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Engagement Dean Forges Robust Outreach Program

May 17, 2011 – In recent years Virginia Tech’s outreach efforts, once thought of mainly in the context of Extension, have broadened significantly to include many other kinds of activities, not just in the state but across the nation and around the globe. “Our engagement mission today is to assist communities with sustainable management and utilization of our natural resources,” explained Bob Smith, associate dean for engagement. “We accomplish this by integrating science that is developed within the college and university, and working with our community partners to implement programs that will allow future generations to enjoy our environment.” Programs include the college’s award-winning natural resource Cooperative Extension programs, numerous service-learning programs, research at the undergraduate and graduate level that helps communities better understand the impact of our actions on the environment, and international programs that bring Virginia Tech’s expertise around the world to help solve natural resource challenges.

Two leading and very successful programs in sustainable natural resources are within Virginia Cooperative Extension. The popular Virginia Master Naturalist Program is training a corps of volunteers to provide education, outreach, and other services dedicated to the sustainable management of natural resources within their communities. The high profile Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program helps Virginians keep their forests healthy and productive by educating landowners through a variety of courses and workshops so that they can meet their ownership objectives through sound forest stewardship and sustainable forestry practices. The program also helps build relationships among experienced and novice private forest landowners and Virginia’s natural resource community.

Service-learning courses and undergraduate research projects offer students the opportunity to combine education with community service. In a multiyear effort, urban forestry students assessed the abundance, diversity, condition, and maintenance needs of publicly owned street trees for the City of Radford, and offered recommendations on how to improve the value of the city’s street tree resource. Students work with community members and grassroots coordinators through the university’s Catawba Sustainability Center to develop agroforestry plans that incorporate whole-farm management while meeting land- owner needs and investigate alternative forestry crops that could provide income for local landowners. Wood science and forest products students work with small businesses to address their real-world business problems, from product development to marketing research.

“Basically, the goal of engagement is to encourage collaboration among communities, students, and faculty to sustainably manage our natural resources for future generations,” Smith concluded.

    CNRE Newsmagazine Spring 2011 Cover

Spring 2011

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