In today’s tough economic environment, students in forestry-related majors in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment have the advantage of a swell of financial support from the Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation, which has been providing scholarships and other funding for four decades.

In recent years, the foundation has been giving some $60,000 in scholarships to students in the college’s Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation and Department of Sustainable Biomaterials. Next year the figure will increase to $70,500. The Virginia Tech Foundation manages the funds, which are administered by the college’s Academic Programs Office.

An additional $42,000 will be allocated to forestry and youth educational programs across the state.

“We are experiencing a much-needed boom in scholarships,” said Janaki Alavalapati, head of the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation. “Our students are passionate about sustainability and the future of our planet. We’re grateful to the Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation for the opportunity to help fund their education.”

Virginia Tech alumnus John Farmer, who received his forestry degree in 1953, has long served as the foundation’s president. “We’re happy to make an increasingly meaningful contribution to forestry education at Virginia Tech, and we work hard to raise the funds to do so,” he said.

The foundation is also a major funder of Project Learning Tree, a national environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation that can be adapted for audiences from preschool to grade 12. Virginia Tech students help teach Project Learning Tree classes in public schools across the state.

Fourteen students in the College of Natural Resources and Environment received foundation scholarships, which are applied directly to tuition, for the 2013-14 academic year. Named scholarships include the following:

  • William and Mable Stuermann Scholarships
  • Victor W. Stewart Scholarships
  • Georgia-Pacific Scholarship
  • Mable Stuermann Scholarship
  • Morgan Lumber Company Scholarship
  • John F. Hosner Scholarship
  • John D. Farmer Scholarship

“The Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation scholarships are a significant contribution to the total scholarship funds available to our students,” said Dean Stauffer, the college’s associate dean of academic programs. “All scholarships are valuable and appreciated.”

“The William and Mable Stuermann Scholarships are particularly important to those students who receive them, as they are first available to rising sophomores, who can continue to receive them as juniors and seniors as long as grade requirements are met.”

William and Mable Stuermann Scholarship recipient Daniel Goldeen of Charlottesville, Va., a senior majoring in forest resources management, spent six months at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, which has a forestry exchange program. “The country is amazing,” said Goldeen. “I focused on procurement forestry, learning how plantation forestry works.” He plans to pursue graduate studies in disturbed land restoration.

Philip Beethoven-Wilson of Mechanicsville, Va., originally majored in business, but says a Nature and American Values course made him realize how much he enjoyed working with nature. Now a senior majoring in urban forestry and landscape contracting, the fellow Stuermann scholarship recipient learned the art of time management as he balanced a heavy course load with playing on Virginia Tech’s ice hockey team and other outside activities.

Another student who switched majors was senior Paul Decker of Gainesville, Fla., who is now double majoring in natural resources conservation and environmental resources management. Decker says he initially considered becoming a high school earth science teacher, but his interest shifted to water resources.

“I’m interested in the biology and ecology of wetlands,” said Decker, who received a Victor W. Stewart Scholarship. He says he wants to help manage water quality.

Morgan Lumber Company Scholarship recipient Paige McKinley of Hendersonville, N.C., a senior wood science and forest products major, studied in Western Australia for a semester. McKinley had originally thought of studying architecture, but “discovered the wood science program, which intrigued me,” she said.

“I love the program so much,” McKinley continued. “It’s a mixture of all the things I am passionate about.” She is already being recruited by a number of firms for a career in sustainable biomaterials and engineered wood products.

“Funding forestry’s future is the reason we award scholarships to students in the various disciplines,” Farmer explained. “They go on to ensure that forests are sustainably managed, which provides the base for a strong forest products industry and ensures the continuation of the many ecosystem services forests provide. Forestry is a huge economic engine for the state as well as the country.”

Those interested in learning more about the educational objectives of the Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation or receiving a 2013 annual report can email John Farmer or call 804-754-0205.

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