2019/2020 Scholarship Awarded
The Scholarship Committee would like to announce that the CSU Scholarship Program has awarded Chris O’Keefe as this year’s 2019/2020 Scholarship recipient. Chris is one of six candidates that were up for this scholarship. Chris currently attends Humboldt State University and is Graduate Student majoring in Fisheries Biology with a 3.9 grade point average. As you will read in his cover letter included below, he is an avid Fly Fisherman since 2008 and has worked on many programs that pertains to trout and salmon.
Here is his cover letter to the Scholarship:
Dear Fly Fishers Club of Orange County,
Ever since I was a young child, I have been passionate about fishing, but when I took an “Introduction to Flying Fishing” course in the summer of 2008, I was led down a path where I discovered my interest in fisheries management and conservation. I can confidently say that without fly fishing in my life, I probably would not have had the chance to work with remote golden trout populations in the Sierra’s, track the movement of rainbow trout in a blue ribbon trout stream in the Central Valley, or monitor endangered salmon and steelhead along the California coast. My five-plus years of monitoring fish populations has led me to graduate school, where I hope to develop technical skills that will enable me to help preserve salmonid populations for future generations.
I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work towards a master’s degree in Fisheries Biology and to learn from the amazing faculty at Humboldt State University (HSU). My thesis focuses on Coho salmon and steelhead trout passage of beaver dam analogues (BDAs). BDAs are a relatively new innovation to salmonid restoration. Due to the complex habitat that BDAs create, they have been cited to benefit many aquatic and terrestrial species, but there are concerns from regulatory agencies about fish passage. The findings of my research will inform future implementation efforts and address permitting concerns in Northern California and much of the Pacific Northwest. My research is already off to a great start, and I am eager to share my results with the fish restoration community.
My journey to get to graduate school was fraught with challenges. I am a first-generation college student and have had very little guidance on how to navigate through the academic system. While finding my way through college, I struggled with a learning disability that went undiagnosed for most of my life. It was not until the end of my undergraduate degree that I found out that I am dyslexic. That realization helped me address the problem head on and seek help when I need it. In addition, during my undergraduate coursework, I worked full time while taking classes to pay for school and living expenses. After completing my undergraduate degree and before starting graduate school, I worked two jobs to try to pay off my college debt and make ends meet. At the same time, I also took night classes at the local community college to prepare myself for graduate school.
My path to graduate school has not been easy, but I feel it has only made me stronger, and I have learned that with enough hard work and dedication, I can accomplish my aspirations. A scholarship would help address my unmet financial needs. My thesis research is partially funded by a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) grant awarded to my adviser, Dr. Darren Ward. This grant covers the research equipment and provides me with a small hourly stipend for up to 20 hours per week during the semester. While this will pay for some of my living expenses, it is insufficient to cover my tuition,rent, and school supplies. As a first-generation college student with little outside financial support, I do not have the resources to pay for my education out of pocket. Between undergraduate and graduate school expenses, I have accrued close to $30,000 in student loan and credit card debt. A scholarship would alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with graduate school and enable me to allocate more of my time to research and the development of technical-research skills.
HSU has long been my top choice for a graduate school, and I am thankful for the opportunity to learn at one of the best fisheries programs in the nation. The skills I develop over the next few years will help me advance to a career in which I can make meaningful differences in salmonid conservation.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Best, Chris O’Keefe