Time of change, opportunity for UMaine forestry school
By Stephen Shaler, Director of the School of Forest Resources
It is a time of excitement, change, and opportunity at the School of Forest Resources (SFR). Our undergraduate enrollment is up 30 percent over the past two years with an increasing percentage of our students (70 percent of first-year students) being from outside the state of Maine. (See presentation)
In late spring, the University of Maine (Orono) identified seven Signature Areas, which were chosen for their strengths in research and education and will feature prominently in UMaine’s planning for the future. Forestry and the Environment is one of the seven selected areas.
Concurrently, the University of Maine System is facing budget challenges and changes are occurring at all of the system campuses. In addition, five out of 20 faculty in SFR are retiring in the next 12 months, with anticipated additional significant faculty turnover in the next five years.
We have recently learned that we will be able to replace faculty positions in areas of Forest Operations and Forest, Conservation and Recreation Policy. In addition, a new position in Forest Landscape Habitat and Wildlife Management will be filled. This will be a joint position with SFR and the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology.
The confluence of these events presents the opportunity to evaluate faculty hires within the context of changes in education, stakeholder needs, and research trends over the next ten to 20 years.
The School of Forest Resources is requesting input from all Maine Forest Products Council members with respect to educational and research capacity. Is increased emphasis on business and economics necessary? Is an extension-like forest products manufacturing (lean manufacturing, process monitoring) outreach needed? Increased capacity in GIS/LiDAR/remote sensing/spatial mapping?
Do we need hire professional employee’s with dedicated time for professional development, communications, development, and/or outreach? What about distance education, regional coordination of skills and information, synergies with the Fort Kent program?