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.

WPPF Names New Executive Director

by William McKean

As some of you may know, the Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation (WPPF) recently conducted a search for a replacement for Tom Wolford as WPPF executive director. In early January 2013, we widely advertised the open executive director position through the WPPF mailing list, the University of Washington (UW) system and the TAPPI mailing list. Our joint outreach resulted in more than 20 applicants with a broad range of backgrounds, and I am very grateful to everyone who participated in this search process!

Michael Roberts

Michael A. Roberts

On March 5, representatives from the WPPF Executive Committee, College of the Environment and SEFS staff, BSE faculty and BSE students conducted interviews and evaluated the top five candidates. After careful review, we selected Michael A. Roberts as the next executive director, and we are very pleased to share the good news that he has accepted the offer! Not only has he accepted with considerable enthusiasm, in fact, but he has already begun working to continue the various activities outlined in our five-year plan, as well as planning for our upcoming Annual Conference on May 23. Mr. Roberts will officially take on his new role on April 1, 2013, and he is already set up with his campus email.

Mr. Roberts is a 1969/71 graduate of the University of Washington with BS/MS degrees in Chemical Engineering. His research provided insight into the mechanics and formation of malodorous compounds in a Kraft recovery furnace. Prior to joining WPPF as executive director, he spent more than 40 years as a professional in the pulp and paper and allied industries. He has held significant operational, engineering, environmental, research and general management positions for both pulp and paper manufacturers and key service providers to the industry. Most recently he was employed as the Program Manager, Energy and Sustainability Management, for a global manufacturing firm. He has been active in WPPF for more than 20 years and served as foundation president from 2006 to 2008.

Mr. Roberts and his wife Barb, also a UW graduate, have two grown children and three granddaughters. All are confirmed Husky fans.

Please join me in welcoming Mike as the new executive director–we look forward to working with him!