Alumni spotlight: Eric Otto

2010, B.S. Forest Resources

Advisor: Rebecca Montgomery

Current Organization/Employer: University of Minnesota

Favorite memory of campus:
My favorite memory of campus takes place on the St. Paul campus. Obtaining a degree in forest resources meant that the majority of my classes were on the St. Paul campus. One of my most favorite memories are from the dendrology and forest pathology courses I took. They both required exploring most of the St. Paul campus and a little of the Minneapolis campus. For the dendrology course, we identified the majority of the trees on campus. In the forest pathology class, we identified different diseases occurring on trees and also looked for different wood decay fungi on both campuses. These are my favorite memories because of the knowledge I gained and because of these courses I was able to explore more of both campuses.

Why did you choose CFANS as a college?
I chose CFANS as a college because compared to the other colleges I thought the teacher to student ratio gave way to more interaction between the teacher and students. While attending CFANS it felt more like a small school and I felt more comfortable. The teachers were helpful and I felt I received a lot of hands on experience while attending CFANS.

Why do you think the University of Minnesota is great?
The University of Minnesota is great because of the high amount of diversity and the fact that it consists of two separate campuses. The University of Minnesota has a variety of degrees to be sought. There also a mass amount of student activities and organizations that students can participate in.

Career information/ professional achievements:
After graduating from the University of Minnesota, I worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Wyoming in 2010. My work consisted of performing hazard tree surveys and in return I received a certificate of merit for the work accomplished. In 2011, I worked at the University of Minnesota in a forest pathology lab, and later assisted on a forest climate change project in Cloquet and Ely, Minnesota. In the summer of 2012, I worked for the University of Maine on a harvesting research project. From 2012 to 2014, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana in West Africa. I lived in a small remote village and worked as an agriculture volunteer, but also taught science at a junior high school. Presently, I am working on obtaining a M.S. degree at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Plant Pathology.

What's your passion? What do you love about your work and your field?
Since I was kid I always loved being outside and exploring the outside world. That eventually spread to my field of study where I obtained a B.S. in forestry. I have a passion for studying forests and trees and how to properly manage them. This includes how to manage forest and shade tree diseases. I also like being able to have the contrast of working in the field and the office/lab.

How did your education at the U of M help prepare you for what you are doing today?
My education at the U of M gave me a great deal of knowledge in the field of forestry. My education consisted of both class work and field work. Both of these were beneficial in preparing me for my work today.

What advice do you have for current students (and future alumni)?
For current students I would advise them to be involved in as much as they can. Focus on school, but  being involved in other school activities can help you meet other students and possibly increase your passion for your field of study. When I was a undergraduate I was involved in some student activities, but not as many as I should have been. I feel my college experience would have been more enjoyable if I would have participated more in these activities. Also, try to work in your field of study by getting a summer job or internship. I felt that was highly beneficial because then you can see if the field is right for you and you can establish some connections from different employers.