Las Vegas, N.M. – The U.S. Forest Service hired three Highlands University forestry majors on the spot at the Society of American Foresters National Convention.
Fifteen Highlands University forestry students participated in the convention Nov. 2-5 in Madison, Wisconsin.
“There’s a very high demand nationwide for forestry and natural resource graduates,” said Highlands forestry professor Craig Conley. “This conference really expanded our forestry students’ understanding of career options in their field.”
Conley, who accompanied his students to the conference, said they also learned about the latest state-of-the-art forest management practices within the context of climate change.
“Foresters nationwide are observing and measuring the changes in our forest lands related to climate change such as tree die-offs and severe fires,” Conley said.
Highlands is the only accredited forestry program in New Mexico, with the Society of American Foresters granting accreditation in 2013.
Rachael Fredback, who is on track to graduate in December 2016 with her B.S. in forestry, was one of the Highlands students who landed a job with the U.S. Forest Service at the convention.
“I’ll be based in Ft. Collins, Colorado, as part of the Region 2 traveling crew of foresters who paint trees that need to be harvested primarily to thin for forest health or to rid the forests of diseased trees from bark beetle kill,” Fredback said. “The conference was a valuable learning experience, but the overall big win for me was getting hired for a career position with the U.S. Forest Service.”
To date, Fredback’s GPA is 3.78 and she has earned dean’s list honors every semester at Highlands. Even armed with these grades and a U.S. Forest Service internship experience Conley helped her obtain, Fredback said the job interview at the convention was intimidating.
“It was my first real interview and it was very scary. Dr. Conley coached me to be confident and gave me helpful advice on how to have a successful interview,” Fredback said.
Fredback said one of the things the Forest Service interviewers were interested in is her leadership as a supplemental instruction leader in Highlands’ Achieving in Research Math and Science Center (ARMAS) for Quantitative Methods and Geology 101 courses.
Fredback said she wasn’t originally a forestry major.
“When I took my first class with Dr. Conley I fell in love with forestry and found my calling. Forestry meshes with my passion for the outdoors, and my desire to help the environment and people,” Fredback said.
She said at Highlands there’s a strong sense of being connected with other students and faculty.
“Being so far from home, it’s very comforting to be among people who really care,” said the 20-year-old from Yelm, Washington.
At the convention, Highlands University forestry students Destiny Romero and Jon Woerheide were hired for the U.S. Forest Service Pathways program, which begins with paid internships and leads to full-time career positions upon graduation.
“Every time we take our students to a big national conference like this Society of American Foresters convention they find out that they can compete with forestry students from anywhere in the country, including the ones from big-name forestry schools like Yale and the University of Washington. I fully expect the other students to be hired for career positions and paid internships by the end of spring semester 2017,” Conley said.
He said students in Highlands’ Forestry Club worked hard to fundraise to attend the convention.