SFI Annual Conference Student Participants — As Diverse as the World’s Forests

Student_Blog_Group_ShotEvery year the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) annual conference brings together a cross section of conservation, academic and industry leaders united in a common goal: ensuring a future with healthy and vibrant forests. This year’s conference proved to be no different.

Record-breaking attendance showed the great diversity of partnerships SFI has developed over the last two decades. One of SFI’s greatest strengths is that our community continues to grow and diversify. One great initiative that perpetuates this momentum is the SFI Annual Conference Student Scholarship program.

Since 2010, SFI has offered scholarship opportunities for forestry and natural resource students to attend our conference. This is an excellent chance for outstanding scholars to learn about the important work our community is engaged in and to build lasting professional relationships. It also offers something great in return: the chance for the SFI community to meet the changing face of forestry.

There is a lot of buzz around the need to increase work-force diversity and foster a space where plurality of thought leads to innovative sustainability solutions. This year’s students’ embodied this diversity and spirit of innovation. They were male and female with wide ethnic diversity and a fantastic range of studies to ensure future forests for tomorrow.

Sponsor_StudentThis year’s student scholarship program saw incredibly generous support by Weyerhaeuser, Bureau Veritas, Domtar, Stuwix Joint Resource Venture, and Sappi. I am very proud to say that the program was able to double the number of scholarships provided over last year with 17 students attending from five universities spanning both sides of the border. The 2014 program also saw record mentorship with twelve profession attendees dedicating their time to enrich the groups experience at the conference.

While this year’s numbers are great, they only tell half the story. The feedback we’ve received from students and mentors has been glowing:

“It’s a really nice learning opportunity… we can see all the different stakeholders sitting together exchanging ideas,” said Clair Dong, a Masters in Forestry candidate.

“It was a great experience. I was able to further understand how forest certification works, while making good contacts in the process. It was extremely helpful to have assigned mentors,” said Jasmine Slater, a Masters in Forestry candidate.

“Thank you for everything at the conference from the networking opportunities to the hospitality. We had a great time,” said Hina Alam, a Masters in Forest Conservation candidate.

Some students were so inspired that they are bringing the SFI conference back to their school community through roundtable discussions, seminars, and other outreach efforts.

The SFI Annual Conference Student Scholarship program also received resounding praise from conference attendees.

“At Sappi we believe supporting student involvement at the annual conference is an investment that, while hard to measure, will return significant benefits to our industry. The quality of the students that attend is remarkable and their presence helps generate a sense of renewal and optimism for the future of our forests,” said Laura Thompson, Director of Technical Marketing and Sustainable Development at Sappi, who has served as a mentor for the last three years.

While it feels great to receive praise about the scholarship program, I would be remiss to not offer thanks in return. After all it is the students of today that will lead the forest sector tomorrow. It is their diversity of background, education, and thought that will steward our future forests. Thank you to all of the students who participated, the sponsors who supported the program and the mentors that guided them. We look forward to continued interaction and working with you in the future.

2014 SFI Annual Conference Student Scholarship Recipients

Akiva Fishman Yale University Masters of Forestry
Anna Almero University of Toronto B.S. in Forest Conservation Science, Pursuing a Masters in Sustainable Forest Management
Ben Hayes Yale University Masters of Forestry
Blair Rynearson Yale University Masters of Forestry
Brennan Waupoose College of Menominee Nation, Keshena, WI Associates of Science, Biological & Physical Science.
CJ Lestage University of New Brunswick B.S. in Forestry, currently holds a diploma in forest technology
Claire Dong University of Toronto Master of Forest Conservation
Helena Murray University of Vermont B.S. in Forestry
Hina Alam University of Toronto Masters in Forest Conservation
Jaqueline Hamilton University of Toronto Masters in Forest Conservation
Jasmine Slater University of Toronto Masters in Forest Conservation
Lauren Miller University of New Brunswick PhD of Forestry
Mara Li University of Toronto Masters in Forest Conservation
Meriadec Sillanpaa University of Toronto Masters in Forest Conservation
Nina Shock University of Toronto Masters in Forest Conservation
Yiwei Ding University of Toronto; Zhejiang A&F University Master of Forest Conservation, expected in December 2014. (U of T), M. AgrSc. Degree, major in silviculture, expected in June 2015. (ZAFU)

 

Looking ahead to 2015:

While most students attending our conference come from the general vicinity of the conference venue, we are open to students from anywhere provided we secure the sponsorships we need. Please plan now to help support an even greater student turn out next year. For questions regarding sponsorship opportunities please contact Amy Doty: amy.doty@sfiprogram.org, 202-596-3458.

If you work at (or with) a university and would like to receive the scholarship application to distribute, or if you have general questions regarding the SFI Annual Conference Student Scholarship program, Please contact Rocco Saracina: rocco.saracina@sfiprogram.org, 202-596-3459.

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