USDA Forest Service

Pacific Northwest Research Station

Pacific Northwest Research Station
333 SW First Ave.
Portland, OR 97204

(503) 808-2100

US Forest Service
Home > ARRA Projects > Summer Employment and Education Opportunities for Youth >
Supporting Underrepresented Forestry/Natural Resources Students

Mark and Amanda. Through a cooperative agreement between the Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station and Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, natural resources students from underrepresented communities are being given an opportunity to significantly expand their educational and job prospects. Economic recovery funds are being used to support the College of Forestry’s SEEDS (“Strengthening Education and Employment for Diverse Students”) program, which has the goals of recruiting and retaining students, providing a supportive environment, and helping them develop pathways to careers in natural resources disciplines.

The SEEDS program promotes the success of students by matching them with mentors who provide guidance and experience, including paid employment, in the students’ chosen natural resources management or science field while they are in school. SEEDS program faculty coordinator Dave Zahler says, “We emphasize much more than skills training in the work experiences and try to encourage relationship-building and support to the student. . . . If it were just about job skills, then the students could simply go and get a summer job.”

The SEEDS program reaches out to several categories of underrepresented students in the OSU College of Forestry. By bringing the SEEDS recruits into their research teams, the OSU faculty mentors assist their protégés in building a network of support that will help them succeed after they graduate. The SEEDS program also includes mentors outside the OSU faculty, including natural resources professionals in government agencies and private industry.

The SEEDS program was instituted during the 2009-2010 academic year, and economic recovery funds were instrumental in allowing it to go forward. The funding has allowed the College of Forestry to hire a coordinator for the program, who is helping recruit, train, and find mentors and employment opportunities for SEEDS students. The funding also is used to pay for SEEDS interns both during the academic year and in summer field work.

As the second year of the program draws to a close, over a dozen College of Forestry students have participated in mentored work experiences involving such diverse activities as conducting a literature review of topics related to management of smoke from prescribed and natural fires, developing an orientation and policies manual for the College Forests Recreation Program, working on trail plans and interpretive signage, analyzing data on the diets of large carnivores, and studying the impacts of Swiss needle cast on Douglas-fir. In at least one case, the SEEDS experience and ARRA funding provided a pathway for a participant, the first in his family to pursue higher education, to go on to a graduate program.

Amanda Mendez, a southern California native whose future plans include the Peace Corps and a career in outdoor education, was mentored by Mark Needham of the Forestry College’s Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. Mark had been asked by Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and Watershed Enhancement Board to conduct a survey to determine what actions the state might take to make landowners more likely to tolerate beaver activity on their property. Besides doing work on the collection and analysis of survey data, Amanda attended the briefing to state agencies on survey results. She also was able to attend a national symposium on recreation research. Amanda says both these experiences were invaluable in helping her understand how agencies incorporate science in policymaking, and also gave her opportunities to network with high-level professionals in her field of interest. Amanda will continue to explore career opportunities as she participates in an exploratory program on the Deschutes National Forest during the summer of 2011.

Other SEEDS students have commented on the benefits of participation in the SEEDS program:
“ I understand communication in a group setting better than I did before,” says Larae Guillory, who is interested in becoming a fuels specialist.

Mario Carbajal, who plans to work in natural areas conservation, says: “Every day is a new learning experience, and I am given various different tasks that allow me to take part in different aspects of the recreation program.”
“ It’s not just another work experience . . . SEEDS program mentoring has helped me to be a much better student, and also to learn valuable hands on jobs skills,” states Gina Martinez, who wants to pursue a career in wildlife management in national parks.

And Aldo Nava, who is majoring in forest engineering says, “Some jobs try to keep workers where they are, but a mentorship aims to raise a person up to their full potential.”

The SEEDS experiences of all these students were made possible by economic recovery money provided to the OSU SEEDS program, and by OSU College of Forestry faculty mentors including Mark Needham, Christine Olsen, Chris Jackson, Anita Morzillo, and Doug Maguire.

US Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station
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