Schools & CollegesSchools_%26_Colleges.html
Natural ResourcesNatural_Resources.html

The profession of forestry in the United States is even yet so new that the educational needs of foresters are hardly defined. When the first forestry schools were started in America, there was question as to the proper instruction to be given. It was evident that much of the European practice would be poorly adapted to American conditions. The development of the profession in this country has been so remarkably rapid that it has taxed the schools to keep pace with it and frequent and material changes in the detail of instruction have been necessary.

More than 25 universities and colleges are now offering courses leading to degrees in forestry and in addition there are a large number of institutions offering elementary work suitable for the lower grades of professional foresters, such as Rangers.

With the unprecedentedly rapid development of the need for foresters through the expansion of Federal work on the National Forests and Indian Reservations, State work, the work of corporations and individuals, a peculiar situation has been brought about in the instruction of forestry. It has been almost impossible for the schools to keep up with the new work initiated in the field. The schoolwork was required to expand in the detail of courses offered and in equipment to keep pace with the developments in the field. The difficulty was particularly true with the Forestry Department at the University of Michigan where the number of students more than doubled for a number of years and is still increasing out of all proportion to the increase in the other departments.

The Forestry Department was founded in 1902 and in 1903 had a faculty consisting of Professor Roth and one Assistant. The quarters were in one room in West Hall and there were only 10 students in the forestry courses. In 1905 an Assistant Professor was secured and two rooms were made available. By 1911, although the number of students had more than doubled for several years, the facilities and faculty were practically the same, and it became impossible to handle the work of the department without a material increase in facilities, quarters, and faculty. The future of the Forestry Department was in doubt for some time during 1911 and Professor Milford decided to accept an offered position as Dean of the new Forestry Department at Cornell. Professor Roth, however, was finally persuaded to remain, the President and Regents deciding that Michigan should maintain the standing of its school and that its facilities and faculty should be in-creased in proportion to the needs of the students and the changing needs of the profession.

This year the Department secured Professor O. L. Sponsler from the University of Nebraska, where he had been at the head of the Forestry Department. P. S. Lovejoy, who had been in fieldwork in the National Forests, was secured from the U. S. Forest Service as Assistant Professor. L.J. Young, Forest Assistant in the Forest Service was secured as instructor and an adequate force of assistants was provided. The quarters of the Department were increased so as to include three rooms in the New Engineering Building and three rooms in the basement of the south wing of the Economics Building. In addition to the Hill Forest Farm of 80 acres, used for experimental plantations, a new nursery site opposite Ferry Field has been recently purchased and will be at once developed to furnish the means of demonstrating all phases of nursery practice. This year sees the Department completely reorganized and expanded to fully twice its former size. The new curriculum includes many new courses and the arrangement of hours has been so adjusted as to bring the weight of the different phases of forestry work into proper proportion with the current field practice.

The work of the department is unusually close to the students. The Forestry Club is a student organization through which the students carry on much unusual work among themselves. The Club has definite aims other than those merely social. Among other phases of its work its "Groups” are noteworthy. The course leads to the degree of A.B. in four years andM.S.F. in five years but nearly all the students spend a year in the field in active work between the fourth and fifth years. Leaders of the "Groups” are chosen from among the graduate students and each group includes members of all the undergraduate classes, in effect, cross-sectioning the whole course. The "Groups" meet separately and thus give the men of each class a chance to learn much concerning the work of other classes, which would not otherwise be made available. The members of the "Groups" are able to ex-change field experience with each other and with other Groups and in this way develop a detailed understanding of the whole course and the application of the classroom instruction to the work in the field. At the regular club meetings, members of the faculty and men who have returned from field work, report their experiences and observations, using slides made from pictures secured by them in the field so that each year the whole student body learns directly of the work being carried on throughout the country. The slides used in these lectures afterward become the property of the Department, which has one of the most complete collections of slides in the United States. The Club publishes a quarterly magazine for its members and graduates.

The Department has developed a number of rather unusual methods of keeping its work accurately focused on the needs of the rapidly changing profession. Graduates, who are contending with many new and difficult problems in actual work in the field, frequently return for conference with the Faculty. These conferences result in presenting many phases of professional work, which have never before been brought out and serve to keep the Faculty and students in very close touch with the field. The returning graduates usually find time to talk to the upperclassmen and are quizzed by them at length. The specific problems involved later find their way into the classrooms.

In order to see exactly what it is doing and how best its work may be adjusted, the Faculty is sending out what it calls an "Inventory of School Experience" to its graduates. The "inventory" consists of a set of questions the answers to which will report in detail the efficiency of the instruction received as tested by the actual work of the forester. It is believed that the replies will prove exceedingly valuable in pointing the way toward greater efficiency in the instruction.

In a similar way, the Faculty believes that a wide field experience on the part of the undergraduates is prerequisite to the fullest assimilation of the instruction given, and, to test and secure a record of the experience of the underclassmen, a set of questions will be filled out by them which will serve to keep the Faculty and students in very close touch with the field; check their advance in field experience from year to year and furnish a gauge for the guidance of the Faculty and the men themselves. As a further check on the work of the Department, a "Suggestion Box" has recently been installed in the lecture room. Students drop into the box suggestions for the betterment of any phase of the Department's work. The suggestions are then considered by the Executive Committee of the Forestry Club and later by the Faculty and as action on the suggestions is taken, the suggestion and note as to the action taken, if any, with reasons, is posted. The suggestions received have been pertinent, valuable and in most cases very practicable. Both students and Faculty are pleased with the working out of the idea.

At the Hill Forest Farm, some 2 miles west of Ann Arbor, over 50 plantations of different forest trees have been made. These plantations are arranged so as to present a great variety of conditions and will in time demonstrate conclusively the best methods and species for reforestation in the region. The records, which are being kept, make the plantations serve as permanent sample plots or growth experiments and the whole farm is in effect a forestry experiment station.

The Eastern Edison Power Company owns a number of power sites on the Huron River near Ann Arbor. Incidental to the development of this enterprise, hundreds of acres of land were purchased, and, at the advice of the Company's Engineer, will be kept forested as protection to the waterpower. The work of maintaining forest cover has been turned over to the Forestry Department. A large forest tree nursery has been established and the old fields and open places in the remaining wood lots on the tract are being reforested at the rate of over 100 acres a year. This work gives the students a chance to see and take part in reforestation on a large scale and is a most valuable addition to the field facilities of the school.

This year sees the Forestry Department much better equipped than ever before. From a school of 10 students in forestry courses in 1903, it has grown to one of 140 students in forestry courses in 1911, and from an appropriation of $3,175 it has grown to one of $13,950.

The Michigan Alumnus

January 1913, Pages 168-170

History of the University of Michigan

Department of Forestry