Growing up in Madras, Quinton Big Knife worked for timber companies during breaks from school and soon decided he wanted to pursue a forestry degree at Oregon State University.

“I just really like being out in the woods,” says the Oregon State senior. “It’s exciting to see a forest go from unmanaged to managed and to see the difference it makes.”

To ease his transition to Oregon State, Big Knife participated in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program.

The LSAMP program at Oregon State, funded by the National Science Foundation, is dedicated to increasing the number of traditionally underrepresented students successfully completing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) baccalaureate degree programs. LSAMP also works to increase the number of students interested in and qualified for undergraduate research and graduate level studies.

“The program was really helpful,” Big Knife says. “The college community is really great, and I have made a lot of great connections, especially since I started professional school.”

Big Knife participates in the Oregon State student chapter of the Society of American Foresters (SAF), serving as vice chair. He is also involved in undergraduate research.

“The work is really fun and educational,” Big Knife says. “The project is biomass research. We sample and take measurements of trees on different national forests, and help make biomass equations to inform land management decisions.”

To conduct his research, Big Knife often spends eight days in the forest at a time, which he enjoys.

“I love going out to the College Research Forests for labs. Having them so close to campus is awesome. Learning how to timber cruise from a book is different from doing it yourself. You get your measurements, get your data, and really understand what the numbers mean,” he says.

While Big Knife isn’t sure where life after graduation will take him, he feels prepared to work in the forestry industry and is excited to implement active forest management techniques across our landscapes.

“I think agencies need more resources to carry out active forest management plans,” Big Knife says. “And the public needs more information about what active forest management looks like. I am excited for my future career as a forester and silviculturist.”

How long have you been at Oregon State?

I started in my position in March a little while after I finished my master’s degree in applied anthropology here at Oregon State. Applied anthropology is an interesting subset of anthropology because it solves real-world problems, and the program here at OSU is very unique in actually being labelled an applied anthropology program.

That’s great! What does your job look like?

As the online program coordinator, I manage the master of natural resources program and the three certificates we have in FES. My job resembles that of an academic advisor at times, though I do a lot of admin work as well. I really like helping guide our students through a process that may feel overwhelming. That brings me a lot of satisfaction.

You came here for your master’s program, so where are you from originally?

Oklahoma, but I’ve been in Oregon about five years now, and I don’t think I’ll ever move back there. I love the weather and the people here.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I live with my sister. She moved here last year, and we do a lot of cooking and baking together. Our mother always used baking to relieve her stress, which isn’t necessarily ideal, but we inherited the habit. My sister has also been filling our home with plants, which is nice because I usually kill them.

What’s your favorite thing to bake or cook?

I love to make ginger snap cookies. I got an apple coffee cake recipe from one of the grad students that I want to try soon. I also love to cook soup. I just made a great chicken tortilla soup.

Have you watched or read anything interesting lately?

I really like scary movies. One of my favorites lately is ‘Hereditary,’ It’s not for everyone, but it’s very good. Right now I’m reading a book called ‘The Cooking Gene,’ which is very interesting.

What is something you can do better than anyone else you know?

Hmm. I can snap pretty loud with pretty much all my fingers, and we just figured out that my sister can’t snap at all, so that’s kind of weird.

Which of the seven dwarves do you identify with?

Right now, Sneezy, because the Willamette Valley hit me hard in 2018. I’ve heard from several people that if you don’t have allergies when you start living here, you will get them anyway because there’s so much grass pollen.

Anything else?

I love to chat, if anyone ever wants to visit the FES office. I especially love to hear about people’s travels or a new scary movie recommendation.

  • How long have you been at Oregon State?

21 years.

  • How did you end up working with computers and technology?

Well, both my dad and grandfather graduated with forest engineering/civil engineering degrees from Oregon State. My dad is a civil engineer, and I decided in high school that I needed to be an engineer, but I didn’t want to be a civil engineer. I was really excited to learn about computers, so I became a computer science major.

  • How do you make sure you’re keeping up with the changes in your industry?

Google is your friend, and it’s important to be able to fly by the seat of your pants and keep at it.

  • What does your life look like outside of work?

I like knitting and sewing. I also have a beautiful, two-year-old granddaughter that I love to engage with. We live on 10 acres, so I do a lot of outdoor wandering with my two dogs.

  • How did you get into sewing and knitting?

My grandmother taught me to sew when I was a member of 4-H. In my early 20s, I went to a quilt-in-a-day class and got hooked, so most of my sewing now is quilting. I’ve only been knitting for about 10 years. My mom taught me, and it was something fun we could do together. Now, it keeps me from falling asleep on the couch at night.

  • Any other hobbies?

Beaver sports! I’ve maybe missed a handful of home football games since 1984. We go to football, basketball, gymnastics and baseball events on a regular basis, rain or shine, and sometimes we even travel to see the Beavers.

  • If you were an athlete –  in the Olympics – what would be your sport?

Maybe curling? My husband and I play bocce ball on the beach, so maybe it’s kind of similar.

  • What’s your favorite breakfast food?

Waffles with peanut butter and syrup.

Cameron Salvitelli discovered wood science during his second year at Oregon State. He’s proud that despite the time it took for him to find his path, he will graduate in four years.

Renewable materials sounded so different and unique to me but it also sounded very versatile. There are four unique, customizable options, and I like to have options,” Salvitelli says. “It was easy for me to connect with the teachers and the people around me because we all had a passion for the outdoors and then it stemmed a little more specifically into wood specifically.”

Salvitelli’s favorite part of the program is the hands-on learning.

“You learn a lot of different options, and then you learn about the whole industry and finally you get down to the mechanics of wood and the science behind it and how it works,” he says.

Salvitelli says his senior year is challenging.

“We think about how we feed the industry and how we manufacture, and these are the opportunities on the business side of things. I feel confident in my options for the future,” he says. “Anybody can make money their own way in business but for me it was about finding a passion that I could pursue which matched those business interests.”