Student Feature: Jessica Kessinger

Pursuing a dual degree in forest engineering and international studies, Jessica Kessinger is currently an undergraduate in Oregon State University’s College of Forestry. During her time at OSU, she worked as a forest engineering intern with Western Forest Products on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, in the summer of 2014. Kessinger is currently the Chair of the Society of American Foresters – Student Chapter and is participating in a second international internship with Forestal Mininco, a component of CMPC, in south-central Chile as part of the College of Forestry’s Chile Initiative and in pursuit of her International degree. We sat down with her to discuss life at Oregon State and how she became interested in the forest engineering field.

What led you to choose forest engineering as your major?
“I stumbled upon the forest industry based on a curiosity to be a part of providing the world with sustainable resources. I did not want a degree that required a master's education and I wanted it to include fieldwork. It became clear I had chosen correctly when I realized it is so much more than the application of math and science, but an industry that desperately needs young leaders with the particular skills only a forest engineering degree can offer.”

Why did you choose to attend Oregon State?
“I am native to Oregon and I had an interest in forestry. I quickly realized while looking at schools that Oregon State was the obvious choice. The caliber of faculty, professional opportunities, and international connections that the college brings is unsurpassed.”

What made you decide you wanted to travel and study abroad?
“In addition to the forest engineering degree, I am pursuing an international degree. It requires an experience abroad that is language intensive and a thesis surrounding my primary degree. Since I already was fluent in Spanish, I wanted to utilize this skill to get to know the forest practices in Chile and support my thesis research on forest certification. I see myself working internationally as a professional.”

Please describe your international experience so far. What projects are you working on or have you worked on, and what do you do in your free time?
“I am doing an internship with Forestal Mininco for three months in south-central Chile. Mininco is a component of the privately integrated organization CMPC. I am investigating the planning and implementation procedures of the harvesting and operations division. The goal is to recuperate value in the radiata pine plantations. The project requires me to know the various roles in the procurement process.

“On the weekends, I explore the surrounding areas by bus. The natural areas of Chile are superb, and the hiking is excellent. While the magic is in the national parks, I really enjoyed the vibrancy of Santiago. The food, music, and markets are fascinating. On weekdays, I most enjoy getting to know the Chileans at my workplace. A group of young colleagues or interns often get together to hang out for drinks and food in town or to catch a movie at the mall.

“In addition to Chile, I had the opportunity to work as a forest engineering intern with Western Forest Products on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. I worked with the operations department assisting with harvest unit layout, road design, silviculture, and community engagement activities. The most striking difference was in Canada most of the managed land is public and is often more isolated from towns and cities.”

How have your experiences abroad impacted you?
“Living abroad has given me a deeper appreciation of how other people live. My perspective has changed to be open to more than one solution and that one is not necessarily better than the other. I see that people face similar issues around the world; in particular, the forest industry regarding social license, environmental responsibility, and economic stimulus.”

Do you have any advice for future or current students considering studying abroad?
“Studying abroad is an excellent opportunity and is a privilege that increases your perspective of the world. I suggest approaching each day with curiosity and a willingness to learn from each person you meet. Be willing to go off the beaten tourist tracks and explore with locals. Do not be afraid to travel on your own because you are never alone among fellow travelers and locals; but, never compromise your own safety.”

What are your career and professional goals after graduation?
“After graduation I hope to get a position with a timber organization working on landscape scale planning. I want to help change the face of the timber industry and make it more accessible and understandable to the public. I hope that my professional experiences will also take me internationally where I can use my Spanish language skills. I am interested in working abroad for a few years after gaining experience in the United States.”