For the third year in a row, USA Today College has ranked Virginia Tech as the nation’s best for studying natural resources and conservation.

Paul Winistorfer, dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment, said, “We are pleased with this recognition of our programs, which reflects the high quality of our faculty, staff, and students, as well as the quality of Virginia Tech as an institution. We are committed to making a difference for our students and also in addressing the many global challenges we face in the management and use of our natural resources.”

“Our college has pushed very hard to continually evolve and diversify so that our programs align with the needs and problems facing the natural world,” he continued. “Our faculty and staff are the heart of this success, and I am so proud of all they do to make us relevant so we can bring good science to bear upon a sustainable Earth. Advancing the science of sustainability is what we are all about.”

USA Today College started ranking natural resources and conservation programs in 2015. No ranking organizations had previously done so because they traditionally focused on study areas offered by 80 or more colleges. There are only about 50 colleges across the United States with comprehensive natural resources programs.

According to USA Today, natural resources and conservation programs have become critical to solving many of the world’s pressing issues today, so the publication started evaluating the programs.

“The College of Natural Resources and Environment houses multiple departments that expose students to specializations in fish and wildlife conservation, forest resources and environmental conservation, sustainable biomaterials, and geography,” the report stated. “Due to exceptional education, affordable price, and high earnings boost, a degree from Virginia Tech is great choice for any student interested in this field.”

The Department of Geography’s offerings include a wide academic spread, from remote sensing and cultural geography to meteorology, with top career placements for the college’s graduates.

The rankings study also noted that the college “offers hands-on learning opportunities, which allow students to engage in the classroom, while developing analytical and innovative thinking.”

“Our research program, one of the most productive and prolific at Virginia Tech, provides excellent opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to be engaged in our discovery mission,” Winistorfer said. “Two of Virginia Tech’s top 10 academic departments for total research award dollars are in our college. The Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation and the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation are recognized North American leaders in research, graduate education, and experiential research opportunities for undergraduate students.”

Leading the way in developing an undergraduate degree in water, the college has seen good success for this first-of-its-kind program in North America. Water is one of the world’s most challenging issues, and the new water curriculum cuts across four other Virginia Tech colleges and 13 departments to address the complex problems in an interdisciplinary way. Every angle is looked at, from water science to law, economics, management, and the social sciences.

The college’s degree in packaging systems and design in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials has been one of the fastest-growing new majors on campus and was recently ranked seventh out of the top 20 packaging programs in the United States by Value Colleges. Graduates find many good-paying opportunities in the global packaging sector, which by several measures is the third largest sector on the planet. The green building systems course is teaching students to solve real-world crises; their project this year was designing sustainable housing for refugees in the Middle East.

Recognized globally, the college has a robust international program with study courses, service learning, and undergraduate research on all continents. It has partnerships with institutions all around the world.

 “We strive to develop students so that they have depth of knowledge in an area of study, complemented by a breadth in collaborating across disciplines to problem solve with a commitment to service,” Winistorfer pointed out. “Our students come to us expecting excellence and a mentoring atmosphere so they can go out into careers making a difference.”

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