor her at Syracuse University in New York.
Seeds of success
“I was supposed to come as a research associate—which would have taken me a year to get the visa—but if I came as a student, it would have taken less than three months,” Haugland says. “At the time, I was 27 years old and didn’t want to wait a year [because] I might have changed my mind. So I came as a student and got my Ph.D. in biochemistry three years later.”
She was performing postdoctoral research at the University of California-San Francisco when she met her future husband, Richard Haugland, who also was doing postdoctoral work. He later decided to start his own company “doing practically what he was doing at Stanford: working on fluorescent dyes,” Haugland says.
Molecular Probes, the company they cofounded, makes special dyes based on fluorescent technology, originally for universities and research institutes and now used for diagnostic tests in virtually every field of biology.
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The family (which at this point included two children) and company relocated to the Dallas, Texas, area, where Richard began working full-time at Molecular Probes while Haugland generated income as a research associate at the Baylor University Medical Center.
In Texas, the company began to flourish.
“We were there almost three years,” Haugland says. “We started with four products and by the time we left we had 40 to 45.”
A trip to a symposium at the University of Oregon and an excursion around the state convinced the Hauglands to relocate to Eugene.
“We bought a house on 17 acres with room for the laboratory, and from then on I worked only for the company,” Haugland says.
Lane Community College (LCC) in Oregon entered their lives when they decided they needed help operating their business.
“We had never run a company before,” Haugland says. “We were scientists and naïve about business.”
The Hauglands enrolled in LCC’s two-year Small Business Management Program, which taught them about taxes, lawyers and good business practices, and so on. It also included a site visit by one of the professors.
With LCC’s help, Molecular Probes flourished, in 2002 winning a U.S. Small Business Association Tibbetts Award as a “model of excellence in the high-tech sector.” The Hauglands sold the company in 2003 and used some of the proceeds to establish charitable foundations.
These days, Haugland remains active in the community and maintains close ties to LCC. Her son graduated from LCC in computer sciences, and she is a member on the LCC Foundation board of trustees. Her charitable organization, the Rosaria P. Haugland Foundation, donated $1 million to construct LCC’s Health and Wellness Center.
Haugland also founded Ophelia’s Place, “a community of girls” that offers counseling, classes, and support groups to help girls 10 to 18 make good life decisions.
But Haugland is particularly proud of the Rosaria P. Haugland Foundation Scholarships awarded each year to six single mothers enrolled at LCC.
“The scholarships are about $5,000, just enough to pay for the childcare,” Haugland says. “But to them it makes the difference between being able to go and not being able to go.”
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