When Kathleen Gissing, class of 2021, found herself at a point in her life where she could dedicate time to finish her academic pursuit, she chose Oregon State University Ecampus to complete her educational goal.

“OSU is one of the top-ranked schools in the field I wished to study,” says Gissing, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in natural resources with an emphasis in policy and management. “I wanted to do something to help with climate change and threatened and endangered species – this program fit perfectly.”

As a non-traditional student, Gissing says Ecampus allowed her to obtain her degree, something she says she would never have done if she had to attend class in a traditional on-campus setting.

Gissing is currently a Federal Government Pathways Program Intern and hopes to continue her career in ecological services with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service following graduation.

“I hope to continue to gain knowledge about how to use regulations, policy, and laws to help threatened, endangered and species of concern and their habitat in addition to developing trusting collaborations with partners and stakeholders involved,” Gissing says. “I also hope to show how climate change is affecting species.”

Before her internship with the federal government, Gissing worked two jobs. One of the jobs was managing her own business, and the other was working as a Park Ranger intern with the National Park Service. She also volunteered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That busy lifestyle didn’t leave much time for other things, but she always managed to find time to spend with her husband hiking, biking or playing with her dogs.

Her favorite Ecampus courses have been natural resource decision making and biology, as well as any course that has to do with range management and watersheds. These topics, she says, apply to where she lives and where she hopes to continue working.

“I live in Grand Junction, Colorado, with public lands, mostly BLM managed, surrounding me,” Gissing says. “It is high desert-climate located at the most northern end of the Colorado Plateau region and makes for an interesting mix of people and culture. It also creates challenges for managing the lands to meet the needs of the resource and those who use it.”

As an older, non-traditional student, she admits it can be intimidating to return to school or to start for the first time. Technology and applications change quickly, and it can be challenging to adjust and adapt to new systems and processes while also getting back into the swing of things with academics. Her advice to incoming Ecampus students is to speak up and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Often others will have the same problems but won’t ask, she says, but will be glad you did. She found the instructors on Ecampus supportive and the content engaging.

“I am a non-traditional student, and being able to learn all I have learned on-line is amazing,” Gissing says. “The instructors have all been great, and I am thrilled to be an OSU student, soon to be alumni!”

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

Oregon State University College of Forestry PhD candidate Patricio Alzugaray Oswald’s favorite aspect of forestry is growing new life.

“I love being outdoors growing seedlings and planting trees regardless of the objective,” he said. “They can be for restoration, conservation, timber production or wildlife habitat. I just like growing trees and creating a new stand and new life after a disturbance.”

As a PhD candidate majoring in sustainable forest management, Alzugaray has been working with his major advisor, assistant professor Carlos Gonzalez-Benecke, to study how to improve Douglas-fir seedlings’ root morphology and physiology to improve reforestation success.

His current research studies initial root development and physiology of Douglas-fir and western hemlock seedlings grown in two different container types: a standard styroblock versus a new biodegradable, plantable container called Ellepot. The new container is more environmentally friendly than a styroblock because container residues during the nursery production process are minimized.

“Usually, at containerized nurseries, broken styroblocks are a huge pile of debris,” Alzugaray explained. “By using a biodegradable container, you don’t have much residue. Also, you don’t have to sanitize them every season so you save energy.”

Alzugaray’s entire career, including two stints at OSU, has been linked to growing and planting seedlings.

Alzugaray first arrived at OSU in 1999 as a master’s student and graduated in 2002 with his MS in Forest Science. Following graduation, he returned to Chile, where he’s originally from, working initially as a researcher in a government agency and then for a private company, becoming the operations manager of the largest nursery in Chile. His relationship with Gonzalez-Benecke began in Chile when Gonzalez-Benecke and an Oregon based forest company visited Alzugaray at his job and Alzugaray gave them a tour of the nursery. Later that year, Gonzalez-Benecke reached out with questions about Eucalyptus seedling production, resulting in Patricio returning to school to get his PhD with Gonzalez-Benecke at Oregon State.

“I met Patricio back in 2017 when we visited the nursery he was working at in Chile,” said Gonzalez-Benecke. “Nine months later, he moved to Corvallis with his family and started his PhD with us. He is an example of professionalism, perseverance and passion for his career.”

When Alzugaray returned to Corvallis for the second time in 2018 to pursue his PhD, he came with his family, including his wife Claudia and high school-aged triplets Maria Jesus, Benjamin and Sofia. He said it’s been a great experience to be here with his family and have his children get to know a new culture. During 2020, his children had a first-hand view as they watched their father pursue his education goals.

“With the pandemic, my children have witnessed the effort that dad has put into getting his degree,” Alzugaray said. “The entire family has made sacrifices to get on this journey, and every day we are getting closer to a happy ending.”

Alzugaray was recently hired by Weyerhaeuser as the Aurora Nursery Leader. While maintaining a full-time job, he continues as a graduate student working after hours on his PhD project.

Alzugaray plans to graduate from OSU in 2021 and hopes to continue doing what he loves most about forestry, growing seedlings and creating new life, either in research, teaching, conservation or industry.

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

In March 2020, during week 10 of the winter term and shortly after faculty and staff began moving into the newly constructed George W. Peavy Forest Science Center, the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic. COVID-19 completely changed the landscape of higher education, and as the pandemic continued to spread and the remainder of 2020 shifted alongside it, the College of Forestry quickly adapted to support students.

“During this challenging time, staff and faculty adapted quickly, working to provide ideas, courses and programs that met students where they were at with real solutions to complete research and support their progress towards their academic goals,” said Tom DeLuca, the Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of the College of Forestry.

When stay-at-home and social distancing orders came down from the governor’s office in March, Ethan Harris, a senior in forest engineering, had to change course to complete his senior capstone project. Instead of surveying a stand on Starker Forests lands in the Oregon Coast range to appraise its value, develop a harvest plan and coordinate with mills and truckers, he had to cancel his survey work and timber cruises and coordinate team project meetings virtually through Zoom. Woodam Chung, Stewart Professor of Forest Operations, helped Harris find available data and complete the project.

Another senior, Wade Christensen, had a similar experience for his capstone project. Help arrived in the form of remotely sensed LIDAR data from a leading expert in the field, Bogdan Strimbu, assistant professor in forest biometrics and geomatics. Allowing for differences between direct observation and point clouds, Christensen estimated timber volumes and completed his work.

Both Harris and Christensen graduated on time, but they are examples of the stressful scramble brought on by pandemic restrictions last spring. Adjusting capstone projects, jumping into remote classes, recalibrating internships, filling gaps in students’ resources — all fell to faculty, advisors and support staff.

For Nicole Kent, manager of advising & academic relations for the College of Forestry, the shift became all-consuming. She and her team make sure that the college’s nearly 1,000 undergraduates get the courses and experiences they need. They also conduct student orientations and other events.

Only about half of those students are on the Corvallis campus. Others work at OSU Cascades in Bend, at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande or through Ecampus. “We were already doing a lot of remote teaching. That gave the college a head start in adjusting to the pandemic,” Kent said.

Most students in Corvallis are there because they want to learn in person — in the forest, on field trips, in labs, face to face. With COVID restrictions in place, students saw internships and other work-experience opportunities evaporate. Some courses were cancelled and others shifted to the computer screen.

Nevertheless, the College of Forestry prides itself on producing work-ready graduates, so advisors and faculty shifted gears to find alternatives. They determined what courses would provide the required learning outcomes and kept students on the path to graduation.

“I can’t say enough about how wonderful the Student Services team is and how hard they have worked,” Kent said. “They were all at home working remotely. They stepped up to show such great care and compassion for our students.”

Those efforts included finding financial help when income had suddenly dried up. The OSU Foundation led an effort that saw over 3,000 donors contribute over $1 million for Beavers Care, an initiative to make a difference for OSU students, faculty and staff in urgent need of emergency support. College staff navigated the federal CARES Act to determine who was eligible for assistance and who was not. Staff also identified additional university resources to help fill gaps in their personal lives, such as access to groceries and medications.

Even laboratory-based classes, which usually take place in person, transformed to adapt to remote delivery. Wood science and engineering professor Lech Muszynski successfully adapted his renewable materials laboratory class. The class utilized a combination of online lectures, team assignments, video clips with recorded lab routines and procedures, discussions and publicly available web content. Elements of Muszynski’s innovative class strategies were shared with the OSU campus community as part of a best practice webinar series.

Staff in the college’s IT office also made extraordinary efforts to ensure all students had access to computers and the internet at home. During the same weeks the college was moving into the new Peavy Forest Science Center building, IT was assisting students with Zoom meeting software, loaner computers and off-campus access to computer labs.

Throughout the year, OSU and the college communicated with students, sending updates about available resources and helping people who were struggling with isolation.

“As this crisis unfolded and continues to unfold, we believe it is more critical than ever to support each other,” DeLuca said. “Our first priority is the safety and well-being of our community and we will continue to do everything we can to support academic success and the College of Forestry community.”

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

As a renewable materials major with an option in science and engineering, Quinn Smesrud wants to pursue a green building industry career after graduation. She sees the path as a way to combine her knowledge of wood products and her passions for art and environmental stewardship.

This passion for green building and sustainable architecture ignited during the summer of 2019, when she traveled abroad to Slovenia and Italy with the College of Forestry through the “Forest to Frame: Sustainable Manufacturing and Design in Alpine Europe” international program.

“Studying abroad with the College of Forestry was the best experience I have had during my undergraduate career at Oregon State,” Smesrud said. “The opportunity to travel to Alpine Europe and study mass timber in the region where it originated was an incredible experience.”

While in Alpine Europe, Smesrud closely followed the building process from design through construction, which expanded her understanding of the value chain. Touring various places provided her with a holistic view of the industry while experiencing and learning about European culture.

The experience abroad added to her on-campus experience, too. Her favorite class, “Developments of Building Design with Renewable Materials,” allowed her to tour buildings on the Oregon State campus that showcased the engineered wood products students were learning about in class.

“Now, learning about sustainable wood products in class is even more exciting because I can tie what I learn in the classroom to my experiences abroad,” Smesrud said.

Thanks to the generous contributions of college partners, Smesrud has received the Friends of Renewable Materials scholarship since her sophomore year and is actively involved in the campus and Corvallis community.

She worked as a technical assistant for OSU’s Botany and Plant Pathology Department, as a College of Forestry Student Ambassador, and she’s been a member of Kappa Alpha Theta since 2017.

“Being a part of the college has provided me with many opportunities to grow as a leader and be an active member of the Corvallis community,” Smesrud said.

Smesrud’s advice for incoming students is that it is okay not to know what degree you want to pursue as a freshman, and college is the time to explore your interests. As for Smesrud, she hopes to pursue a master’s degree in sustainable architecture after graduation.

“The renewable materials program has shaped me into a well-informed environmentalist with a realistic perspective on the importance of combating climate change,” Smesrud said. “My motivation for pursuing a green career is to be part of the solution to create a more sustainable future.”

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

On February 9, we recognized our 2020 Dean’s Award recipients and retirees with an awards ceremony and celebration on Zoom. Since 1990, the Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Achievement have recognized outstanding contributions by our community members that significantly advanced the mission of the College.

For outstanding achievement in Fostering Undergraduate Student Success, Woody Chung, Bogdan Strimbu and Austin Finster were recognized for their herculean efforts to digitize a forest. Due to the pandemic, access to the research forest wasn’t available for the typical capstone experience. Students noted that Woody’s positive, encouraging attitude, Bogdan’s adaptability, and Austin’s dedication all contributed to a great outcome for the term.

Zowie DeLeon from the Dean’s Office was recognized for outstanding achievement in Contributions as a Student Worker. Nominators noted that Zowie was a leader to her office mates and participated in hiring and training fellow student workers.

Two graduate students were recognized for outstanding achievement in Graduate Student LeadershipKatie Nicolato and Skye Greenler. Nominators noted that one of Katie’s greatest strengths is the comprehensive experience she brings to her program and the FERM department, including getting her FAA Remote Pilot Certificate, becoming President for the OSU American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, and serving on the WFGRS planning committee. Skye’s nominator wrote that she has established a superb academic and leadership record with us here in the College, including exemplary performance on her qualifying exams. She has shown strong leadership and professional qualities, including service as president of our Student Association for Fire Ecology (SAFE) chapter and on the WFGRS planning committee.

Outstanding achievement in the Mentorship of Graduate Students went to Ashley D’Antonio and Mariapaola Riggio. Students who nominated Dr. D’Antonio noted they value her thoughtful leadership and her commitment to promoting principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) which includes a reading group that relates to issues of DEI in the outdoors. Dr. Riggio’s nominator noted that she is an exceptional role model for each graduate student that she has mentored. They said, “her encouragement of my research and opportunities surrounding it has been a key focus of my experience in the College of Forestry. So much, that I wanted to continue to work with Dr. Riggio as a PhD student.”

Misty Magers was recognized for Outstanding Achievement in Distinction to the College. Nominators noted that she is an exceptional office manager with a deep wisdom about the department, and a seemingly endless capacity to remember details. 

The Pauline Barto Award for Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion went to Adrienne Wonhof. Nominators noted that Adrienne has been the voice to department heads and college leadership to maintain flexibility and create remote working conditions that cultivate inclusive environments. She has ignited a passion within colleagues to strive for equality and diversity.

Retirees Doug Maguire, Mike Bondi, Rakesh Gupta, Jim Johnson, Chal Landgren, and Milo Clauson were recognized for their service to the college. Rakesh served as a Professor in Wood Science and Engineering from 1991 to 2020 and has studied the behavior of wood frame structures under extreme loads (from natural disasters) to the mechanical properties and behavior of wood and wood composites.In 2006, Jim Johnson accepted the Associate Dean position for Extension and Outreach. Jim is most proud of the programs he had a hand in starting, the students he taught and mentored, and the outstanding colleagues he hired. Professor Landgren has served as Extension Christmas Tree Specialist at Oregon State University since 2008, when the position was created by the state legislature. Milo joined WSE in 1987.  His work supported material testing classes, graduate and undergraduate student research programs, and timber engineering faculty.

TRAL – Outdoor Recreation Management
Class of 2022
Hometown: McMinnville, Oregon

How did you get interested in this particular field? 
I attended an outdoor recreation conference hosted by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department at OSU three years ago. I am a big outdoor recreation enthusiast who enjoys sea kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing, camping, fishing, scuba diving, and snow skiing, so it seemed only natural that I would be drawn to a program that fit in with my interests. I had graduated three decades earlier with a degree in biology with a focus in wildlife biology but have spent the last 20 years doing web development and technical writing. I longed to get back outdoors for work and thought outdoor recreation management might get me there.

What brought you to OSU?
Simply put, OSU was close. I could continue working full-time for the state while attending school. It’s certainly not the least costly university to attend, as I found out, but convenience was the big deciding factor, especially since many of the TRAL courses still are not offered through Ecampus. 

What’s the best experience you’ve had as a student?
This is a tough question to answer because COVID has negatively impacted my experience. One reason I wanted to return to school is I missed the campus life and wanted to hang out with younger students and the feel of their energy. Unfortunately, I only got to spend one term on campus before COVID hit and all classes went remote. That one term was probably the best experience I’ve had because I was back on campus and feeling the college atmosphere again after 30 years away.   

In addition to school, how do you spend your time?
I spend my time kayaking, canoeing, camping, snowshoeing, and photographing wildlife when I have the time. I also serve as a volunteer paddle trip leader and naturalist for the Tualatin Riverkeepers. I work for the Public Employees Retirement System as a desktop publisher and web developer. Paddling in the Puget Sound and around the San Juan Islands hoping for encounters with orcas is something I really enjoy doing.

What’s your goal for your education?  A particular dream job?
First, because of my advanced years (63), I know I’ll be competing for jobs against a cadre of much younger applicants, so graduating near the top of my class is important to me. I am hoping the classes I take will make me competitive for outdoor recreation management opportunities once I graduate. My dream job is to move back to New England where I was born and raised and work as a park manager at Acadia National Park in Maine.

Is there something you wish Faculty and staff knew about you or your fellow students?
At my age, pursuing a new degree and career change is a daunting and life-altering decision. Many people my age may be retired and able to easily attend college; other’s like myself are tied to full-time jobs and also may be helping to support family members. I believe it would help to have a college advocate for older students (>50) attending the university.

Natural Resources, specialization in Human Dimensions
Ecampus Junior
Hometown: Sayreville, New Jersey

How did you get interested in this particular field? 
I wasn’t really sure what major I wanted after reading through a few I discovered Natural Resources. It seemed like a good balance between science, management, and a broad (but interesting) field of study.

What brought you to OSU?
Finding a degree plan that I could complete was very important to me as I am currently in the military. I stumbled on OSU once I discovered which major I wanted.  OSU was rated very highly in regards to their online Forestry program and so it seemed like the natural choice!

What’s the best experience you’ve had as a student?
The best experience I’ve had as a student is being able to meet people outside of the military who are also interested in the things I am interested in. It has been refreshing to get to know people from all different backgrounds and walks if life.

In addition to school, how do you spend your time?
I work full time as an enlisted member of the United States Air Force, but when I’m not doing that I like to spend time watching Netflix with my husband and cat.

What’s your goal for your education?  A particular dream job?
I never want to stop learning. Even when my university career is finished I intend to always find ways to keep my education going. As for my dream job, I haven’t exactly figured that out yet, but I look forward to doing something that leaves me with the feeling that I have positively contributed to humanity in some way.

Is there something you wish Faculty and staff knew about you or your fellow students?
I hope the faculty and staff know how grateful a lot of us are for their help. I know as an Ecampus student sometimes trying to work around work and a different time zone is difficult, but there have always been people at OSU willing to help me.

Major: Forestry, Forest Management and Forest Restoration + Fire Options
Class of 2024
Hometown: Beaverton, OR

How did you get interested in this particular field?
I have always had a fascination with ecology and the management of systems. What really drew me to forestry was an internship I held the summer before my senior year in high school through Saturday Academy, Apprenticeships in Science and Engineering. I interned at Horning Tree Seed Orchard where I did inventories, data collection, analysis, and seed germination research. From this well rounded experience I decided to pursue an education in forestry to learn more about what I love.

What brought you to OSU?
I was very blessed to have received enough funding from various donors to attend OSU entirely on scholarship, to whom I am so grateful. Along with this OSU is the premier forestry program in the United States, and that program in Sweden is too cold for my liking. 

What’s the best experience you’ve had as a student?
Being able to work as a research assistant my first year at school has been the best experience I’ve had so far. It has been such a valuable opportunity to gain work experience and applications of what I’ve learned in my classes. The autonomy I’ve been trusted with to carry out experiments has been wonderful as well!

In addition to school, how do you spend your time?
As previously mentioned, I work as a research assistant in Strauss Lab if I am not in class or taking a nap I am likely to be found working in the lab. Aside from lab work I like to study Africanisms in music, learning and playing rhythms that transcend genres and countries.

What’s your goal for your education? A particular dream job?
Following an bachelors degree I have my sights set on a masters to further my education and possibly a doctorate, although right now I am just trying to best my finals schedule of my first term of my first year! Recently I have been exploring the cross section between bioengineering and forest management practice. I hope to find myself in a career that employs both these disciplines (preferably somewhere tropical).

Is there something you wish Faculty and staff knew about you or your fellow students?
Aprendí español en mi juventud espero que pueda utilizar el lenguaje en mi futuro empleo (I learned Spanish in my youth and hope to use it in my future career.)

Major: TRAL, Outdoor Recreation Management
Double Minor in Natural Resources and Leadership
Class of 2022
Hometown: Florence, OR

How did you get interested in this particular field? 
I use a wheelchair, as well as love the outdoors. I decided I wanted to help make the outdoors more accessible to those with physical disabilities when I visited Grand Teton National Park and I was not able to do as much as able bodied people. 

What brought you to OSU?
The great community that Corvallis provides more than any other college town I have been to around the country, as well as the availability for my major. I grew up in Florence, OR which is not too far from Corvallis as well. 

What’s the best experience you’ve had as a student?
Meeting so many students on campus that come from diverse backgrounds such as large families, small ones, international students, military and veteran personnel, folks with the same passion I have for the outdoors and plenty of students with disabilities. OSU is very welcoming to all students. 

In addition to school, how do you spend your time? 
I work as a contractor for my father who is a broker for Coldwell Banker. I try to stay in contact with my three brothers and one sister and I like to go out and explore around the outdoors with my partner riding around on my adaptive hand cycle. I am a licensed pilot and try to fly planes as often as possible.

What’s your goal for your education?  A particular dream job?
I hope to work for a federal agency such as the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service or the Army Corps of Engineers to help make those areas more accessible to people with physical disabilities.  

Is there something you wish Faculty and staff knew about you or your fellow students?
We are all here because we want to be and we truly appreciate the help that the faculty and staff provide to students. I hope you know that!

Degree: TRAL Sustainable Tourism Management, Class of 2020
Hometown: Eagle Point, OR

What is your major and how long have you been studying at OSU?
I am studying Tourism, Recreation, and Adventure Leadership (TRAL) with a focus in Sustainable Tourism Management. I transferred to OSU in the fall of 2018 from Ithaca College, New York.

What would you like to do professionally after you graduate?
I would love to create travel itineraries for a sustainable travel company, or lead groups on unique travel experiences. I thrive in unusual situations and enjoy showing people new experiences. As long as I’m outside and going new places, I’ll be happy!

Have you been involved in any clubs or activities on campus? What has your experience been like with these opportunities?
Yes, last year I got involved with the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA). I am our Local Committee’s secretary, and I really enjoy it! IFSA has been a wonderful opportunity to travel, meet new people, and exchange ideas on how to create a more sustainable future with fellow students.

Have you participated in any work experience (on-campus or related to your field) during your time as a student at OSU? Has this helped prepare you for a job after graduation?
Since the summer of 2018, I have worked at the College of Forestry International Programs office. Although most of the job involves working at a desk, I love it! I communicate with people around the world, I create events for the on-campus community, and I help market our programs to students interested in traveling abroad. This job has definitely given me a perspective of post-graduation life, which may not appear glamorous in the day-to-day, but has tremendous impact on a variety of audiences.

Have you participated in any experiential learning opportunities? How has this impacted your student experience?
In December, I embarked on a faculty-led program to Costa Rica with thirteen other TRAL, Forestry, and Natural Resources students. We traveled with OSU Cascade’s Ron Reuter and Andrew Hawley to the southern part of Costa Rica, where we backpacked, rafted, and chatted with local communities for two weeks. It was an unforgettable experience, and I still get shivers thinking of how we could see the concepts of community-based tourism in action.

Do you have a favorite College of Forestry course that you’ve taken? If so, why is it your favorite?
It’s impossible to pick just one! There are two courses that have tied for my favorite: Nature, Eco, and Adventure Tourism with Dr. Mark Needham, and Planning Sustainable Tourism with Dr. Ian Munanura.  Mark Needham’s class was a wonderful introduction to the field of international tourism, its problems, and potential solutions. This class showed me the impact (both positive and negative) that tourism can create in the world. Ian Munanura’s class was a deep dive into everything that goes into sustainable tourism operations. It taught me the tough lesson that tourism is a massively complication field with many stakeholders, and there is never a single right answer.

What’s one thing (or piece of advice) that you would like incoming OSU students to know?
Chase what sparks you. Take the classes that sound interesting, and befriend the professor that you think is cool. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions to smart people. 

How do you like going to school in Corvallis?
I love Corvallis. The campus is beautiful, and the town life is fantastic. There’s always something to do, whether it’s dance nights downtown or hikes in any of the nearby natural areas. Studying tourism and recreation here is particularly good because there are plenty of opportunities to go out and observe trails being used, new businesses opening, and people traveling and recreating. 

Have you received any scholarships from OSU or the College of Forestry? If so, what has it helped you accomplish?
When I traveled to Costa Rica, I received some very generous funding from the Dean’s Investment Fund for International Engagement, which is available for any College of Forestry student interested in traveling abroad in order to pursue their interests through international study, research, and internships.