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Our Project

 The Growing Oaks project entails collecting acorns from Oregon Oaks and growing them into saplings to be planted around Willamette’s campus, the Zena property, as well as public and private properties around Salem. The project itself is extremely well-rounded with interests in student research, political actions to aid the oaks, forming connections with communities and people local to this area, as well as connecting with the original stewards of the land, which is represented today by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde (CTGR) and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians (CTSI). It is funded by the Willamette University Community Action Fund for Equity and Sustainability (CAFES) committee.

who we are

The Growing Oaks project is a student led coalition funded by the Community Action Fund for Equity and Sustainability (CAFES) committee at Willamette University. This project fosters and builds connections between the Willamette University, city of Salem, and broader communities. With multi-faceted interests and a wide breadth of focuses, Growing Oaks allows its members and leaders to gain new experiences, perspectives, and opportunities in a variety of ways. We strive to explore people’s interests in Oregon Oaks, but to also bridge the intersection of science and human connection. Through this project, the founders hope to create a nurturing  environment of continuous learning, appreciation of nature and the oaks, and cultivate informed relationships with any and all communities/people that have intersections with the oaks.


What We Do

The group uses a holistic and integrative approach. To us, this means reaching all communities and providing resources beyond STEM. We have focused on cultivating a community of those who hope to make a change. The projects’ student leaders come from a wide range of demographics, yet come together to bring change to the new home they are all sharing for four years. Here are a few things that we have so far been able to accomplish:



  • Collected over 1000 acorns from around Salem, preserved them in vermiculite

  • As of October 2022, there are 1024 acorns potted

  • We have noticed about a 60% success rate of germination 

  • Created a “Donation” form for those who would  like an oak sapling to be planted on their property

  • “Certificate Request” form where anyone can request a sapling to be named and for that name to be documented in a public database


Oak Advocacy:

  • Submitted a public comment on the Meyer Farm property & on the revised Salem Tree Code

  • Participating in a speaker panel with CTGR member, David Harrelson, and CTGR Nursery Head, Jeremy Ojua

  • Hosted a three-day festival at Willamette in celebration of the Oregon Oak


Community Outreach:

  • Partnered with the non-profit, LIVE, to work with wineries to restore the oaks on their land 

  • Led a station in the Salmon Watch field trip for high school students with the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District

  • Hosted multiple work parties with the CTGR Nursery Head, Jeremy Ojua


Student Involvement:

  • Received approval for two experimental long-term monitoring plots at the Zena property owned by Willamette University to be led by students

  • Created a leadership team comprising 12 Willamette students

OUr Values

Growing Oaks recognizes and honors the cultural importance/significance of the Oregon Oak through centering the original stewards of the land where Willamette University resides, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians. Our leaders have and will continue to build relationships with off campus groups and organizations to foster a larger community of Oregon Oak stewardship. This work is driven by strong community-centered partnerships, organizing, and advocacy around oak distribution. We know that the root cause of Oregon Oak decline is colonization and the systemic injustices which create and perpetuate the conditions that sustain white supremacy, the conversion of stolen indigenous land, and eurocentric epistemology. Understanding this, we commit to accessibility, inclusion, and equity for all, including our leaders and the community members with whom we partner. Every meeting, event, or activity will never assume previous knowledge about the subject and will establish a learning environment in ways that honor and value each other and our lived experiences. We strive to foster belonging and empowerment for our leaders and members. We are committed to transforming each aspect of our organization by confronting our own biases through self-reflection and anti-racism work. We know that intention alone will not change things and strive to make our work meaningful and impactful rather than performative. As a student-led group located at Willamette University, we recognize our responsibility and limitations within the institution. We believe our work is meaningful and necessary. We will always be learning, we will make mistakes and own our responsibilities with corrective action.


Learn More

If you would like to learn more about the nature of our project, please feel free to read the full CAFES project proposal that was written. The full proposal contains an in-depth explanation of our project, as well as our detailed plans for implementation. 

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