Virginia Tech's Board of Visitors approved at its recent meeting re-naming the College of Natural Resources as the College of Natural Resources and Environment.

"The new name will more accurately reflect our broad-based programs and increasing focus on sustainability initiatives to effectively prepare our graduates for today's challenges in managing the environment," Paul Winistorfer, dean of the college, explained. The college’s programs are ranked among the top three in North America by its peer institutions.

"The college has a long and rich history of exceptional contributions to our campus and noted national leadership in the arena of natural resources," said Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger. “The new name will give Virginia Tech a stronger position in natural resources and the environment and will bring awareness to the many faculty, departments, and colleges at Virginia Tech working on environmental issues. Renaming the college will help create synergies for the campus among our existing programs and will magnify the contributions of the entire campus, our faculty, and students to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world."

The name change, which went through the university's governance system, takes effect immediately.

"The new name signifies the depth of our interdisciplinary research, which is a model for today’s complex problems. Many of our faculty work extensively on large-scale ecological systems, both aquatic and terrestrial, and bring critical thinking to today's multi-faceted environmental problems," Winistorfer said.

"Our new name also sets the stage for additional collaboration with campus colleagues on these issues. The college already partners with faculty in many other departments and colleges on campus, as well as with major initiatives such as Virginia Tech's Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. We hope that our name change will help propel Virginia Tech forward as a leading institution addressing the challenging problems facing our natural environment and the sustainable use of resources."

Winistorfer is working on several sustainability initiatives with his faculty. The college plans to offer a new degree program in sustainable natural resources and environments beginning in fall 2011. Earlier this month the college announced the start of an Executive Master of Natural Resources program in the National Capital Region, which focuses on leadership for sustainability. An undergraduate Leadership Institute, also centered on sustainability, commences this fall with a cohort of the college's students.

Additionally, the college is driving a major sustainability initiative in the New River Valley that could serve as a model for land use, rural economic sustainability, and conservation of natural resources. Other initiatives, such as a meteorology degree program, an outreach center focused on sustainable natural resources, and a forest carbon center, are in the planning stages and will be announced once they are finalized. The college seeks to endow a chair of excellence in sustainable natural resources and the environment.

The forestry department was re-named the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation last year to reflect the breadth of faculty expertise, degree options, and the role of forest ecosystems in the global environment. A new degree option in that department titled environmental resource management was approved this year. Other departments in the college include fisheries and wildlife sciences, geography, and wood science and forest products. The college is also home to the Virginia Water Resources Research Center and the Conservation Management Institute.

"Our college vision," Winistorfer elaborated, "is to change with these dynamic times and stay abreast of the shifting paradigm, so our students leave with the knowledge base and skills to lead the way on issues pertaining to natural resources and the environment. Our goal is to graduate students who can and will change the world. They will be able to write the next chapter. As Virginia Tech's branding statement says, they will 'Invent the Future.'"

The college's first programs in forestry and wildlife started in the 1930s. The Virginia Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit began in 1935, and the Department of Forestry and Wildlife was made a unit of the College of Agriculture in 1959. In 1974 the Department of Forestry and Forest Products and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences were formed. By 1975, a School of Forestry and Wildlife Resources was established, which became the College of Forestry and Wildlife Resources in 1992, changing to the College of Natural Resources in 2000.

"We have deep roots in forestry, fisheries, wildlife, geography, wood science, and water," noted Winistorfer, "and it is our leading national position that gives us security to change for the future and be of greatest value to society. It is legitimate for us to aspire to a greater outcome. The world is changing and so is the College of Natural Resources and Environment."

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