Master of Forest Resources Degree

Almost from the beginnings of graduate education in forestry at the UW, students looking for an alternative to a master of science in forestry have had the option to pursue a professional non-thesis master’s program.  This degree has been configured in various ways and has had different titles over the years, including master of forestry and master of forest resources.  Generally, it has been a two-year post-baccalaureate program designed to educate, train, and prepare graduate professionals in forestry to serve public agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private sector industries.  These programs have been an important component of forestry education at the UW and paralleled similar degrees at other U.S. forestry schools.

In 2003, SFR completed a transformation of its undergraduate programs.  After much debate, the faculty retained the school’s paper science and engineering (now bioresource science and engineering) curriculum while consolidating the other programs into a new bachelor of science major in environmental science and resource management (ESRM).  Designed to attract a broader range of students and to counter declining enrollment trends that have become common in many forestry schools, ESRM provides education in the wide range of subjects that the modern resources manager must understand. It includes a focused option in sustainable forest management, but the faculty chose not to pursue Society of American Foresters (SAF) accreditation for this option; it chose rather to redesign the professional master's degree in forest resources (MFR) into a one-year program closely integrated with the sustainable forest management option.

In February 2006, the UW Graduate School approved the new MFR degree; the next step was gaining accreditation.  SFR faculty believed that offering the first professional degree at the master's level was the right option for SFR’s circumstances—a non-land grant research-intensive university in a large metropolitan area with a robust forest products industry and a community with strong connections to natural resources.  Elevating the status of accredited professional forestry education to the graduate level seemed in the best interests of the UW, SAF, and the profession, given the complexity of contemporary forestry and natural resources issues and their importance to the region. SAF conducted an accreditation site visit for the MFR (Forest Management) in April 2006, and accreditation was granted, effective October 2006.

David Ford, professor of forest ecology, coordinates the program with assistance from SFR’s Office of Student Services and the SFR Curriculum Committee.  SFR faculty involved in the program also include Greg Ettl, Frank Greulich, Peter Schiess, and Eric Turnblom. Ford says, “Strategic advising and mentoring for recruitment and retention of MFR students is important.  With the appropriate preparation and mentoring, students can earn both the BS and MFR degrees in five years." 

The MFR curriculum integrates knowledge and skills from technical disciplines with those from policy and management subjects to prepare its graduates for professional leadership in the public, nongovernmental, and private sectors.  Says Ford, “Creating a collaborative and interdisciplinary learning environment that develops team approaches and leadership skills is an important objective.  We want to involve the students in experiences needed for complex decision-making so that we can help them be successful as managers addressing issues facing society and industry in the forest resources arena.” 

The program’s 5-credit independent study or internship capstone projects cover a broad range of topics with the consistent theme of professional application rather than research. Examples of potential projects include creating fire safe forests in the Eastern Cascades, managing mixed species forests, economic and environmental tradeoffs between wildlife  and timber production, energy cogeneration as a solution to fossil fuel consumption, fish and forest interactions and appropriate timber management, and designing and analyzing a monitoring program. Says Ford, “This preparation for real-life situations is a key component of the program; it adds tremendous value to the technical and disciplinary skills learned in the BS and MFR coursework.”

Susan Nawberry, new to the MFR program this year, did her undergraduate work in forestry and natural resources at the University of California, Berkeley. She says, "What attracted me to the MFR program was that it seemed a good fit for my experience in the workforce. By asking the student to solve complex forestry questions that have yet to be solved in private and public sectors, it pulls together work experience and coursework and shows the student how to use the two in upper level managerial positions."

SFR's Master of Forest Resources program is designed to integrate technical knowledge and skills with the policy and managment background needed for decision-making in the natural resources arena. Photo: Megan O'Shea.