Rona Bryan graduated in fall 2022, with a degree in Natural Resources with an individualized specialty option in art, education, and outreach in ecology and a minor in fisheries. Those focuses were informed by her previous degree in art, her passion for visual storytelling and human connections in science communication, and a slight obsession with fish.

Why did you choose OSU College of Forestry?
I chose OSU College of Forestry because it was the first time in my academic journey that I felt truly welcome and at home. In my first appointment with my COF advisor, I shared my struggle to find a rigorous program that would enable me to study and eventually work at the intersection of art and ecology. She smiled and said, “Well, you can take a breath, because you’ve found the right place.”

Does one class, teacher or experience really stand out?
I loved any class that had a big term project requiring regular fieldwork. I think we often associate online degrees with being glued to a laptop all day, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth with my Ecampus NR program. I’m still amazed at how much time I spent outdoors while earning my degree!

One of my all-times favorite classes was Urban Ecology (FW 418/518) with Dr. Doug Reese. I designed and conducted a study investigating differences in wetland and aquatic plant species composition in urban, downstream, and upstream habitat on the Willamette River. Doug was super supportive in lending his expertise to help me wrangle all the data into something cohesive, and I had the time of my life spending hours down by the river – mostly in the pouring rain – with my plant ID books, waterproof camera, and quadrat.

How did COF prepare you for your career?
It took me seven years to finish my first undergraduate degree, with lots of stops and starts along the way. I had the privilege of traveling, working, and studying internationally, and I spent over a decade in hospitality and service before realizing that – while I loved the community and human connection aspects of those fields – I was missing the “hook” that would help me bring personal meaning to my work. COF allowed me to find just that, and I went from a student worker position to a staff position with the International Programs office before starting my current (and awesome) event coordinator role just a few months ago!

What is one piece of advice you’d give to current or potential students?
Don’t ignore what brings you joy – even if it’s totally unexpected! I used to avoid science as a rule but eventually had to enroll in something, so I chose ecology – and in that class, I became a different person. I went from dragging myself out of bed most mornings to getting up early to practice identifying tree species. I went from hiding in the back of the class to happily wading into the near-freezing creek behind the school to test pH and dissolved oxygen. At the time, I ignored all of that because I felt obligated and expected to continue with the arts, and I moved an ocean away without knowing that the right school for me was just a two-hour drive from my hometown. With that said, try not to worry too much about accidentally picking the “wrong” path. No matter what I was doing, that fierce joy I felt in nature was a loud and persistent voice whenever I was feeling lost or trying to make a major decision, and eventually – at what I think was exactly the right time – I was ready to listen.

What are your favorite hobbies?
Currently, I’m really enjoying embroidery art, working on improving my graphic design skills, and taking wildlife-watching walks in my neighborhood park.

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