For Dean Cumbia, a week at Virginia Tech was a gateway to a career in the service and conservation of Virginia’s forests.

“When I was a junior in high school, Virginia Tech had a program called the Forestry and Wildlife Resources Institute,” said Cumbia. “It was a weeklong program, and we got to do a little bit of everything, from wood tech projects in Cheatham Hall to field trips out to sites. That experience helped convince me that a career in forestry was what I really wanted.”

Cumbia is the director of forest management at the Virginia Department of Forestry (DOF), an agency he has served for nearly four decades. In this current role, he oversees the planning of policies and programs that help connect DOF staff with citizens and landowners throughout Virginia.

“The Department of Forestry provides assistance and support across the state in implementing all of the work that gets done on the ground,” said Cumbia, a lifelong member of the Virginia Forestry Association, which he joined as a student. “Forestry is the third-largest industry in the state, and our forests provide countless benefits to the commonwealth, including timber production, watershed protection, and habitats for wildlife and recreation.”

As one of numerous graduates who have joined the agency to embark on careers in forestry, Cumbia has retained strong ties with the college over the years. He has collaborated with Virginia Cooperative Extension faculty on outreach efforts throughout the commonwealth, and is a frequent guest speaker in forestry classes. This past spring, he met with Assistant Professor David Carter’s silviculture course.

“It’s always a great opportunity to meet students, as there are a lot of jobs and opportunities to explore in forestry,” Cumbia said. “Cheatham Hall is full of good people, as is the forestry community in Virginia. From DOF and the faculty and staff in CNRE to forest landowners, loggers, and industry professionals, we all work together really well to make forestry work.”