WSU is advancing Washington industries …
WSU teams with aviation to develop sustainable aviation biofuels …
WSU partners to develop bioproducts that reduce dependence on petroleum imports …
WSU works with state commodity commissions to conduct needed agricultural research …
WSU developed the technology used for wood-plastic composites used for buildings …
WSU researchers work to improve dairy productivity and reduce disease …
WSU research has made Washington one of the world’s most productive wheat-growing regions …

In the News, My WSU Impact

My WSU Impact. WSU and Me – or WSU and all of us


WSU Impact shares our latest entry in our series, “My WSU Impact.” We introduce Ms. Alyssa Patrick. Alyssa is a young, up-and-coming professional who is not only a proud alumna of Washington State University (Class of ’12), but also a talented communications specialist who works for WSU Office of Economic Development, located in Seattle. Alyssa penned her own entry to “My WSU Impact” sharing why she feels so connected to our University and explains the reasons she is a member of WSU Impact and lends her citizen voice in support of the crimson and gray.

Special to WSU Impact – Alyssa Patrick, ’12

I thought I understood the value of WSU as an 8-year-old. My parents met there. I literally existed because of WSU. The brick buildings in a small town just a few hours east of my home represented the college education my parents talked about, encouraged my siblings and me towards. It was a place I knew they had worked hard to get to – working on peach lines, washing dishes, selling fruit through high school and over the summers; cleaning toilets, writing for the Daily Evergreen and running side resume-critiquing businesses during the semesters. WSU meant cozy weekends spent cheering on the Cougs, meant never wearing purple and gold in front of my dad, meant my family. Crimson and gray colored my childhood.

Alyssa at eight years old and already demonstrated her spunky, can do spirit that emanates all Cougs.

Alyssa at eight years old – already demonstrating her spunky, can-do spirit that personifies all Cougs.

In middle school I got to claim a little part of WSU for myself. As a camper at Cougar Quest, I learned improv for the first time, an introduction to the stage that carried me through countless high school productions. My first real interaction with a professor was a wonderfully hippy woman who introduced me to the idea that the poems and stories I often found at my finger tips could be nurtured, could be developed into a skill that is now my life blood. The camp counselor I fell in admiration-love with talked about this wonderful thing – this study abroad thing that let him spend months in another country – something that would crack open my small-town world open when I traveled to France eight years later.

When I started as a freshman in 2009, I thought then, then I really understood WSU; the longer I went there the more it felt that WSU and I belonged to each other. We had a good trade off. I became an RA to help students orient themselves to university living the way I had been oriented my first year, and in return, I got to learn things in classes that still resonate with me today. I went to Coug Day at the Capitol to lobby for education, and in return, WSU gave me job opportunities that allowed me to develop real-world skills. Every time I thought I understood WSU fully – from student life to the classroom – something new would pop up.

power studentsIt wasn’t until my senior year that I began to understand the reach WSU had beyond the education and experiences provided on campus. That year I interned with the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture – something I wasn’t too sure about at first. Help scientists communicate? Science and I never had that cozy of a relationship – I was all about words and storytelling and science seemed too linear, too unimaginative. I went ahead with the job for the experience, and because one of my favorite professors/mentors told me it would be good for me.

The hesitation quickly faded as I realized how great it was to talk to researchers, to help them tell their stories. As is often the case, my preconceived notions were wrong. So much creativity is involved in asking big questions about how the world works, how it could work better, and then pursuing solutions to those questions. I became infatuated with the discoveries coming out of WSU labs; and with the students who had opportunities to build real businesses, to develop technology solutions for ALS patients in the community, to do robotics outreach for young students in the region.

One project in particular fascinated me – a collaborative research effort to investigate the viability of a biofuels supply chain in the northwest. The approach was so holistic – research conducted to answer a need for alternative energy sources, by researchers who also sought input from communities who would be effected by a new industry pipeline. Researchers who also provided opportunities for students to get out from behind books, to actually work with companies and citizens on solving a real problem.

I became a full-fledged research nerd. When I saw major researchers in the CUB, I would tell my friends about them as if they were celebrities. Sometimes the things I learned from professors actually dismantled my mind, made me so lost in how many things people were trying to discover, how many mysteries curious people were poking at, that I could not operate like a normal person. Really, ask my friends how many days I couldn’t talk other than saying something like

“Microfluidics – microfluidics, can you even believe that?”

“Microbial fuel cells – did you know – did you know like, little, tiny tiny bacteria can power a light? Bacteria! Just, just. Man. So crazy.”

What I did not fully realize at the time is I was well on my way to being a full-fledged land-34d8c23grant nerd. During my internship I heard the term land-grant, heard people say it as an answer to so many questions, and I’d furrow my brow a bit, confused by the term and its seeming significance. I read about it – about the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 that funded universities by selling federally controlled land, and bestowed those universities a mission to serve more than just the elite, wealthy classes with abstract curriculums. A mission that charged the universities with educating students and conducting research that could fill the economic needs of their communities and improve quality of life for people every where. A mission rooted in community-engagement.

I read all of these things and started to notice the intentional way researchers were working with the community. I saw more purpose behind the degrees offered at WSU. But it did not really sink in until I moved away from Pullman. The whole story of WSU was too big to see when I was tunnel-visioned on my experience there, on my parents’ experience there. It took backing up – moving to a job for the university in Seattle – to be able to see how far a land-grant institution really reaches.

Because here, I am confronted almost every day by something WSU had a hand in – whether it is simply my landlord coming home excited to try a new gardening technique she learned from a Master Gardner, or touring the stormwater center in Puyallup where WSU researchers are working to keep water clean for us and the fishes.

Today I know the value of WSU cannot be defined by any one thing. It is woven into my life, into the life of the state I call home.


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