Sometimes a simple, repetitive act can be transformative. For Greg Tudor, ’08, biking past the same place daily on his way to Portland State University opened up an avenue that he is still traveling.
Greg moved to Portland in 2005 as an act of love. Not love of forests, or rain, but love of his girlfriend Renee. She had been accepted to PSU’s College of Urban Planning, and an exploratory trip to the City of Roses introduced them both to a different world. Coming from Chicago, Greg and Renee were stunned by the lush green terrain forests and crisp air for which Portland is renowned, and decided to take the leap.
Skilled with his hands, Greg joined the carpenters’ union work in Portland, following the path he had been on since leaving the University of Illinois in 2002. “The Big Ten campus of Illinois was overwhelmingly impersonal to me. Without a clear sense of how to navigate it and create an educational pathway that was meaningful to me, I left school and focused on construction. But when the building market collapsed and finding work became increasingly difficult, Greg seized a new opportunity — to complete his undergraduate degree by enrolling at PSU.
“I was attracted to PSU because I had seen how much Renee enjoyed it.” states Greg. “It was close, urban, and affordable, things I had not known in Illinois.” In school, Greg was also thrilled with the quality and encouragement of his professors, which further distinguished his new academic experience.
Ultimately, PSU proved to be revelatory for Greg, not just in the level of teaching excellence, but also in the possibilities it opened for him. This was exemplified by Greg’s senior year capstone project. It was coordinated by Professor Celine Fitzmaurice, and involved joining other students to work with Portland’s Forest Park Conservatory on grants related to trail accessibility and quality. The opportunity to provide a communal benefit while being out in nature changed Greg in a potent manner.
“Working with Stephen Hatfield at the Forest Park Conservancy opened my eyes to the possibility of a career in environmental advocacy. Greg recalls. “Going into it, I had no idea what to expect, but quickly learned from Celine and Stephen that one could create a meaningful career contributing to a valuable cause.”
That epiphany opened up Greg’s vision, and spurred him to finally stop at that spot he’d biked past on the way to PSU every day. It was Friends of Trees, a non-profit organization that plants and cares for city trees and green spaces throughout Portland, Vancouver, Eugene, and Springfield. Greg had come across the right place to focus his newfound passion. He began volunteering there, and five years later he is their development manager, recruiting others to help keep Oregon green. “We’re a community-building organization that just happens to plant trees.” Greg shares, “In order to work effectively, I needed to create meaningful connections and engage the broader community. My time at PSU prepared me well for that.”
Now Greg shows his love of the environment by protecting our city’s tree canopy, ensuring a healthy, verdant home for everyone. He also continues to marvel at PSU’s own commitment to the local community. “Ever since I started at PSU,” Greg remembers, “I’ve witnessed how readily I was integrated into Portland. The School is diligent in nurturing its relationship with the community, and students can utilize that relationship to network and facilitate opportunities. Just saying that you are a PSU student will open doors for you.” And thanks to Greg and others like him, outside of all of our doors is a world of green trees.