Message from the Interim Director

Welcome to Autumn Quarter at the School of Forest Resources!  “Transitions and transformation” were the themes of my message to you last Spring, and it is no surprise that they continue to be relevant today.  Our rapidly changing world, characterized by burgeoning global connectedness and the increasing instability of the global economy’s financial underpinnings, highlights the growing importance of scientific discovery to meet the environmental and natural resource challenges of our time.  Fortunately, the stories I will touch on and that are contained in this issue of the newsletter are full of positive news that will provide a wonderful foundation for the School in the future and, pragmatically, for the continued search for a permanent SFR director. For details about the new search committee appointed by the Dean and about how you can provide input to the process, see our website at http://www.cfr.washington.edu/. Good news includes:

USDA Grant. In September the UW and partners, including WSU, were awarded a $40 million grant to research the development of biofuels from Pacific Northwest woody biomass; leading the project is SFR’s Professor Rick Gustafson.  This grant, in conjunction with a companion $40 million biofuels grant to WSU, which also has SFR collaboration, provides a remarkable foundation for our stature as a national player in cutting-edge bioresource science and engineering research.  You can read about the grant in a story in this newsletter, which also has links to press releases and media coverage.  We have long explored ways to take advantage of the region’s woody biomass, and now with Rick Gustafson’s remarkable leadership, the potential for producing biofuels from them is about to be realized. The newest member of our faculty, Dr. Fernando Resende, profiled in a story in this newsletter, arrived this September and will add his expertise in biofuels to the incredible project team. 

Two years ago, our Paper Science and Engineering program began a transformation into a broad bioresource science and engineering focus on the conversion of biomass to fuels and chemicals.  Key to its success has been the incredible legacy of donor support through the Denman Chair and Denman Professorship endowment, scholarships funded by the Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation; and a strong tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration in SFR. These collaborative grants have fostered even stronger relationships among all of the School's programs as well as with other UW units.  

Enrollment Increase.  At the beginning of our current three-year strategic plan, we set a goal for enrollment of at least 300 undergraduate students by Autumn 2011.  I’m happy to report that our official 10th day enrollment stands at 355 undergraduates and 167 graduate students, a total of 522.  This is the highest total enrollment for our school in several decades and is a testament to the transformation of both our undergraduate curricula, and to our recruitment of 15 outstanding new faculty during the last five years.

Strategic Planning Retreat.  Our annual strategic planning retreat was held on September 27th, with 70 students, faculty, and staff participating. A longstanding tradition in which all members of the community are equal partners in the process, the retreat provides an opportunity to develop goals and action items for the coming year. This year's retreat focused on developing strategic tasks related to transitions arising from new UW budget models and organizational structures. Nine tasks related to maintaining excellence in our research, teaching, and outreach were developed; you can view these at http://www.cfr.washington.edu/SFRPublic/documents/commPlanning/2011RetreatOutcomes.pdf.

All of this good news would not be possible without you.  All of us, faculty, staff, and students, extend our heartfelt thanks for your support and engagement. To consider a contribution to SFR scholarship and other funds, please visit the UW Foundation website.

On a personal note, my own research interests in transformative management of resources took me, Lauren Urgenson (PhD 2011), and Ziyu Ma (MS 2010) to China for ten days in September to remeasure plots in meadows found in Jiuzhaigou National Park in Sichuan Province.  We initially measured them in 2007, and then again in 2010, and are struggling to influence park management so that cultural, ecological, and recreational diversity associated with the park’s forests and meadows are honored and maintained.  Particularly, the more than 3,000 year old, human-formed meadows in the park will disappear if active management is not initiated.  From October 11th through November 12th, a sabbatical opportunity will take me to Nepal to learn about ecological changes occurring in the Southern Himalayas—stay tuned!

Tom Hinckley