The Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources announced that its Department of Forestry has changed its name to the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation to better reflect the breadth and depth of the many natural resource programs offered.

“The past two decades have brought a variety of changes to both the practice and profession of forestry in Virginia, the United States, and the world,” explained Mike Kelly, dean of the college. These changes have paralleled and have been driven in part by the increasing demands for forest fiber, timber products, recreation amenities, wood-based fuel, clean water, biodiversity, and climate stabilization.

Forest industry and public land management agencies are restructuring and aligning their activities to improve forest sustainability. “This has made the need for leadership from Virginia Tech’s Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, the commonwealth’s flagship for forestry research, education, and outreach, greater than ever before,” elaborated Janaki Alavalapati, who became department head last fall.

In a puzzling dynamic, while the profession is undergoing change, undergraduate enrollments in forest resource programs across the country have been steady to declining. To address the growing need for natural resource managers and to reverse the trend, schools are realigning, renaming, modifying curriculum, and intensifying recruitment efforts.

“To position ourselves in creating the next generation of professionals and to better reflect and promote our activities, we are exploring a series of strategies,” said Alavalapati. “We are making our curriculum more flexible and have established partnerships with community colleges so that students can more easily transfer to our program. We are developing new majors and options and revising existing ones, as well as improving our marketing efforts, along with renaming the department.”

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