Preserving the culture

Melinda StewartRecreation Resource management graduate Melinda Stewart found her current job – Public Relations Manager at Corvallis Tourism – when the then-CEO spoke in one of her classes. Since then, she’s promoted everything Corvallis has to offer via social media and other outlets, and has even found the time to do freelance work advocating for historic preservation. We had the chance to talk with Stewart about why she chose Oregon State, her experience in the College of Forestry and her big career dreams.

Where are you from?

This great state’s capitol city – Salem, Oregon!

How did you choose Oregon State?

I wanted to stay in the Pacific Northwest – I love everything about it and wouldn’t want to be away for four years.  I liked the sense of community Corvallis area had, the library, the trail system, a lot of things, really. Plus it is a great-sized town to go to college in – not too big and not too small.   I initially came to Oregon State to study apparel design and ended up switching to recreation resource management after a year.  I had never realized that there was a career to be had in cultural resources – I was thrilled when I found out it could be more than a hobby.

I studied recreation resource management with a concentration in cultural resources.  Having a concentration of study really let me focus on what I loved and helped me to hone in on what I wanted to do with my life.

Did you take advantage of any special programs in the College, like internships or study abroad?

I found my internship, which eventually led to my current job, when John Hope-Johnstone – then the CEO of Corvallis Tourism – was a guest speaker in a class, “The Anthropology of Tourism.”

What do you do now, and how do you describe that to people?

I am the Public Relations Manager at Corvallis Tourism.  I do marketing and social media to promote Corvallis.  I also work with travel writers and other destination marketing organizations in the Willamette Valley to increase exposure about all of the wonderful attributes Corvallis has!  I recently went half time in this position to branch out on my own and do social media for small businesses and historic properties.

How do you feel the College of Forestry helped you?

The advisors at the College of Forestry (Jo Tynon and Kama Luukinen) were wonderful about helping me work in the types of courses I would need in order to pursue my life’s dream.  Some terms I would read the entire course catalogue for Oregon State to find what worked into my master plan – not just into the graduation requirements.

Is there anyone/anything you can point out that was especially influential?

The first class I ever took in the College of Forestry was with Royal Jackson.  Royal is kind of a legend around here and really opened up my mind as to what a wide spectrum of duties recreation resource management could encompass.

What kind of advice do you have for students who will be entering the job market?

Be picky.  The economy may be bad, but the last thing you want to do is wake up years from now and realize that you aren’t any closer to your goals because you took the first decent job.  No matter what you are doing – even if you have to do an internship or can only do what you love part time – work towards your end goal and don’t lose sight of it by way of a better paycheck.

What kind of future plans do you have, and what kind of impact do you hope your work has?

I would like to focus as much of my professional life as possible on the preservation and promotion of historic structures, districts and properties.  My strongest skills are in social media, and it is my belief that getting information at the fingertips of the millennials is the future of preservation.

If we want to keep preservation alive we need to think outside the box in a variety of ways.  McMenamins’ historic properties (the McMenamin brothers are also Oregon State University graduates) are a prime example of a small private company thinking outside the box to preserve cultural resources in a way that is enjoyable to all generations.  It is my goal to provide exposure to historic structures and small companies who are stewards of cultural resources.

What are your hobbies and passions outside of your work?

I really enjoy getting out there and remembering why I spend so much of my day on the computer.  Long walks through historic districts and hikes really inspire me to get back to work!

3 Responses to “Preserving the culture”

  1. Amanda says:

    Thanks for this, Melinda. Very inspiring. It makes me want to take time to remember why I’m doing what I’m doing, question if it’s taking me towards my goals and reassess.

  2. Roger says:

    Ironic that Melinda graduated from a program that is being eliminated in the current restructuring because it wasn’t graduating a sufficient number of students.

  3. Tom says:

    Thanks Melinda,
    I really liked your advice of keeping the “end goal” in mind when in the job market. It’s good to get that perspective and input from someone who has “walked the walk”, thanks a lot.