COLLEGE STATION – The forestry program within Texas A&M University’s ecosystem science and management department is getting a closer look – one that should help graduates find jobs, according to Dr. Jianbang Gan, a professor in forest management and economics.
Gan, who is serving as the department’s accreditation committee chair, and his colleagues have spent the past several months working with the Society of American Foresters to review and renew the Texas A&M accreditation that was first given in 1975. It was last renewed in 2003, he said.
The process includes the preparation of a self-evaluation report of the program based on six of the society’s standards, including the mission, curriculum, organization and administration, faculty, students and parent institution support.
A Society of American Foresters national team will then come in late March to conduct an onsite review, spending time with administrators, faculty, students and employers of former students, Gan said.
“They will want to look at our past achievements, current status and future plans for the next 10 years according to the six standards,” he said. “They will write up a report and make a recommendation to the SAF that will make the final decision by the end of 2013.”
Gan said going through this process puts the Texas A&M program on track with other major forestry schools in the nation and makes sure the program stays updated and competitive, adding “one of the benefits is for our students, ensuring they receive the best education and helping them find a good job upon graduation.”
He said accreditation requires the program have a minimum of eight full-time positions and offer a minimum curriculum.
Gan said he’s proud of the program.
“During the last several years, even at the time of economic recession, everybody who has graduated from our program has found an immediate job,” he said. “Our graduates are in high demand. They go into government agencies and conservation organizations, as well as the private sector, including Fortune 500 companies such as Weyerhaeuser.”
Recently, Gan said, the department has had companies calling looking for graduates, because more organizations like Hancock Natural Resource Group are interested in forestry graduates. These organizations manage timberlands for institutional investors, including some of the largest retirement funds in the country.
Additionally, domestic and global markets for ecosystem services and bioenergy have emerged, providing promising opportunities for forestry and forestry professionals, he said.
The generosity of alumni, friends and the industry has also enabled the Texas A&M forestry program to offer a significant amount of scholarships to its students each year, Gan said.
“We have seen a lot of change in our industry and profession in the past few years, so it definitely is time to take a look at our program,” Gan said.