Let knowledge serve sustainable design

Engineering a green future

Brook Thompson grew up splitting her time between her mother in Portland and her father on the Yurok Reservation in Northern California.

On the reservation, she developed a strong connection to her tribe and its land by participating in traditional dances, fishing with her dad and learning the Yurok language from her grandfather, one of the last native speakers.

“Anytime you pick a plant, you say ‘thank you’ to it, and you pray every time you kill a living thing,” she says. “You think about the generations ahead of you.”

In the city, she didn’t see the same connection to the land and the future.

Now she’s studying civil engineering and wants to ease the impact of cities on the environment by designing green buildings with zero net energy consumption. 

She could have used her full-ride Gates scholarship at any university but chose PSU for its Honors College, strong engineering program and focus on sustainability. She has earned a spot on the Dean’s List every term while taking a heavy course load and joining seven student clubs, including the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and the Society of Women Engineers.

She says small Honors classes, one-on- one writing tutors and friends in her student groups have helped her excel.

“I’m not just going to college for myself,” Thompson says. “I’m trying to improve other people’s lives just as much.”

At Portland State University, we believe knowledge works best when it serves the community.