For the second year in a row, USA Today has ranked the college as the nation’s best for studying natural resources and conservation! Our forestry program also received a top ranking. No doubt, we are immensely proud of this recognition, and benchmarking against national peers helps us evaluate the quality of our programs. I am immensely proud of this ranking and the spotlight it shines on our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and supporters. Congratulations to all on this recognition.

Not reflected in this ranking is the summary of research awards by academic units at Virginia Tech. The Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation ranked No. 5 and the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation ranked No. 8 among all university departments for total research award dollars for the year ending June 30, 2016. Combined, these two departments garnered almost $16 million in awards.

We held two major events over the past few months. In September we hosted our fifth annual career fair. We first started with a small group of agency partners and corporate friends — less than 10 participants — and held the event in Cheatham Hall. It has grown to almost 50 participants, and we welcomed over 300 students to Owens Banquet Hall. As we grow the college and our impacts, linking our students to opportunities is a responsibility we all share. It was very encouraging to learn about a multitude of internships, summer positions, and permanent positions with our partners.

In October we hosted a conference titled Women in Natural Resources: Leading, Mentoring, and Connecting. We reached capacity for the conference within two weeks of opening registration, welcoming more than 200 participants. It is important for us to address all issues of diversity and inclusion in our disciplines, and we recognize the paucity of women in some areas. Keynote speaker Carolyn Finney, a cultural geography professor at the University of Kentucky, delivered an inspiring address about her work on issues related to identify, difference, creativity, and resilience.

Our cover story on the use and applications of unmanned aerial systems is a glimpse into the future of advanced data collection and decision-making at the landscape scale. The strength and depth of our faculty expertise in remote sensing, geospatial information systems (GIS), and now unmanned aerial systems will play an even more important role in our teaching, research, and outreach programs. In addition to filling a current faculty vacancy in GIS, we will be adding another new faculty position in GIS in the coming months.

Thomas Olson, our long-serving assistant dean of business and finance, will retire at the end of the year. Thomas, who joined Virginia Tech 28 years ago and has served the college faithfully since 2000, is a critical and strategic member of our college leadership team. I rely on him nearly daily in our behind-the-scenes management and strategic decision-making, and greatly value and appreciate our close working relationship. The college is successful in part because of Thomas’ contributions to everything that we do. I want to publically thank Thomas and wish him and his wife, Martha, the very best of what’s to come. Thank you, my good colleague!

Best wishes to you all as 2016 comes to a close. We in the college continue on our aspirational path, and the promise of 2017 will bring progress towards all of our goals. Thanks to each of you for your support of all we do. Join us on campus June 2-4, 2017, for our 25th anniversary celebration!

Warm regards,


Paul M. Winistorfer