Growing up in Kenya, Paul Oyier, who is pursuing a PhD in sustainable forest management, quickly understood the importance education could play in his life. Born into a family where neither of his parents knew how to read nor write, Oyier did not have access to the opportunities or academic support afforded to others.
However, inspired by his uncle, who went to school and created a better, more secure life for himself, Oyier turned to education. He is where he is today because of his teachers.
“When teachers realize they have a good student, they feel they can’t let this person go,” Oyier says. “It’s the encouragement from those teachers that propelled me to my success.”
Oyier is grateful for his teachers and still maintains a connection with them.
“I appreciate the teachers who stood with me and encouraged me. Whenever I see them, I tell them that they are a part of my success.”
Oyier received his undergraduate degree from Moi University in Kenya in Wood Science and Technology. Afterward, he worked at an industrial wood products manufacturing company and became interested in timber harvesting operations because of their contribution to production activities in the factory.
“When you’re on a production line, your main objective is that the line doesn’t stop and that you produce as much as you can,” Oyier says. “If something in the production process stalls, like supplies or materials, production becomes intermittent and people get laid off.”
Oyier was interested in creating production planning and control systems to ensure that material supplies were consistent to meet customer demands. This interest led him to pursue a master’s of forestry science with a focus on forest harvesting operations at the University of Canterbury, courtesy of the New Zealand Development Scholarship. After completing his degree, he was employed as a teaching assistant in Maasai Mara University, Kenya where he taught forestry harvesting and management before he came to OSU.
Oyier says he wanted to come to OSU because of its academic and research reputation. He is particularly grateful for his major professor, Kevin Lyons, the Wes Lematta Professor of Forest Engineering and the mechanized harvesting laboratory director who made it possible for Oyier to come to OSU through graduate assistantship.
“Lyons has been keen on ensuring that I master the requisite knowledge and analytical skills in forest engineering and operations,” Oyier says. “I lacked subject mastery in these areas, and he has devoted extra time over the last two years to teach me the needed skills in forest engineering and operations, and has never given up on me. It shows how committed College professors will go to ensure that their students succeed. I appreciate him for this effort.”
The pair are working together to study how harvest machine simulators can be incorporated in training forest engineers, foresters and allied scientists.
Training forest harvesting professionals to make better harvesting planning decisions contributes to a safe, efficient, and economically viable operations in the supply chain’s success and resilience.
Oyier says education has changed his life in many ways, yet it is not easy to be separated from his loved ones in Kenya.
Oyier believes resilience is cultivated from within and says he’s had to make a choice every day where to focus his energy. Instead of focusing his energy on missing his family, he tries to focus on academics so that he will find success and his family will experience success, too.
“Being able to discover what you’re made of, and your ability to navigate through to the end, that is what resilience is all about,” Oyier says.
Oyier plans to graduate in 2021 and aspires to return to Kenya as an educator, researcher or industry expert in forest engineering and operations. The Jake Eaton Scholarship for Short Rotation Forestry and the College of Forestry Fellowship has provided Oyier additional support during his time here.
“My dream is to become a professor and share my knowledge with people,” Oyier says. ‘I want to experience the satisfaction of having the opportunity to change one’s destiny by giving knowledge. Teachers did that for me, and I want to do that for others.”
A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.