To strengthen the college’s student community and enhance post-graduation success, SFA’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture will unveil new additions to the forestry program and college website during the Fall 2015 semester.
Careers and Competencies in Forestry, previously known as Introduction to Forestry, serves as the foundational course through which students pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Forestry begin their exploration of the discipline. It is also the class in which students meet peers they will spend the next four years working alongside in the field and in the classroom. To improve students’ technical and personal development, the course will now involve a weekend of skill and camaraderie-building activities known as Root Camp.
“The primary goal is to help build a community within the student body, while also providing them with the skills they will need in future classes,” said Dr. Shelby Laird, assistant professor of forestry.
In 2013, the college completed a comprehensive, research-based curriculum assessment and revision to ensure the forestry program continues to effectively produce natural resource professionals capable of successfully meeting the demands of the evolving field. Laird said that Root Camp will serve to strengthen key competencies emphasized by the research, such as interpersonal communication skills, the ability to work as a cohesive team and the development of leadership qualities.
During the camp, held the weekend of September 11, key technical skills, including how to navigate with a compass and take forest stand measurements, will be incorporated into activities conducted around the SFA campus. Laird said this will familiarize the class, primarily composed of freshmen and transfer students, with portions of campus they otherwise might not see within their first few weeks at SFA, such as the SFA Recreation Trails and Gardens and Pineywoods Native Plant Center.
Furthermore, students also will be introduced to and interact with upperclassmen appointed to the college’s newly-created mentoring program. The mentorship program, coordinated by the college’s academic advisors Jamie Bouldin and Maxwell Holmes, will employ outstanding students within the college to provide guidance to peers who may be struggling with demanding courses.
Bouldin said the program is modeled after SFA’s Academic Assistance and Resource Center, or AARC, but is tailored for students in the forestry and environmental science program due to the specific course content and scientific writing style used in the college.
Much like the AARC, the college’s mentors will staff walk-in tables in the Forestry Building to provide students with assistance in courses not included in the AARC’s Supplemental Instruction programs that traditionally help SFA students with historically difficult courses. Holmes said that because the mentors will have completed the same coursework as the students they are advising, they also will be able to provide them with advice as to how to best distribute the workload of courses throughout their time in the program.
“It’s not meant to replace the advice of the advisors or faculty, but we feel like it will be good for them to talk to peers who have been there and gotten through it (the coursework) successfully so they can model that behavior,” Bouldin said.
Holmes added that the mentors aren’t solely relegated to doling out curriculum-based advice. In fact, both advisors agree that ideally the mentors also will assist new students in assimilating to their new college community by providing simple yet valuable advice, such as restaurant recommendations and the location of popular student hangouts.
Bouldin and Holmes also are developing a new online job and academic advising board that will serve prospective and current students, as well as alumni.
Once the webpage is complete, anyone can access information on agriculture, environmental science and forest-industry related job trends, as well as current job opportunities. Students can also schedule advising appointments and interviews with visiting company recruiters. Furthermore, the page will feature degree plans, course rotations and four-year calendars to help students plan for upcoming semesters.
“Essentially, we want to make all the advising materials we have available more accessible and user friendly,” Holmes said.
The webpage, available through a link on the college’s homepage, will also include links to university resources such as housing and financial aide.
“We’re not just here to get you a degree,” Holmes said. “We’re here to give you support and resources and connections.”
Visit the college’s new advising site at http://www.sfasu.edu/atcofaadvising/.