Celebrating 25 Years — College of Natural Resources and Environment

Celebrating 25 Years — College of Natural Resources and Environment

November 26, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


There were two people trained in
forestry here in our faculty when I came here I was the third and I was able to
bring in some good students to show that faculty that we could bring in good
students and we were able to bring in additional faculty One of the first things
I told them was that look you’re coming in here it’s a brand new program
we’ve just gotten accredited and what you need to do from here on
is make me look good …and they did Timing was right. It was the beginning of
the environmental movement. Clean water, clean air and that was very important. Also you got to look at Dr. Hosner. He was a bold leader.
He was a mover, he was a shaker. He could convince anybody of almost anything. 25 years ago we had the
leadership and the vision to become an independent college at Virginia Tech
that gives us the decision-making ability over these many years to direct
our programs and our resources towards our natural resources and conservation
towards the portfolio of the College. In our field given that we are
very much long-term thinkers You have to have vision and you have to have leaders that
understand that vision. All the faculty certainly had a little bit
of an influence on me. I have real good memories of Shep and Dave Smith at
spring camp. Certainly very fond memories of Otis Hall. His caring nature when he
was my freshman advisor. Really took the time out to help me. Tech graduates are among the top in the
country in terms of where they work what they do and what they’ve accomplished I’m very proud of what our students have
done all in the United States and all over the world. They are leaders. We have passionate people who are passionate about the natural world and
our resources and conservation and without that we’re not the same program
and so I think that’s really what sets us apart. When the USA Today college
edition rankings came out three years ago we were number one and we’ve been
number one three years in a row and it’s a comprehensive ranking. Reflects on Virginia Tech, reflects on our
program, reflects on our students and the accomplishments. So we’re really really proud to be ranked
the number one program in the nation. I think one of the things that makes this place
particularly exceptional is the close working relationship between
the faculty and staff. We tend to function as friends and colleagues. There’s not the sense of competition
that you find in a lot of colleges. We really do support each other. Well I think one of the first things that
happened during my tenure as Dean was the movement of the Geography
Department into the college. The meteorology program was another
wonderful asset that we were able to create. To the faculty’s credit
they stepped up. The time that I left as Dean we were
second only to the College of Engineering in terms of actual research
grant amounts per faculty FTE. We had some good folks that
knew how to be successful because it had already
been successful. I have not found that our
students for the most part just come to college
to come to college. They’re coming to college because they want
to go out and work to protect these resources. What excites me the most about my
job is when the students leave here I see where they end up. Working for state or federal agencies or
nonprofits or as researchers in academic institutions. Because then you know that our goal here to send people out to conserve and protect natural resources is being multiplied and
that gives me hope. This summer I’m working on a local
property to conduct water quality and fish diversity studies. What this will do is serve
as a reference condition for future researchers in the
program to compare to. That will help tell them if
their stream restoration efforts are actually
making a difference. With the new understanding of how
important undergraduate research is I think that students will
have some very new unique research experiences in the
future to look forward to. I’ve already gotten experience working with
amphibians, birds, mammals, camera trapping, GIS. So it’s very involved. I think I’m getting a lot of useful
field techniques from this experience. I’m also going to publish a paper by the end of this so that’s very helpful. Nature has its own science and
it’s been a study of mine to figure out how to combine
nature and make it a business or make it sustainable
for the future. Currently I’m studying
sustainable biomaterials. I do a lot of research and things with
wooden products and trying to figure out ways to innovate it to
make it better for the future Through residential construction, through
energy solutions, through chemical solutions and trying to figure out how
we can use the best material on the planet to
better our society. For my future I wish to
always give back to the college that I graduated from with conversations
with the professors and people around me. They’ve always been passionate about
what they do and I want to be able to bring that passion
back to the college. Open up opportunities for
others behind me. Because you’re always representing
Virginia Tech after you receive that degree. So I would make sure I leave a good
footprint for others to follow. Every indication we have is that Virginia Tech College of Natural
Resources and Environment alums are succeeding in everything they do and
making a real difference in the world. I certainly wouldn’t be in the
position that I’m in today without the time
I spent at Virginia Tech. So because of that
I certainly feel a deep obligation to give back just a part of what
Virginia Tech has provided for me. Right now I actually support a scholarship
to help undergraduate students. I actually serve as the advisory board chairman right now. I’ve supported the
Wood Enterprise Institute. Was lucky enough to purchase
one of the tables. I think one of three tables
that were made. One of the reasons I choose
to do that too is to try to set an example for other alumni and for
other students that I may interact with to see that as, “Hey—maybe I should do that at some
point in my career when I’m able to do so.” Having philanthropy in
place to support some fellowships for graduate students and undergraduate
students allows the project to carry forward. Obviously by supporting
students you’re also supporting the what I think is the the true mission of the
college—to train students. Not everyone knows what you’re doing and
that we work to try to get the word out on our work. But you are working to protect these
resources for people today and into the future. I have two kids at home they—
they’re into the outdoors. Do they know the great diversity that’s out there?
Not quite yet. But if we don’t work
to protect that now then they’ll never have
the chance to know it themselves. Problems today are complex
and challenging They’re not just forestry problems. They’re problems of economics and of products for people and of social things and of geospatial things and of water. So we have made a very
intentional effort to broaden and diversify the college’s portfolio
these years from our traditional foundation
in forestry and wildlife. My eyes and I think the
college leadership eyes and the faculty and our staff are—
we’re looking to the future of the college and the things we
need to do and will do. We have just
really gotten started. So we’re right there with—
competing with the best of them from a very
very minor start. Last year, it was ranked number one in
the nation in Natural Resources. That didn’t
happen overnight. That would
develop over time. I see the the
leadership of today forging that forward
supporting students supporting what
they can do. Helping provide them with the
opportunities to serve their communities To be happy in what
they do to serve the resource. That’s what make
the world go round. Well if you stop to think about it we’ve
come a hell of a long way. [laughing] ♪♪