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Forestry Field School Fund: Where the forest is the classroom

UBC Forestry Field School involves a one-week stay in the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest in Maple Ridge or the Alex Fraser Research Forest in Williams Lake.

The experience provides an essential learning opportunity for students in the Faculty of Forestry at UBC. Over 5,000 students have attended Field School in one or both of the research forests. It’s not only required for the curriculum but can often have a transformative effect on the participants.

“Field school was an incredible experience,” says Corbin Manson, a forestry student who recently took part in the placement. “While I feel fortunate to have taken part, I wish that I could do it again! The opportunity to learn and work in a real-world context while exploring BC’s beautiful and diverse ecosystems has made a big difference to my education. I would add that getting to know and bonding with my peers and instructors throughout the course contributed to a sense of belonging at UBC that I hadn’t really experienced before.”

UBC Forestry’s Field School is vital for forestry students. For those in BSF and BSc Forestry programs, it is mandatory for graduation. But for many students, the fee is an obstacle.

On average, Field School costs each student between $800 and $1800, depending on the number and location of field schools they attend – effectively increases the cost of their academic year by 13-16%. For many students, covering this fee is stressful, impacting their studies or forcing them to juggle part-time jobs.

To address this need, the Forestry Field School Endowment was established to help support students. The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), President and CEO, Derek Nighbor felt it was an investment in the future.

“At FPAC, we’re interested in doing whatever we can to support that pipeline of talent in terms of the future of our workforce,” says Nighbor. “It’s an opportunity for us to provide some funding and a little bit of relief for students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to engage in the field study work. It’s one thing to learn in the classroom, but the magic is really in the forest.”

As well, Derek Nighbor feels supporting the Forestry Field School Fund makes good sense for industry as well. “Broadly, it’s essential that we have strong links between our academic community and our practitioners in industry,” asserts Nighbor. “From a ten-thousand-foot perspective, I think there’s an obvious mutual benefit to be connecting with leading universities like UBC.”

Forestry student Corbin Manson would agree. “I studied at UBC previously but had to leave due to a combination of financial and mental health issues. I am thrilled to be back, and feel that the additional support I am receiving is making a big difference in my success.”

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