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Forestry Program First to be Accredited in New Mexico
1/16/2014

Las Vegas, N.M. – The Highlands University Department of Natural Resources Management’s Forestry Program received official accreditation from the Society of American Foresters, making it the first university in the state to offer an accredited forestry degree.

Highlands is also now the only Hispanic Serving Institution in the country to be SAF accredited.  The Council on Higher Education recognizes SAF as the accrediting body for forestry programs.

The Highlands bachelor’s degree in forestry offers concentrations in forest management and wildland fire, as well as minors in environmental science and geographic information systems.

The forestry accreditation is effective through Dec. 31, 2018.

David Newman chaired the Society of American Foresters accreditation review team that conducted the site visit to Highlands in April 2013 to evaluate the university’s forestry program.

“The review team was very impressed with the enthusiastic and committed forestry faculty at Highlands,” said Newman, who is a professor and chair of the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management at State University of New York – Syracuse. “Highlands also has great facilities for its forestry students, who are well trained to enter the profession. These graduates are in demand and are helping meet a real need for foresters in the southwest.”  

Newman added that forest managers he talked with commended Highlands for the high quality of its forestry graduates.

Newman said the Highlands forestry program is unique because it serves an underrepresented population of Hispanic and Native American students.

David Hacker joined the forestry faculty at Highlands in 1994 and has served as chair of the Department of Natural Resources Management. He helped direct the forestry accreditation process, including the self-study report.

“This Society of Professional Foresters accreditation gives a stamp of approval that our program is on par with leading forestry programs in the country, from Oregon State University to the University of Maine,” Hacker said. “If you want to be a certified forester you must graduate from an SAF-accredited program. Some state forestry agencies require a forester to be certified.”

In addition to Hacker, the primary forestry faculty includes professors Sara Brown and Craig Conley, with professor Edward Martinez also teaching courses in the curriculum.

“These faculty are extremely dedicated to student achievement and are highly regarded by their academic peers throughout the country. They were instrumental in Highlands receiving this prestigious accreditation honor. The forestry faculty provide unique opportunities for hands-on classroom learning and fieldwork in nearby forests,” Hacker said.

He added that geology professors Michael Petronis and Jennifer Lindline also teach in the forestry curriculum, providing important viewpoints of managing natural resources. The university’s new geospatial lab that Joe Zebrowski directs gives students training with the latest technology used in the forestry field.

The growing forestry program has a strong track record of its graduates landing positions in their field.

“We’re approaching 100 percent professional job placement with our forestry graduates, and employers are very pleased with them. We’re proud of our students’ success,” Hacker said.

He added that the forestry program also provides strong preparation for graduate studies, including the master’s degree in Natural Resources Management that Highlands offers.

Some highlights from the Society of American Foresters accreditation report for Highlands include:

Small classes and the camaraderie among faculty and students foster an active learning environment.

The faculty shows genuine interest in teaching and student success.

There is excellent fieldwork exposure in the program early in the student’s academic career. The proximity of outdoor laboratories is an added benefit.

The department has entered into numerous partnerships with a variety of forestry and natural resource management organizations to provide scholarship, internship and post-graduation employment opportunities.



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