Virginia Tech First to Receive Specialized Urban Forestry Accreditation
Virginia Tech’s Urban Forestry program is the first in the nation to receive the Society of American Foresters’ Specialized Accreditation. Urban forestry faculty Drs. Eric Wiseman and Susan Day have constructed a new interdisciplinary curriculum for undergraduates, working closely with other forestry faculty, the department advisory board, and coordinating with departments in the college and across campus. During the past year, the new curriculum has been under review by both the SAF and the university. At their annual meeting in Reno, Nevada last month, the SAF granted the curriculum Specialized Accreditation in Urban Forestry, making it the first in the nation to receive the new accreditation, developed by the SAF in 2007.
The curriculum has been approved by the department and college curriculum committees and is under final review at the university level.
Dr. Keith Blatner, Chair of the SAF Committee on Accreditation noted, “Virginia Tech’s new option in Urban Forestry is well designed and was a pleasure to review. Virginia Tech is commended for its leadership in this area.”
The new curriculum offers students the core fundamentals of urban forestry biology, practice, management, and policy, while allowing students to build their own career path by supplementing the core with a suite of restricted electives in each of eight areas: advanced forestry and environmental science; applied horticulture; finance and business; geospatial analysis; pest management; policy, law, and planning; supplemental plant identification and genetics; and written and verbal communication. Current students will be able to transfer into the new curriculum immediately if they wish or may continue to complete the old curriculum through 2010.
According to program director Dr. Eric Wiseman, “There are so many stakeholders in urban natural resource management that urban forestry is, by its very nature, an interdisciplinary profession. We wanted students to be ready for that yet still have a rock-solid urban forestry education. That’s why we broke the study of urban forestry down to its essentials, and then built an interdisciplinary curriculum around this core that will really prepare students for careers in urban areas.”
“We are dedicated to keeping our undergraduate program on the cutting edge of urban forestry education,” added urban forestry faculty Dr. Susan Day. “By pursuing an interdisciplinary approach and maintaining an active graduate research program, we plan to keep bringing Virginia Tech students the best that urban forestry science and practice has to offer.”
Urban forestry has been taught in the department for over 30 years. Dr. David Wm. Smith (now Emeritus faculty of the department, and former Dean and SAF President) first developed an urban forestry class as a special study in 1976 based on his experiences with the then new concept of environmentally sound planned communities such as those that became the Brandermill and Woodlake Developments around Swift Creek Reservoir in Chesterfield County; adjacent to Richmond.
Urban Forestry (now FOR 3354, Urban Forestry & Arboriculture) was added to the course catalog in 1979. In 1989, Dr. Peter Feret took over the class until his sudden death in early 1993. Dr. Smith resumed teaching urban forestry and, under his leadership, the department offered an Urban Forestry option for undergraduate students majoring in Forestry in 1999. This option was closely based on the Forest Resource Management option with additional courses in urban forestry and was accredited along with the other forestry options by SAF.
In 2002, the department hired its first faculty member dedicated to urban forestry instruction and research, Dr. Brian Kane (now at the University of Massachusetts). A second undergraduate course in urban forestry (senior capstone) was added to the curriculum in 2004. In 2005, Dr. Eric Wiseman was hired as a new faculty member to lead the program. In 2008, Dr. Susan Day was also hired with a joint appointment in the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Currently the program has 10 undergraduate students and 8 graduate students. To learn more about the undergraduate program or current research, visit the department website (frec.vt.edu/) or the Urban Forestry Gateway (www.cnr.vt.edu/urbanforestry).