Welcome to the College of Forestry! What do you do here?

Thank you!  I’m the new FES graduate coordinator. I started late-June 2019. 

How is it going so far?

It’s great!  I have to give a big shout out to my predecessor, Jessica Bagley, because she left me so many detailed and thorough resources that have helped me get settled into my new role.  As a student at the University of Oregon, I had a student job assisting the program manager of an online graduate program and then was the student intern of their Office of Internal Audit, so I’ve had some experience in higher education administration.  Thanks to those factors, it’s been a smooth transition into this role.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

So far, I love getting to know everyone here in FES and in the College of Forestry.  It was very quiet over the summer, so now that more people are back from fieldwork and vacations, it’s nice to be able to meet more faculty, staff, and students. The subject area is also very interesting to me because of how interdisciplinary the FES department is.  I studied accounting in school, so it’s refreshing to be exposed to topics like nature, wildlife, and the way humanity interacts with and impacts the environment.

What do you do when you’re not working?

Every weekend, our family tries to explore a different part of Oregon’s outdoors. Recently, we’ve been to Clear Lake, and it was beautiful.  We’ve been to some parts of the coast and the Cascades.  I’ve also started taking an adult ballet class, which is really challenging and fun.

Are you watching anything interesting right now?

Since the beginning of September, my husband and I have been watching (foreign)horror films.  Halloween is our family’s favorite holiday, so we usually start gearing up for it as early as we can!

If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?

I think I would probably be a koala because they just go with the flow. They love naps and usually just hang out, but they can be a little feisty, too.  

Are you a morning bird or a night owl?

I used to be a night owl, but I’ve turned into a morning person because of my commute to work from Eugene.  It was rough getting used to my schedule, but now I’ve found it’s nice to be awake before everyone else is, to have some uninterrupted time to myself.

Do you have a go-to Karaoke song?

‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin with anyone who’ll do the duet with me!  My mom’s side of the family is actually very into Karaoke.  She and my aunts have been guilty of staying up until 5 a.m. having cocktails and Karaoke battles. 

What sport would you play in the Olympics?

Women’s Indoor Volleyball.  I played competitively in school and club teams for about 8 years until I had some knee injuries.  It’s still my favorite sport to watch because of the athleticism, strategy, and teamwork involved.

What is your job?

I’m an assistant professor here in the college. My job involves teaching courses about integrating tourism, human communities and wildlife conservation goals to promote sustainability in areas with high levels of biodiversity and human-wildlife conflict. I also do research in those areas. 

What is your favorite part of your job?

Both teaching and research. I love research because I find new perspectives and ways of understanding potential causes and solutions to human-wildlife conflict. I love teaching because I enjoy interacting with my students. Being in the classroom is one of my most rewarding experiences. When I hear students say that an interaction with them has created a life-changing experience – I know that I am making a difference.

How did you end up in your field?

After growing up in Uganda as a refugee from Rwanda, I went back to my father’s country for university. One day, the bus I was on broke down in a rainforest (Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda). I didn’t even know forests like that existed in Rwanda. I talked to the people who managed the forests, and they offered me a volunteer position teaching English to tourist guides. That opportunity led to over ten years managing a conservation program for the Wildlife Conservation Society, after finishing my degree in business management. I spent years walking the forest, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to solidify my career in conservation. I did a master’s degree in conservation and tourism at the University of Kent in England, a Ph.D. at Clemson University, and the quest for answers to conservation challenges in developing countries took off from there. I’m still searching for answers about how to preserve forests and the wellbeing of human communities in high-level biodiversity areas.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I come from Africa, and we are communal, so I like to spend time with my family. By that, I don’t just mean my wife and children. It’s a huge network of people that fit the definition of family: first cousins, second cousins, third cousins, people I grew up with. We take trips to see them and remain close to them. And here, we’ve been able to create a family network and we maintain that communal lifestyle.

Other than that, we like to spend time in the forests. We went to Yellowstone National Park this summer, and that was an amazing experience for our family.

What is your favorite spot to visit in Oregon?

I love the shores of the Pacific Ocean. I love that most of the shores are protected, but also accessible to the public. My other favorite spot is Redwoods in southern Oregon!

Do you have any hobbies?

I like to fix cars, really old cars from the 50s and 60s. I like to pick them up from junkyards and fix them up. My favorite are German cars because of the straightforward engineering, geared toward safety and durability. I haven’t done that much in the past few years, but I hope to again soon.

What have you been watching lately?

I enjoy watching TED talks. I draw inspiration from people who have been successful. Being in a culture different from your own often challenging, but TED talks and motivational speeches reenergize me and remind me that I am here for a reason, and I do have something important to contribute.

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Banana. I grew up eating it, and I love it.

If you could play any sport in the Olympics. What would it be?

Soccer.

What is your job?

I’m the research computing systems administrator. In that role, I do many things. I’m making sure the virtual machine platform is running. I run our backup system, SQL Servers, and I take care of the few Microsoft websites we still have running.

How did you end up at Oregon State?

I went to school here. I studied computer science and psychology. I went down to the University of Oregon to do a cognitive neuroscience program when my friend Ken West called and asked if I wanted a job in the College of Forestry. I thought, money or more school? Money or more school? I decided to take the job.

What’s your favorite part of your work?

That it’s never the same thing every day. Right now, I’m working with Mariapaola Riggio to help get censors into the new building, and that’s been especially interesting.

What are your interests outside of work?

I like woodworking, scuba diving and martial arts. I was involved with Boy ScoutTroop 1 in Corvallis, and both my boys are Eagles.  Now, I’m the Eagle Advancement for Benton district.

How did you learn about woodworking?

My father-in-law taught me the basics when I needed to make a table for the first tiny apartment my wife and I shared. I also took Seri Robinson’s woodturning classes. I recently bought a lathe, and now I’m hooked on turning.

What about scuba diving?

I’m a PADI Open Water Instructor and I took my first scuba class here at Oregon State in 1993. There are a lot of opportunities here, and if you can find a way to take advantage of them, you’ll never be bored.

Tell me about your family.

My wife and I have been married for 26 years. I met her when I was working as a student. I installed her Ethernet card. We have two sons. They are 22 and 18.

What have you been watching on Netflix lately?

Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey. We’re really excited for the movie.

What are your favorite foods?

I love Japanese, Thai, Mexican…

Did you make any tragic fashion choices during your youth?

I did have a Shaun Cassidy haircut.

How did you end up at your role here in the College of Forestry?

I’ve been here about three years as the help desk coordinator. I schedule the student workers and manage the help desk to make sure tickets get completed and everything is functional. I’m originally from Portland, and I went to school here at Oregon State. I worked as a student worker for the College of Business. After graduation, I stuck around Corvallis. I love working at my alma mater.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

I like staying relevant in a technological world where technologies are always growing. I get to do research and interact with students – who usually know more than I do. I like to stay relevant.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I play racquetball about three times a week. I also like biking and camping. This summer, I’ve been gardening a lot.

Where do you like to go camping?

Anywhere in the Willamette Valley, really. It’s easy enough to go an hour out and find a slew of spots near rivers or lakes.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

I would say I’m a dog person, but my girlfriend and I have two cats. They’re kind of dog-like. They play fetch.

What’s your favorite Karaoke song?

I sing Karaoke from time to time. Queen songs are great for Karaoke. My favorite is probably ‘Don’t Stop Me Now.’

What are you reading right now?

I’m listening to the Dark Tower series on audiobook right now. I’m in an audiobook club. I usually listen to books on my commute to and from Philomath.

If your house was on fire, and you could only grab three objects to save, what would you choose?

  1. A bay of external hard drives with all my media content.
  2. My motorcycle jacket that I’ve had for years.
  3. My backpacking backpack with all my gear.
How did you end up at Oregon State?

My wife got a job at Oregon State in the Crop and Soil Science Department, and we moved to Corvallis in fall of 2009. I worked remotely on my post-doc until 2010, at which point I began a research position the fisheries and wildlife department .  In 2015, I transitioned to a tenure track position with ajoint appointment between Forest Ecosystems and Society and the Department of Fisheries Wildlife. I have to say that I really enjoy working in two departments. Of course, I go to two faculty meetings and serve on more committees, but it’s been a great fit for me in terms of my research interests and potential for collaboration.

 

What’s your favorite part about your job?

I love working with graduate students. They do amazing work. I love building rapport with them and seeing them going through the learning process where at the end of their time they are writing really stellar thesis drafts.

 

You won a dean’s award this year, and were recently awarded tenure. How does it feel?

It’s great. Gaining tenure is a weight off my shoulders. I think any faculty member would tell you that there’s no time when you’re not thinking about work and I’m hoping to take at least a bit of a breath next year sometime and start to unwind a little. I won the dean’s award for graduate student mentorship.  I have a great group of students and really all I did was what I like to do the most (talk a lot to students about science).

 

What are your plans for summer?

I have an NSF grant to do work in Yellowstone. I’m headed out there for a couple weeks. Then I’ll visit family back East, and when we get back to Oregon I’ll catch up on my projects here – one at HJ Andrews and one on managed forest landscapes in the Coast and Cascade Ranges, then back to Yellowstone for a week. I’ll recover after that and spend time with my kids. We hope to spend a few weekends camping on the coast.

 

What kinds of things are your kids into?

They both do gymnastics at KidSprit, and my oldest is taking riding lessons from Michele Justice’s daughter, which has been a cool College of Forestry connection.

 

What else do you do when you’re not working?

I’m enjoying experiencing children’s literature again through my kids. I’m reading them lots of Shel Silverstein and Rahl Dahl. We’ve also recently started skiing as a family. I’m looking forward to reclaiming more of my old hobbies like wood working, fishing and playing hockey. Hopefully I can gain better work-life balance in the coming year and start integrating those back into my life.

What was your life like before becoming a Ph.D. student at Oregon State?

I finished my undergrad in 2007 at Georgetown University with a B.A. in Theology. As you can probably guess, theology is a virtually non-marketable degree – theology majors either 1) go to seminary, or 2) earn doctorates, then teach future theology students. I had zero interest in either of those career paths. But at the time I didn’t particularly care about job prospects, since about halfway through college I decided I wanted to go to culinary school, and eventually open my own bakery.

After graduating I moved to New York City, where I was professionally trained in classic French pastry. But after just a few months working in the food industry, I became sadly disillusioned. I realized that, unless you’re extremely talented and extremely lucky, a career in baking means hard physical labor, big egos, low creative freedom and even lower wages.

I stuck with it for a while, but I also started looking around for other opportunities. I spent a fair amount of time trying to market my non-marketable theology degree (fail). Eventually, I suppose around 2011, I gave up the hope of getting myself on any sort of career track, and instead resigned myself to a series of dead-end jobs. Fortunately, since those jobs offered no intellectual stimulation whatsoever, I had plenty of time and mental energy to do some soul searching as well. By 2013, with more than a few oven burns on my arms and way too much retail experience under my belt, I decided to go back to grad school and (hopefully) re-tool myself to work in some field related to environmental conservation and sustainability.

What has your experience been like?

It’s been a challenge, for sure. Coming from a non-science, non-NR background I had a steep learning curve, and I never really found a strong research focus. Generally I concentrate on ethics in conservation, but within that concentration I’ve thought and written on a range of topics, including wildlife management, forest management, and even a little climate change. I’ve also dabbled in conservation psychology, particularly for my dissertation work. So I’m pretty interdisciplinary. Recently I’ve also come to realize that I’m most interested in asking questions that don’t have clear or unequivocally “right” answers. I think I’d argue that many if not most of the ethical issues we face in environmental management and conservation meet that condition…which is really overwhelming, but at least I know I won’t run out of things to think about any time soon.

You work as an instructor. What’s that like?

I really enjoy teaching, and I feel lucky to have had a chance to do a fair amount of it as a graduate student. Right now I’m teaching an online graduate course, SNR 522 Basic Beliefs and Ethics in Natural Resources. It’s been a good term – probably the most diverse and engaged group I’ve had yet.

 

Will you continue to do that now that you’re wrapping up your Ph.D.? What’s next?

I’ll be starting a post doc position in summer through the HJ Andrews Long-Term Ecological Research program. They supported me throughout my grad program, so I’m happy to have a chance to stay with that community, and hopefully make myself useful. And yes, I’m also hoping to continue teaching my class. I’d gladly accept any opportunities to teach additional classes as well.

Have you read any good books lately?

Lately I’ve been reading some stuff by a local Eugene author, Barry Lopez. He wrote this amazing essay for Harper’s magazine, called “Polar Light” – a mentor sent it to me a few months ago, and it sort of got me hooked. I picked up Winter Count, which is a book of short stories, and I was done with it in one evening. That same night I ordered Arctic Dreams, which is what I’m still reading now (it’s been slow going – I tend to fall asleep after a couple pages). Anyway, this one is non-fiction, and conveys Lopez’ lifelong fascination with the arctic region. It’s such a different place than anywhere else on Earth, so I’ve enjoyed learning a bit of that history and ecology. But more than that I appreciate his ability to translate his observations of the arctic region into these insightful and frankly beautiful reflections on humanity. He’s a great writer.

What’s your favorite food?

Cake. And salad.

 

If you were one of the seven dwarfs, which would you be?

Some combination of Sleepy and Grumpy…Slumpy?

What’s in the trunk of your car right now?

Sheets (an effort to control the profusion of dog hair in my car…which in actuality is an exercise in futility); reusable grocery bags; and a large pink umbrella, which I bought at an old-fashioned pharmacy in New York City back in 2008.

How long have you been at Oregon State?

I moved here from Alaska in 2008 with eight kids in tow to attend graduate school at Oregon State. I graduated in 2010 with a master’s in adult education and a specialization in virtual learning environments. Soon after that I was hired as an OSU Ecampus advisor for the natural resources program. In 2014, I became the program coordinator for natural resources and I’ve been here ever since.

Awesome. What should people know about the program?

The program has seen steady growth since its inception. We’ve had two big curriculum revisions- most recently in the summer of 2018. Our revisions help us adapt to the changes in the field of resource management, the needs of employers, and the interests of the students. We are constantly analyzing and making sure we’re meeting their needs.

 

Tell me about the students you advise.

I love our students! They’re on the forefront of whatever is going on in the world. Right now there’s a huge interest in issues like sustainability, climate change, food issues and more. Our students go everywhere and do all kinds of jobs from land management to environmental education to law.

Do you have a natural resources background?

No. My bachelor’s degree is in visual communications. I became interested in natural resources and education while living in rural Alaska for 20 years. I homeschooled my eight children, and we often had moose and other wildlife wandering through our back yard. Most of our family memories are intimately connected with wilderness or wildlife.

 

Wow. Tell us more about that experience.

Alaska was one of the first states to have a state-funded homeschool program, and I got very involved in a leadership role in alternative education. My kids used an online curriculum and that was how I first got involved with online education. It was great because we lived in the middle of nowhere, but my kids had the opportunity to participate in scientific field studies and communicate with people all over the world.

Tell us about your large family!

The tribe has grown up and I have only one left in the house. She will graduate from high school in 2019. The other seven are either in college or already finished with their degree; four have graduated or are currently at Oregon State, one graduated from the University of Oregon, one from Western Oregon University, one currently taking a gap year.  It’s important to me that they not carry a lot of student debt, so they all worked and paid their own ways through school. I am really proud of my kids.

 

What do you do when you’re not working?

I love gardening and cooking and spending time with my expanding family as my kids get married. My son is getting married this summer, and his fiancé has a six-year-old son, so I’m becoming a grandmother, and I’m loving it. We are a very nerdy family. We get together on Mondays and play Dungeons and Dragons.

 

What do you like to cook?

I love baking bread. I’m working on perfecting my sourdough right now.

This year’s Dean’s Dinner was held on May 14, after the grand opening of the A. A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory.

After opening remarks from Anthony Davis, Interim Dean for the College of Forestry, three outstanding alumni were honored. Jim Johnson, interim department head of Forest Engineering, Resources & Management, presented the award to Mike Cloughesy. Mike graduated from OSU with a M.S. in Forest Science in 1983 and is currently the Director of Forestry for the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, a statewide forestry education agency. He is responsible for the development and implementation of OFRI’s forestry education programs for landowners and the general public.

Troy Hall, department head of Forest Ecosystems and Society, presented the award to Cristina Eisenberg. Cristina graduated from OSU with a PH.D. in Forestry and Wildlife in 2012. She has worked as the Chief Scientist at Earthwatch Institute, an organization based in Boston, Massachusetts since 2014.

Eric Hansen, department head of Wood Science and Engineering, presented the award to Jerrold E. Winandy. Jerrold graduated from OSU with a PH.D. in Wood Science and Engineering in 1993. He is now principal partner of Winandy & Associates LLC and an adjunct professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Congratulations to each of our outstanding alumni!

Each year the College of Forestry is honored and privileged to award graduate fellowships and undergraduate scholarships to deserving new and returning students. 134 undergraduate students were selected to receive scholarships totaling $486,060 for the 2019-20 academic year. Nicole Kent, our head advisor, helped congratulate these students. Twenty six graduate students, both Master- and PhD- level, received college fellowships totaling just over $121,500 for the 2019-20 academic year.

Donor contributions make a difference in the lives of our students by allowing them to fulfill their dreams of a college education, and to be successful contributors in our communities after graduation. These are the stewards of our forest ecosystems and economies, and I cannot think of a greater return on investment than their education. Donors and alumni, thank you for your wonderful generosity and outstanding contributions to the College!

To honor the dedication shown by those who support students in the College, two faculty awards were presented. The Xi Sigma Pi Julie Kliever Mentorship Award went to Bogdan Strimbu and the Aufderheide Award to Laurie Schimleck.

The evening wrapped up with two student awards. The winner of the Pack Essay Award was Paul B. Pliess for his essay: “Multicultural Stakeholders in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge”. The Photo of the Year award went to Graham Lyons, for his photo taken in the California Coastal Redwoods.

What was your journey to the College of Forestry?

I did my undergrad in business and a minor in economics at the University of Oregon and worked a few different jobs, including in the Admissions Office at Western Oregon University, and I really loved the environment there. To get the type of university job I wanted, I needed a master’s degree so I decided to come to Oregon State to get my master’s in counseling. After that, I worked at LBCC in the TRIO program and in the Horticulture Department at Oregon State. I moved over here to the College of Forestry in 2014.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

The students. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t enjoy working with the students. It’s really cool to see their development from start to finish. They really grow in confidence.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I like to kayak when the weather is good. I read a lot and watch some TV. I’m a parent to two teenagers who can’t drive themselves yet, so I spend a lot of time shuttling them between activities.

What have you been watching and reading lately?

I’m watching True Blood – about 10 years too late – and I just read a book called The Nature Fix, which is very interesting and relates a little bit to my work.

What job did you want to be when you were a kid?

I was never anyone who had a great sense of direction from a young age, but I did love art as a kid, and I think I wanted to be an artist at one point.

If you could only eat tacos or sushi for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Tacos! I’m a vegetarian and have been for about 30 years now. I also love Thai food, Mexican food, and I would eat pizza every day if I could. There isn’t much I don’t like, except for bananas.

How long have you been at Oregon State? How did you get here? What’s your career journey been like?

I actually attended grad school in the College of Forestry, graduating in 2006.  I worked on the Willamette and Gifford Pinchot National Forests as a Recreation Planner for a few years before starting my position with the OSU Research Forests in 2012.  I would say it’s the best job yet, except for the two summers I spent as a Wilderness Ranger in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness when I was an undergrad.

What do you love about your job?

I love working out here at Peavy Arboretum.  I can walk outside at any time and find a snake in the planter boxes, watch the birds, or go for a quick walk or run on the trails.  While I don’t get to work in the field as much as I’d like, all of my work is tied to the land and how people connect with it.  Finding ways to help people form personal connections with nature is my main motivator.  Also, I work with really wonderful co-workers, students, volunteers and visitors.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I have an awesome partner, two little kids, a dog, two cats and five chickens who make life fun and busy.  I also really enjoy writing fiction, knitting, cooking, spending time with my extended family, and playing time outside.

 

What have you consumed within the pop culture world lately. Got any good books, movies, shows or podcasts to share?

I’m really embarrassed to say how caught up I am in the last season of Game of Thrones and definitely spent a sleepless night this week reliving zombie battle scenes in my head.  I pretty much enjoy most sci-fi and fantasy tv shows, regardless of apparent quality, especially ones with queer characters.

 

What’s your favorite food?

Not-so-sweet chocolate cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting and a giant glass of milk.

If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?

I would like to be a cat, primarily because I would be able to sleep whenever I want to, wherever I want to.  Also, I would be very honest about how I feel at all times, and would enjoy small pleasures such as warm sunshine, cuddling, and chasing lasers.