Heather Stoven

Year of Graduation: 1998

Major(s): Biology

Graduate Program: Pest Proctection and Pest Management, University of California at Davis


Please give a brief description of your current position:
I am an Extension Horticulturalist for Oregon State University. In my position I serve homeowners and small acreage farmers by assisting with their horticulture-related needs. This can be very broad ranging, from questions about identifying a tree in a landscape to assisting a new farmer with the best crops to plant on their property. Another major role I fill is teaching sessions for workshops and events regarding various horticultural topics reflecting the needs of these interest groups.

What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
Much of my background has been working either with or within the nursery industry. I started as a propagator and grower at Bailey Nurseries where I was able to get some  hands-on experience in ornamental horticulture. I became interested in entomology from working within the nursery industry and then decided to get a M.S. degree in Plant Protection and Pest Management from UC Davis. Following graduate school I moved to Oregon and worked as a Faculty Research Assistant for nursery crops and Christmas trees at OSU until I obtained my current position.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
For those who are interested in being an extension agent, it is necessary to obtain a graduate degree in the field you would be interested in working in. I also feel it is important to have some hands-on experience working in agriculture, as this brings a lot of insight and credibility. I was able to complete several internships during college in various areas including weed science, entomology and ecology. These were important not only because I was able to dabble in a few different areas to gauge my interests, but also because it gave me a background in many fields that I have been able to draw from in my position.

What skills are important in your field?
Communication and people skills are paramount. I work with the public, volunteers and farmers on a daily basis and regularly give presentations to these groups. I also regularly communicate to others in writing via various types of articles for general audiences as well as publications for scientific journals.

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
I enjoy being able to teach the public to appreciate the natural world as well as knowing I am assisting my local community to grow food and beautify their environment.

Most challenging?
My position covers many aspects of agriculture, so you never know what questions will come through the door! I am always trying to learn more about the various production techniques for many agricultural fields as well as stay current on new research.

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
My classes and experiences within the biology department were very helpful in preparing me for this position. There was a lot of emphasis placed on inquiry and exploring the world around us, which is helpful when working with scientific research and teaching. The biology curriculum I had gave me a good foundation in topics such as botany, evolution and scientific writing which I was able tobuild upon in graduate school. I really enjoyed not only the indoor classroom experiences at CSB/SJU, but also the outdoor experiences such as being able to collect plankton while canoeing on St. John's lakes and learning to tap maple trees and make maple syrup. I feel these experiences were very unique, and I have been able to take my love of the outdoors gained from these experiences and teach others to appreciate the world around them as I do.

(January 2015)