On January 5, SRS Director Rob Doudrick signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Alabama A&M University (AAMU) that reaffirms the commitment of both partners to continue the USDA Forest Service Center of Excellence in Forestry (COE) at AAMU for another five years.
Doudrick had an opportunity to meet with four of the students from the COE who expressed their sincere gratitude to the Forest Service. “To hear first-hand from the students how the Forest Service is making a difference in their lives felt really good,” said Doudrick. “The students were excited about their studies and so appreciative of our support of their education.”
The AAMU COE was first established in 1993 when then Forest Service Chief Dale Robertson and the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture signed a proclamation at AAMU to work together to train young people for future careers in the Forest Service. As a result of this program, AAMU has trained natural resource professionals (foresters, biological, environmental, and soil scientists) and administrative specialists (accounting, human resources, and computer specialists with minor in forestry) who have honored their service agreements to work for the agency after graduation. Many of the African-American foresters employed by the Forest Service are AAMU graduates.
“This partnership with the Forest Service has helped AAMU establish the only fully accredited undergraduate forestry degree program in the Nation located at a historically black college or university,” said Kenneth Ward, director of the Forestry, Ecology & Wildlife Program at AAMU. “In addition to offering a Bachelor of Science degree in forestry, AAMU also offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in forestry.”
Successful implementation of the Forest Service mission depends upon the existence of a national, diverse workforce well-educated in natural resource management and related fields. One of the goals of the COE program is to partner with universities to produce high quality graduates to meet future recruitment needs of the USDA and to enhance the university’s ability to successfully carry out its land-grant functions of teaching, research, and public service.
“The Center of Excellence program has been successful because both parties share the goals and objectives of COE to promote university teaching programs in natural resource management and related fields and the Forest Services commitment to embrace diversity and to help create jobs that will sustain communities,” said Doudrick. — Teresa Jackson