Message from the Interim Director

The year 2012 continues as a year of change, renewal, and promise for our School. 

Our new name, the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, communicates the breadth and diversity of our education, sponsored research, and public engagement.  The name change was the result of a long and thoughtful process in which we discussed options among ourselves and solicited input from the wider community.  The change was not made lightly, and consideration of the challenges and opportunities involved was intense.  We chose a name that honors our long legacy of innovation and leadership and looks ahead toward continued stewardship of natural resources and the environment for future generations.  It does not repudiate the past, but builds on our historical and current strengths and best enables us to move into the future.  For a view of the various names and administrative structures of our school throughout its 105 year history, within the context of forestry education in the U.S., see thestory in this newsletter.

Upcoming changes this year include more faculty retirements, including my own at the end of June.  We will continue to honor all those who have served on our faculty and to recognize their legacy.  The David Briggs Endowed Student Support Fund in Forest Management honors Professor Emeritus David Briggs, who retired in December; we are pleased to announce that the fund has been fully endowed through the generosity of alumni and friends.  As faculty retire, our ranks have been renewed by the new cohort of 15 faculty hired over the past five years.  These new colleagues are making impressive contributions to our research and education programs.  Throughout this quarter, a search committee charged with developing a slate of candidates for permanent SEFS Director has worked diligently to bring four highly qualified candidates for campus visits in Spring.  You can read about these upcoming visits, and how you can participate, in the School News section of this newsletter.

Signs of renewal and promise include our enrollment growth; for Winter Quarter 2012 our total enrollment is 550—the highest in two decades—and our expansion into cutting edge research initiatives like biofuels (see article in Fall 2011 newsletter, precision forestry tools, and restoration forestry.  Our connections with tribal natural resources programs continue to expand; most recently the Future Forestry Leaders Graduate Research Symposium, co-sponsored by SEFS and UBC, included presentations by students from both institutions on First Nations and tribal forestry, as well as a field trip to the Squamish Nation in North Vancouver, BC.  We have also renewed our scholarship agreement with the Intertribal Timber Council.

Amid change much remains constant.  Our graduates continue to become leaders in environmental and natural resource fields around the world. The knowledgeable management of these resources for products and environmental services is vital to political, social, and economic decisions made every day by leaders and citizens and is a key element in our state and regional economy. This newsletter features some of these SEFS alumni from past and recent decades who are making a contribution to the health of our planet, whether as Chief Scientist for the World Wildlife Fund, as a forester for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Colville Agency, or as an environmental educator whose path has taken him from the UW’s Brockman tree tour to the forests of India.

Another constant has been our strong commitment to public engagement. In this newsletter you will see calendar items about upcoming events, including the Plant Biodiversity Conference at the UW Botanic Gardens and the Denman Forestry Issues Series on forests and carbon.   Both events will include SEFS faculty, staff, and students contributing to an exploration of challenges that face us all.  Global engagement, as well, has long been strength of our school.  Recently, Professor Susan Bolton was a member of a UW team winning an award from SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design) for helping to design a sustainable green space for an impoverished neighborhood in Lima, Peru. Bolton and SEFS faculty Soo Kim and Josh Lawler are also participating in a joint College of the Environment–Department of Global Health venture to develop capacity at the interface between human and environmental well-being.

Change, renewal, and promise cannot happen without your support and we thank you for your continued engagement with our faculty, our students, and our programs.


Tom Hinckley