Justin Ariah Fasana has always loved nature, especially the forests of the Pacific Northwest. As a natural resources major with an individualized specialty option in Indigenous environmental policy, he wants to do his part to protect the forests and the communities that rely on them.

“When I realized the importance of natural resources like timber and how communities like my hometown of Willamina rely on them, I knew that I wanted to do my part in making these resources accessible to those that need them the most,” Fasana said.

After graduation, his dream job would be to work in a natural resources department for a native tribe somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

“I am a proud member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and growing up, I got to see how natural resources have provided so much opportunity for our Tribe to grow into what it is today from almost nothing,” Fasana said. “My uncle worked in CTGR’s natural resources department for many years, and I would love a job very similar to his.”

When it came time to choose a college, OSU’s College of Forestry appealed to him because the courses and degrees offered aligned with what he needed to learn to start his chosen career path.

“Being able to live close to home, study forests I am familiar with and meet people from all over with many different interests in forestry and natural resources were all part of my decision to come to OSU,” Fasana said. “Being so close to home has also allowed me to spend time with family, which is important to me. My dad and I are very adventurous and go on hikes, ride motorcycles, or snowboard together.”

One of his favorite experiences at OSU has been studying abroad at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, an opportunity available to students thanks to the college’s international programs office. Aside from the many traveling experiences and close friends he made during the five months he spent there, he had the opportunity to study similar topics in natural resources and forestry from a completely different context and learn about New Zealand’s indigenous culture.

Another powerful experience has been the opportunity to work on a research project with a PhD student in the college.

“Being able to see the practical application of all of the things we learn in the classroom has allowed me to better consider what I can do in the future and how I might achieve my career goals,” Fasana said.

When not in class, he can often be found at OSU’s Craft Center, throwing pots.

“Since freshman year of high school, I have been in love with ceramics, particularly wheel throwing,” Fasana said. “I have been working in the pottery studio of OSU’s Craft Center for the past two years, which has been an awesome pastime in between classes.”

Fasana was a recipient of the Finley Academic Scholarship and received an Intertribal Timber Council scholarship, which the college matched.

“These scholarships have made my learning experience much less stressful since I do not have to worry about paying for school as much. I would highly recommend applying for every and any scholarship you come across, in and outside of the College of Forestry, as it can make a world of difference.”

As Fasana looks to the future and towards the end of his undergraduate experience at OSU, he encourages other students to tap into the connections and opportunities available to them at the college.

“I believe I am speaking for everybody in the College of Forestry when I say that we are passionate about what we do,” Fasana said.

“Do not be afraid to talk to professors, test out job and internship opportunities and make friends with people in your major,” Fasana advised. “The college can have a huge impact on your life.”

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.

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.

Major: Renewable Materials; Year: Senior

Renewable Materials senior Joshua Stump is hungry for international experience.

He landed at Oregon State after earning a Jazz Piano Performance degree from Arizona State University and spending five years in the United States Navy.

“Music was my passion growing up, but my first experience in college was a hard lesson for me about what happens when you don’t take education seriously,” Stump says. “With mounting student debt hanging over my head, I joined the Navy to jump start my life financially.”

After five years, he was ready to move on to the next stage and decided to follow an interest of his since childhood: sustainability and the environment.

“I’ve always had enormous respect for nature and other forms of life,” says Stump, “My dad took me to Mount Rainier National Park as a child, and that made a huge impression on me.”

After researching degrees at Oregon State, Stump chose the renewable materials program, which he knew would lead him toward a career promoting the use of natural solutions for products we use every day, including sustainable building practices.

Stump completed an internship with Boise Cascade during summer 2018. He’s also an apprentice piano restorer.

During his Navy service, Stump traveled to Australia and several Asian countries. He has not visited Europe yet, even though he is extremely interested in the area.

“I have always been very interested in German culture,” Stump says. “I have family heritage there, and I have always been fascinated with their work ethic and interest in art and music. I think Germany would be an amazing place to live.”

He is planning to participate in the short-term, faculty-led Alpine Europe program. The program, offered through the college’s Office of International Programs, takes students to the European Alps and provides a holistic view of the sustainable wood products industry. He is also interested in completing an internship focused on piano restoration in Austria

“I am hoping to combine my interests,” Stump says. “Playing piano has been what has defined me since childhood, and I would love to focus on alternatives for soundboards in pianos. They are made exclusively with Sitka spruce. With Sitka forests disappearing due to climate change, I want to help find alternatives for soundboards.”

Stump says he would love to live in Europe someday.

“My dream is to build a completely self-sustaining home,” Stump says. “I would spend my time repairing and tuning pianos and use my free time to engaging in environmental activism.”

A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry. Learn more about College of Forestry research facilities and collaborations.

One important task of the College of Forestry’s Office of International Programs is connecting Oregon State students with hands-on learning experiences abroad. This includes internships that provide educational opportunities and practical experience for students.

Shelby Knight, a natural resources student at Oregon State University-Cascades in Bend, gained all of this and more during an internship experience in Chile.

“From a professional-development perspective, I learned how to better navigate language and cultural barriers. I improved my understanding and use of the Spanish language and learned about the Chilean culture.”

Growing up in Central Oregon, Knight fell in love with natural resources, but was never sure exactly what she wanted to pursue as a field of study or career.

“I love that the natural resources major is broad, diverse and offers opportunities to explore different aspects of the natural sciences,” she says. “Since coming to OSU Cascades, I’ve become interested in the interface between humans, human development and ecosystems.”

Through her involvement in the Natural Sciences Club at OSU Cascades, Knight met other students who participated in study abroad opportunities.

“I had no idea that this was even a possibility for me as a Cascades student, and I began to look for opportunities to go abroad through OSU,” Knight says.

She found and applied for a short term, faculty-led study abroad opportunity in Chile. During the application process, she learned about the option to stay behind after the experience to complete an internship.

“I loved the idea of staying in Chile for a longer period of time,” she says. “I chose to intern with Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve because they had a relationship with OSU, and their eco-tourism and conservation model really interested me. Plus, it looked like the most beautiful place to spend two months – and it was.”

Knight worked in the excursions department of the biological reserve where she helped deliver environmental, cultural and outdoor education to guests. She also tracked and mapped ‘illegal’ trails within the reserve, assisting Huilo Huilo with their trail interpretation plan, which will help the organization develop replanting and recovery strategies for illegal trails.

Knight also helped develop a nature-driven children’s program for the Reserve’s called Los Pequeños Exploradores or The Tiny Explorers. This experience inspired Knight to pursue research abroad after graduation.

“I learned a lot about myself by entering an unfamiliar situation,” she says. “I can’t wait to keep learning and exploring.”

Savannah Stanton is just a junior, but she already has plans to graduate from Oregon State debt free and work to change the world.

“I’ve always wanted to do something for my community and for the world,” she says. “Through renewable materials, I have the opportunity to do that.”

The Newburg High School valedictorian chose to attend Oregon State after she was awarded an academic achievement scholarship, but she still attended classes simultaneously at Portland Community College to get her baccalaureate core classes out of the way and discover her passion. She found it in a class taught by Seri Robinson called “Are You Wearing Mold?”

“The class drew me into the world of renewable materials,” Stanton says. “In the class, we dove into the world of fungi and what could be done with it. It was fun to do a hands-on class like that. It really appealed to me.”

Stanton believes an interdisciplinary course of study will be the key to her future success. He focus within renewable materials is science and engineering. She’s taken business classes, math classes and she will also earn a minor in Spanish.

“Every time a new term starts, I get new ideas,” she says. “My business classes inspired me to think about owning my own business someday instead of working for someone else.”

But Stanton isn’t exactly sure what she wants to do yet. Instead, she’s excited about a world of possibilities at home in Oregon and around the world.

During the summer of 2016, Stanton interned at a wood mill in Chile.

“That was my first time working in a mill setting,” she says. “It helped me understand the traditional part of our industry as well as an idea of the current needs are and expanded who I know within the small world of renewable materials.”

Stanton says her entire experience in Chile was funded through scholarships from the College of Forestry.

Back at home, Stanton is also involved in the student chapter of the Society of American Foresters at Oregon State. SAF is a professional organization dedicated to education and scientific pursuit in the field of natural resources.

“I got involved in SAF because I think it’s important to know what other parts of the industry are up to and what their concern are for the future,” Stanton says. “If you’re able to understand what other components need to make the whole machine work, you won’t get bogged down as much.”

She says that as a new professional, she expects to depend on the timber industry for the renewable materials needed to produce wood products.

“Renewable materials has a lot to do with timber production at some point,” she says. “Right now renewable materials only make up about five percent of the market, but I think it’s important to keep that in mind as I work toward establishing my career.”

Wood science graduate student Kendall Conroy is focused on sustainability. She says the issue has been a hot topic in the Pacific Northwest her whole life. Conroy grew up in Hillsboro in a family of Oregon State graduates. Attending Oregon State as an undergraduate was an easy decision, she says. Picking a specific area of focus, however, was a bit more difficult.

“Oregon State has so many great options that I felt OK about coming here, even with no idea of what I wanted to do,” Conroy says. “Initially, I was kind of interested in forestry, but I didn’t actually want to work outside. When I learned about the renewable materials program, and that I could kind of marry a forestry degree and a business degree, it seemed perfect.”

Conroy was awarded a scholarship from the Dean’s Fund for Excellence and Innovation and chose to major in renewable materials and later added a second major in sustainability to further explore her life-long interest in sustainability. She participated in the SEEDS (Strengthening Education and Employment for Diverse Students) program, which matches students with a mentor and gives them opportunities to participate in hands-on research as an undergraduate.

Conroy was matched with Professor Eric Hansen and worked on a project researching gender diversity within the forestry industry.

“I learned a lot through that research project,” Conroy says. “Within the wood science program we have quite a few female students, but when you look at the industry and when you do internships, there aren’t as many. Experiencing this during an internship I experienced made the study more real and relevant to me.”

During her undergraduate experience, Conroy participated in a short-term, faculty-lead study abroad experience in central Europe. During her time in Slovenia, Conroy connected with a researcher there, and returned the summer after graduating to complete a research-focused internship.

“I got to help out with a literature review for them and a few other ongoing projects,” Conroy said.

Conroy enjoyed Slovene culture, learning a bit of the difficult language and enjoy a different culture in an international environment.

“Everyone in Slovenia was so nice, and I really enjoyed being part of a research team there,” Conroy says. “It seemed like every other week someone would visit from another country, and I was able to travel to Austria and Hungary to attend conferences. It was an amazing experience.”

Encouraged by her professors, Conroy returned to Oregon State in the fall to begin working toward her master’s degree.

Her research will determine architects’ perception of wood products in terms of general knowledge and sustainability.

“From this we will be able to better understand material choice and potentially how we can get more information to the people making choices about implementing wood as a building material,” Conroy says.

Conroy says that after completing her graduate degree, she would like to work with architects and designers as a consultant on sustainability and material choice.

“When contractors want to build a green building and they want to use wood, I want to be the person who can show them the sustainability of the timber they’re using,” Conroy says. “We don’t have very advanced ways of explaining that right now, so it’s my goal to tell the story of the sustainability of wood in the built environment.”

Growing up in Dallas, Texas didn’t afford senior natural resources student Blair Ruffing many opportunities to get outside. In high school, her mother took her on trips to the Mountain west of the U.S. and Canada, and while visiting snow-capped mountains and crystal clear streams, the potential to live, play and work outside became real to her.

“I didn’t apply to any colleges in Texas because I knew it was time to get out of the state. I ended up at Oregon State because of the top-ranked forestry program. As an added bonus, we have forests, mountains and the ocean practically in our back yard.”

Ruffing was drawn to natural resources and developed her own individualized specialty which she named soil resource economics.

“I got excited about soils while taking the required natural resources major’s introduction to the subject,” Ruffing says.

“The idea of soil just clicked with me,” Ruffing says. “It made me realize that everything starts in the ground. Without soil, we don’t have anything above ground, and we don’t have life.”

Because of her passion for soils and natural resources, Ruffing has become involved in student life at Oregon State. She works two jobs: one as a high ropes course technician at the Adventure Leadership Institute’s challenge course and another as a communications student worker at the OSU College of Forestry Research Forests. She participated in the women’s varsity rowing team during her first year at Oregon State and is the president of the Natural Resources Club.

“The club existed before I got here, but it wasn’t very active,” Ruffing explains. “We’re still trying to find our ground and decide where to focus our efforts, but I think it’s important to have a club that explores the broader subject of natural resources. I’m excited to see what it turns into.”

Ruffing also completed an internship abroad, in Ireland in 2016.

“I got to work on an organic farm at a Tibetan Buddhist Center,” Ruffing says. “It was the highlight of my college career so far, and probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever done.”

Ruffing says working on the organic farm helped her think about the way she can apply the principles she’s learned in the classroom so far.

“I want to use my soil science background and my experiences working in organic farming and combine them in a way to help with the food culture in our world,” Ruffing says.

After she graduates from Oregon State, Ruffing hopes to pursue graduate school in Ireland and serve in the Peace Corps.

“I’m not exactly sure what the future holds for me long-term,” Ruffing says, “but I know I want to do real on-the-ground work to make this world a better place.”

Zachary Leslie spent his 2017 fall term in Chile working with terrestrial LIDAR. It’s something he never imagined when he came to Oregon State to study engineering.

“I declared a major in forest engineering after a friend and I agreed to do it together.” Leslie explains. “We were going to do it together.”

Leslie’s friend changed majors shortly after making the deal, but for him, it stuck.

“The professors were what really made me love studying forest engineering,” Leslie says. “They’re genuinely nice people, and my teachers and classmates feel more like family and friends.”

As a junior, Leslie visited the College of Forestry’s international programs office to find out where he could travel and participate in an international internship in order to fulfil the required six-months of work experience for his degree.

“I’ve done little traveling throughout my life,” Leslie says. “And I really wanted to go out and see the world to experience different cultures and ideas. I wanted to work somewhere unique than a locally.”

Director of International Programs Michele Justice pointed him toward New Zealand. There, he spent three months working for a research institute in his 2017 summer term.

“Another student and I measured Douglas-fir progeny trials through a variety of characteristics.  The seeds came from Washington, Oregon, and California, so it was pretty neat to my state tree being used 6000 miles away,” Leslie says.

In New Zealand, he saw first-hand how different ecosystems impact growth rates of trees.

“New Zealand has a similar moisture content as the Northwest. However, they have moisture is spread throughout the year so the summers are not as harsh.  Therefore, plants have availability year round which results in faster growing rates and a shorter rotation,” Leslie explains.

His first international experience made Leslie hungry for more, and because of the connections Oregon State has with Chile through the College of Forestry’s Chile Initiative, Leslie had the opportunity to take part in research and gain more work experience at the Universidad Austral de Chile.

During this trip, Leslie experienced a bit more culture shock due to the language barriers, but working with exciting technology in his chosen field lessened the frustration.

LIDAR stands for light detection and ranging and is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges to the Earth. Leslie used terrestrial LIDAR to understand the volume of trees in Chilean forests.

Leslie isn’t sure what his future holds, but he’s interested in attending graduate school so he can delve into the uses of LIDAR and unmanned aircraft.

“We can hook thermal cameras to unmanned aircraft to find an extinguish fires and hot spots,” Leslie says. “I would like to learn and research more ways to protect and manage our forest sustainably and efficiently.”