TAPPI Holiday Paper Sale!

Every fall, using the pilot paper machine in Bloedel 014, students in the Bioresource Science and Engineering program roll up their sheaves—sorry, sleeves—to produce a few rolls of handcrafted paper. Organized by the student chapter of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI), the annual papermaking fundraiser helps cover student conference fees and support other events.

TAPPI Holiday Paper SaleThe paper itself is 100 percent non-wood—specifically, this year’s is 70 percent Arundo donax and 30 percent wheat straw—and has holiday flourishes in it, such as ferns added to the slurry to provide festive accents when the paper is printed.

You have three options this year:

  • $10 for (3) sheets of 8×11 Holiday Paper, (5) Holiday Cards, and (10) Gift Tags
  • $5 for (5) Holiday Cards
  • $2 for (5) Gift Tags

Members of TAPPI will be selling the paper at the SEFS Holiday Party (Wednesday, December 3, 4-6 p.m., Anderson 207) and the Dead Elk Holiday Party (Friday, December 5, 5:30 p.m., Anderson 207), so make sure to take a look at these terrific gifts!

Student Panel Touts BSE Program

Every fall, students interested in the Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) program sign up for a seminar (BSE 150) to give them an overview of the degree. Led by Professor Rick Gustafson, the course provides current and prospective BSE students with an introduction to the science and technology of bioresources, and throughout the quarter various faculty, advisors and guest lecturers cover different dimensions of the program.

The class is generally a mixture of freshman and transfer students, and this past Tuesday, December 3, they got to hear from a panel of six current students who’ve already invested several years in the program.

BSE PanelThe students on the panel—Edward Berg, Ryan Binder, Breanna Huschka, Seth Jorgensen, Andre Smith and Monet Springmeyer—answered questions and talked about their experiences, ranging from the tremendous paid internship opportunities (getting recruited, traveling to positions in other states, hands-on training); setting up study groups and managing the course load; preparing for interviews; whether to opt for minors or a double major; considerations for grad school; and generally how to succeed in the major.

Even as the panel cautioned students to be prepared for some tough courses and serious studying ahead, the biggest takeaway was clear: BSE is worth the effort, as most of the students on the panel already have full-time job offers waiting for them after graduation!

Photo © SEFS.

Undergrad Writing Internship!

Are you itching to interview your classmates and professors, and eager to write about exciting research projects and events here at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS)? Do you love the challenge of exploring and translating complex scientific issues for a general audience, and helping spread the word about all of the incredible work going here with students, staff and faculty? Most importantly, are you keen to sharpen your composition skills and become a better communicator in your personal and professional writing?

We sure hope so, because this fall we’re looking for one (or possibly two) undergraduate writing interns to help our office cover and promote the SEFS community!  

This internship offers quite a bit of flexibility—in terms of hours, workload, issues covered and course credit earned—but there’s one central theme: There will be nothing hands-off about the projects you’ll tackle. You’ll dive right in with pitching, researching, writing and editing several stories, and also have the opportunity to photograph events and activities. Revision and fact-checking will be fundamental aspects of your work, and you’ll earn bylines for everything you produce.

If that strikes you as a fun side project this quarter, then check out the full advertisement below. And if you think you might be interested, please email Karl Wirsing, director of communications for SEFS, to explain your interest—and, if possible, please include one writing sample. 

ESRM/BSE 399: Undergraduate Writing Intern: Autumn 2013

Responsibilities:
* Research and write stories for the “Offshoots” blog and other SEFS publications/media, with potential stories ranging from short news items to longer features, and covering student and faculty profiles, research highlights, seminars, reports from the field, breaking news, etc.;
* Cover SEFS events on campus, such as poster sessions or other student activities, for the blog (including taking photos);
* Provide images and content for SEFS social media, including blogs, Facebook, Flickr and other platforms ;

Desired Qualifications:
* Strong interest in writing and editing, and a desire for more experience in covering scientific topics for a general audience;
* Willingness to edit and be edited;
* Available at least three hours per week;

The purpose of this internship is to gain experience with science writing and help promote the SEFS community. You will report to the Director of Communications, and your hours can be extremely flexible to suit your schedule. The goal is to produce three or more blog posts during the quarter, with special attention on writing and revision, as well as pitching ideas, research, interviewing, editing and fact checking. Upon completion of the internship, you will be required to submit a written report on your experiences and accomplishments.

Course credit is available, and registration for ESRM/BSE 399 requires a faculty code (contact Michelle Trudeau to inquire). This internship is restricted to ESRM and BSE minors and majors, and can also be tailored to satisfy up to 5 credits toward your writing requirement.

Faculty Advisor: SEFS Director Tom DeLuca,

Job Placement Paradise

For college graduates, the triumphant feeling of earning an undergraduate degree doesn’t seem to last too long these days—or at least not nearly long enough. You barely have time to pop the cork and celebrate before the stress of finding a job can turn high fives into handwringing and headaches. Headlines about the job market, after all, have been rather ominous. Hiring is sluggish. Budgets are pinched. Open positions are gobbled up by people with a dozen more years of work experience. In short, unpredictability reigns.

But not all graduates are feeling that sense of dread and uncertainty. In fact, commencement remains a season of opportunity for students earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

Papermaking Lab

Working in the paper lab at SEFS.

Graduating with a BSE degree has resulted in essentially 100 percent job placement—and with an average salary of roughly $66,000. So basically every BSE graduate who has sought a position in the field has found one. That’s an impressive success rate, and it speaks volumes about the value of the BSE program.

Formerly called Pulp and Paper Technology and then Paper Science and Engineering, BSE was established as an accredited engineering degree program at the University of Washington in 1965. It’s one of only eight programs in the country that offers a concentration involving paper science and bioresource conversion (and the only one west of the Mississippi River). The curriculum is possibly best described as applied chemical engineering with an emphasis on the conversion of forest and bioresources into paper, fuel and chemicals. Students enjoy a wide range of hands-on classes, ranging from actually making paper to producing biofuels, and they often land entry-level positions as process engineers, technical sales engineers, and research or production engineers.

The firms recruiting these graduates represent a wide range of industries, including pulp and paper manufacturers, chemical manufacturers, process and computer control companies, and engineering design companies. They come from communities across the Pacific Northwest and around the country, as well as from international locations.

BSE Students

BSE students work on their formulas for the next paper run.

Since 1968, the nonprofit Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation has worked to connect these firms with highly qualified technical graduates who understand and are dedicated to the industry. Housed within the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, the Foundation is comprised of member companies, alumni and friends, and its work linking students with potential employers has been highly effective: Of the nearly 500 students who have graduated from the BSE program, about 80 percent have chosen careers in the pulp, paper and allied industries.

Mike Roberts, executive director of WPPF, grew up in Aberdeen, Wash., and graduated from UW. He’s watched the original pulp and paper focus expand and evolve to include biofuels and other applications, but the practical value of the degree has never changed.

“As students and employers have come to realize that our forest and bioresources are truly renewable, the support of our program and the desire to hire our graduates has steadily increased,” says Roberts. “We count on the support of Foundation members, BSE alumni and program friends to continue our scholarship and placement mission.”

For students concerned about what to do after graduation, that kind of job placement success can offer a real opportunity.

Photos © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

Director’s Message: Summer 2013

Last December, Forbes magazine published an article on the 10 “worst” college degrees, and a sister article on the 15 “most valuable” college degrees. Even though I immediately disagreed with the reduction of “value” to a dollar figure—and noted that “most valuable” is not a direct antonym for “worst”—the message to readers was unmistakable: A college degree is valued by the employment potential and the starting wages for recent grads.

I sighed in relief as I paged through the article and didn’t find natural resource and forest management or environmental science among the ranks of their list. That said, I was surprised and dismayed to see anthropology (the study of humankind) at the top, and subjects like art, philosophy and history also considered “worst” among our college offerings.

Jennifer Perkins

Jennifer Perkins, a 2011 graduate from SEFS, now works at the UW Office of Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability.

Not long after I read the Forbes piece, a similar story on LinkedIn again pinned the value of a college degree squarely on employment and entry pay. Without question, a college education should lead to a marketable skillset and a living wage. But I couldn’t help thinking that lost in these calculations of “value” is that students might not just want to make a living—they might want to love their living.

When I think about our own programs at SEFS, it’s impossible to miss that during the last six years, our Environmental Science and Resources Management (ESRM) major and Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) degrees have seen steady growth. For the past few years, moreover, our BSE graduates have had a 100-percent success rate landing jobs as soon as they’re finished with school, and in many cases long before graduation.

Take Megan James, a senior BSE major who is about to graduate this June. She’s been actively involved in papermaking at SEFS, and last summer she completed an internship with Procter & Gamble. That experience led to a job offer to continue on full-time after graduation as a process engineer at a brand-new paper plant in Bear River City, Utah.

Or consider Jennifer Perkins, who graduated as an ESRM major in 2011. Shortly after she finished school, she landed a position just up the road as the program coordinator for the University of Washington Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability Office. She’s loving her job promoting sustainability projects around campus, and she credits much of her enthusiasm and environmental expertise with her time at SEFS.

I also think of Dr. Brian Kertson, a SEFS alumnus who now works with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. He came through all levels of our program, earning his B.S. in forest resources (wildlife science) in 2001, then an M.S. and then a Ph.D.—and now he has a dream job working with large carnivores, and especially cougars, in the state.

Megan James

Megan James, left, and other members of the student TAPPI chapter during their annual holiday papermaking project.

The list goes on and on, and the more I think about it, the more I see how flawed the metrics are in the Forbes and LinkedIn stories. Nowhere in these articles or analyses is there consideration of “quality of life,” or deep interest or devotion to the topic or craft that might become the focus of the majority of our waking hours. Reflecting on my own degrees in soil science, I know I didn’t enroll in the major for the employment opportunities or high salary potential. Rather, I pursued the natural resources because of my desire to work on something real and tangible, my love for the outdoors, love of science, my awe at the complexity of ecosystems and particularly soils, and for so many creative possibilities of study and exploration.

Passion will carry you a long way toward success, and that starts, in many cases, with enjoying the job in front of you. So as our undergraduate and graduate students head out into the world, I am confident we have not only improved their employability, but perhaps more important, we have enhanced their environmental and conservation literacy, sharpened their critical thinking skills, and prepared them for a lifetime of growth and career satisfaction. They’ll have to chance to do what they know, and in fields they love. I’m not convinced there’s a more “valuable” outcome you can hope to achieve from an education.

Photo of Jennifer Perkins © Jennifer Perkins; photo of Megan James © Megan James.