Brianna Houston is the recipient of the 2016 Vivian Shriver Thompson Award, a scholarship established to recognize academic accomplishment and leadership. I recently caught up with the hard-working Brianna to find out more about her story. Here is what I learned.


What drew you to Oregon State University, and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in particular?

In-state tuition and Oregon State’s amazing veterinarian program is what drew me to the University, however it’s my passion for animals and wildlife, as well as biodiversity conservation that drew me to Fisheries and Wildlife, rather than strictly Animal Sciences.

Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up?

I’ve kind of grown up in a lot of different places. I lived in Idaho for a while when I was younger, where I learned my passion for animals. I told my mom that I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was three years old. I lived in Portland for a while with my mom and grandparents, which is when my brother was born (I was about seven). Then we moved to southern Oregon, Medford specifically, where my mom got her first official teaching job. My mom single-handedly raised my brother and me - I think this is where I get my determination from. She has taught me to be strong, independent and to always go after what I want; she’s the only one who has supported me with my dream the whole way through. With her support, I graduated high school a year early at seventeen and went to the University of Vermont for my first year of college. Now I’m here. (Brianna smiles)

Tell us a little about your interest in fisheries and wildlife.

I’ve always had a passion for animals. I’ve never wanted to be anything but a veterinarian. Like all young kids, I’ve also always loved exotic animals, but I think my passion is a little different. While I do love these animals, I realize the need for us to do something. I realize that we won’t have any of these animals if we don’t respect them as roommates on our earth. I realize that the world is built on these animals- they are part of the delicate ecosystem just as much as we are. My passion for animals lead me to everything else that comes with them- biodiversity conservation, global warming, deforestation, conservation management…. All of it really. Without fisheries and wildlife, we have no earth, we have no home. 

How will you use this scholarship award?

This scholarship is making it possible for me to finish my final year as a Fisheries and Wildlife and Animal Science major. Before getting news of the scholarship, I was contemplating if I would even be able to attend the full year or if I would have to postpone graduation another term because of finances.

What opportunities will this scholarship provide for you that you might not otherwise have gotten to experience?


What are your hobbies and other interests?

I love being outside. Hoop dancing is actually my favorite pastime if anyone knows what that is. I like doing yoga, hiking, camping and recently I started learning to fish. Sometimes I like just being lazy and curling up with the pets and watching Netflix. On the weekends, if I don’t have too much homework, I volunteer at a place called Wildlife Images which is an animal rehabilitation center and an amazing experience.

What are your plans for next year?

Moving back to Corvallis area to finish my senior year of classes and then graduate hopefully! I’ve moved around so much the last several years that it will be great to be back and settled in one spot.

What are your long-term career goals?

After I graduate, I want to continue on to vet school (ideally here, because they’ve got a great program) and then I want to go on to work with zoos and conservation facilities as a veterinarian. My long-long term career goal is to open my own conservation center, but that is still a long ways away and I have a lot to learn before I get to that point.

If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

Definitely a cat. For one, I love cats but also I just relate best to cats. Cats are misunderstood creatures; they are so loyal and loving but it takes a lot to gain their trust. I guess that’s a lot like me. Cats are also just cool- they’re sleek, quiet, beautiful, stealthy and dangerous.

Any final words?  

Thank you! I work hard and am passionate about my dream, so I can tell you right now that this scholarship won’t go to waste. I’ve been working too hard and too long for this for it to not happen; this scholarship has been a blessing that removed a financial roadblock that would have otherwise kept my dream from happening. All I can say is thank you to everyone who gave me this opportunity.

-As interviewed by Dr. Joe Ebersole, Courtesy Assistant Professor