For Sarah Lewis Scholes, attending Washington State University opened a whole new world of study, research and employment.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in biological systems engineering in 1999 and her master’s degree in engineering science in 2003 from WSU. Now working as a civil engineer with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station in Moscow, Idaho, she conducts research on a variety of wildfire-related issues. For example, her master’s research was to study how fire impacted soil quality after the Hayman Fire in Colorado using remotely sensed imagery. That project led to her current position which entails similar research after wildfires across the western U.S. from Alaska to southern California.
She was honored with the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences “Rising Star” award for her achievements in forestry research and professional publications.
“I got an outstanding education at WSU,” she said. “Ten years ago, I never would have guessed that I’d be doing research for a living. But the people I came across, like Professor (Joan) Wu, were just exceptional to work with, smart, fun people.”
Scholarships brought Scholes, who went to high school in Kamiah, Idaho, to Washington State University, but Pullman and the experience she had as a student is what made her a Coug.
“I received excellent scholarships,” Scholes said, “including the Distinguished Presidential Scholarship, so even though I was going to college out-of-state, I was financially way ahead by going to WSU.”
Once she arrived on campus, she knew the choice was a good one.
“I loved Pullman. It took awhile to get used to the wheat fields after growing up surrounded by mountains in Montana, but they grew on me,” she said. “I still love going to football and basketball games. I like how integrated the university is in the Pullman community; it adds a different dimension to the small town, especially in terms of arts and multiculturalism.”
That all contributes, she said, to what it means to be “A Coug.”
“There’s something special about WSU,” Scholes said. “Maybe because Pullman is a little isolated, you form stronger connections with your fellow Cougs. And the experience is what you make of it. I made lifelong friends. The university is a community in and of itself, and I love belonging to that community.”