The Forestry Source - April 2011 - (Page 9)
SAF Faculty Representatives: An In-Depth Look
Talking with Mississippi State University’s Robert Grala and Andrew Ezell
By Joseph M. Smith AF faculty representatives (or faculty advisers) are busy individuals. Not only do they have their own careers but, as the supervisors of SAF student chapters, they are expected to be present at student chapter events or activities, assist with the orientation of newly elected student officers and facilitate the transition between new and old officers, serve as mediators during organizational crises, and make sure their chapter is achieving its goals. However, if you talk to a faculty representative about the demands of the “job,” you’ll soon learn how the duties mentioned above are just the beginning. Successful faculty representatives are more than mere advisers, they’re mentors, who care deeply about the students under their tutelage and want to see them succeed. In the coming months, The Forestry Source will conduct a series of interviews with SAF faculty representatives at colleges and universities across the country to find out more about what the job entails and how those who’ve voluntarily accepted the re-
sponsibility of the position work to meet the needs of SAF’s student members. For our April issue, I spoke with the faculty representatives for the active and award-winning SAF student chapter at Mississippi State University—Andrew Ezell and Robert Grala. Ezell is department head in the university’s College of Forest Resources, and Grala is an assistant professor. Both have served in the role of faculty representative for the past two years. Before coming to Mississippi State, Ezell served as SAF faculty representative for six years at Texas A&M. What does the job of SAF faculty representative entail, and what are its most enjoyable and challenging aspects? Ezell: Obviously, we have regular meetings, and there is a component of planning involved in all of them. We try to help the student chapter plan a program, get and confirm interesting speakers, and have all of the other details worked out—the sorts of things that most undergraduates are not inherently going to think about. We also help them plan some of their activities away from campus, fund-raising activities, and literally sometimes become participants by just going out and being in the middle of it. For example, if they’re maintaining a food booth and cooking the hamburgers and hotdogs or serving drinks at events like our biannual forestry equipment day where we literally have thousands of people, we may be the ones at the grill or filling the drink box alongside the students. The biggest thing that you notice when you work with students over time is that there is such a continual turnover that maintaining institutional memory is a challenge. There is not necessarily anything that is automatically built in that tells the new set of officers what the previous officers were doing. There is some carryover, but it is not complete. Grala: I enjoy the interaction with students, helping them see that the forestry profession is an interesting field, and I really like watching our students succeed and providing them with a way to show their enthusiasm for the profession. I like seeing that they enjoy what they do, for example, when they come to meetings or when they’re in the field. In terms of the challenges, time is perhaps the biggest one in that we have to compete with the other things that the students have to do, especially in regard to their other schoolwork. This can be a problem when it comes to organizing activities and making sure everything runs smoothly. When it comes to advising, what kinds of questions do the students ask? Ezell: Obviously, you’re going to get a great deal of questions about chapter activities—what is it we’re trying to do or trying to get ready for? Typically, the more questions they ask the better. That just means they’re trying to cross all their T’s, dot their I’s, and be totally prepared. Students also come and ask questions about careers, especially when we have informational programs at the meetings. Finally, the last thing you will see the more you become involved with it, and the more comfortable the students become with you as a faculty member, is that they will ask you questions that they might not ask in the classroom: personal, career-oriented types of questions, things that they should be considering, and that’s good. We like to think that we are close to our undergraduates and our graduate students, but especially our undergraduates in that this is a place where they can ask different questions and get direction. Grala: We get a wide rage range of ques-
The SAF student chapter at Mississippi State University is among the most active and awardwinning. In this photo, chapter members staff the grills at the 2010 Mid-South Forestry Equipment Show to raise funds for such expenses as travel.
tions. Very often students ask about professional development, such as how they can go about getting a particular job, and we refer them to the SAF website or to contacts we have, and this, of course, helps them to see how SAF is important. Students also come and ask questions about coursework and which classes will help them succeed, so we give advice about that, about scholarships and so forth, and we try to help them as best we can. When students come to you with those open-ended, career-oriented questions, what kind of answers do you give, for I would imagine that, as an adviser, you may want the students to try to figure some things out for themselves? Ezell: Quite often, those questions indicate a lack of insight into a process or the potential for careers, and we feel that it’s our job to try to fill in that gap and explain to them what some of the possibilities may be. After that, it’s certainly up to the individuals, as they are the ones who are going to have to follow up on it. But we do offer insight and assistance. Sometimes, the question may be how to get a job with this organization or that organization, and, of course, the faculty are better equipped to provide the answers, such as this is where you go to find the application, this is the process, and so on. Sometimes, the faculty will have contacts within the hiring organization or industry and be able to advise the individual on who to talk to, so as opposed to just answering questions, a faculty adviser can also facilitate information gathering. So it sounds like folks in the position of faculty representative typically go beyond the role of adviser and assume the role of mentor…. Ezell: With some students, yes, but certainly not with every student—that is part of the faculty representative’s role. We try to provide information and an example for these young folks. Grala: It’s very interactive and more like a mentor-mentee relationship. It might work differently with different students, but we try to do it that way, because it helps to foster the SAF tradition on campus and helps me gain students’ trust and, ultimately, increases their enthusiasm for what we do in the SAF student chapter. Do you talk to students about maintaining their membership in SAF?
(“Faculty” continues on page 11)
An Indirect Route to Success: One UM Student’s Story
By Beth Hammock ine years ago, John Steelman dropped out of high school. In May, the North Carolina native anticipates graduating from the University of Montana (UM) with high honors. Steelman’s studies in forestry have led him to focus on one of the most pressing problems of our time. “Hydrology is going to be one of the most important issues in the next 100 years, especially in arid areas where we have over-tapped our resources,” Steelman said. Steelman followed a meandering path to UM, attending four different high schools. “I moved away from home at the end of my junior year of high school and tried to complete my last year while living with a bandmate. I dropped out in January of 2002. Shortly afterward, I started cooking for a living,” Steelman recalls. He later earned his GED. A love of the outdoors led him to hike most of the Appalachian Trail and the John Muir Trail. Then he was off to Ecuador and Peru, where he studied Spanish for a month. He soon set out backpacking through Central America and Mexico. “When I finished the backpacking, I was 23 and decided I needed to go to school,” Steelman said. “I found Missoula had what I was looking for in outdoor opportunities and education. I moved here and cooked in restaurants for a year, then applied to UM.” Steelman was accepted to UM on a probationary status, and he worked hard at both his studies and his restaurant jobs. “I worked my fingers to the bone the first couple years,” he said. “I didn’t have that many scholarship offers. You have to prove yourself. I’ve gotten many more scholarships this year. I have a little more time for me, which is really nice.”
John Steelman uses a clinometer to measure the height of a tree in the University of Montana’s Lubrecht Experimental Forest. Steelman and his classmates volunteered their time to identify and mark for removal trees damaged by pine beetles.
Steelman spends part of his time with the UM SAF student chapter, and he traveled to the Society’s past two national conventions in Orlando, Florida, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. He credits his association with the Society for expanding his horizons and shaping his interest in research and sharing knowledge. When he graduates in May, he plans to work for a couple of years, then head to graduate school. Steelman says he learned many valuable lessons at UM. He’s more confident in the natural environment. He has more balance in his life, and he has a deeper understanding of the impact of generosity. “As a hiker, I hitchhiked at times and depended on other people to help me,” Steelman says. “People who provided scholarships for me did something similar. I think it’s fantastic. I definitely will pay it forward.” Hammock is vice-president of strategic communications and marketing for the University of Montana Foundation. This article originally appeared in The Montanan, a publication of the University of Montana–Missoula. It appears here with the editor’s permission.
The Forestry Source
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Forestry Source - April 2011
The Forestry Source - April 2011
Washington Saf Tour Highlights Challenges, Impacts of Root Disease
SAF Faculty Representatives: An In-depth Look
Can Any Recent Trends Involving Drought Severity and Bark Beetles Be Attributed to Tree Mortality in California?
Science and Tech
Field Tech: Mobilemapper 100 Offers High Gps Accuracy, Rugged Hardware
Continuing Ed. Calendar
The Forestry Source - April 2011