A new accelerated graduate degree program is just one of the outcomes of a recently established partnership between Tuskegee University and North Carolina State University. With Tuskegee bachelor’s and NC State master’s degree in hands, students participating in the partnership will be poised to serve and further diversify the forestry and natural resource industry.
The partnership centers on an accelerated graduate degree program for students from underrepresented groups who are interested in pursuing forestry careers. The initiative is beneficial to both land-grant universities, as this collaboration will help strengthen the sustainable forest management program for all underserved groups.
Through the five-year program, participating students will spend three years at Tuskegee, where they will pursue a bachelor’s degree in environmental, natural resource and plant sciences. At the beginning of their senior year, they will transfer to NC State, where in two years they will complete their final year of studies toward their Tuskegee degree, as well as earn a master’s of forestry degree from NC State.
NC State’s master’s degree curriculum is accredited by the Society of American Foresters — an industry standard for practicing foresters in North Carolina, Alabama and many other states.
Dr. Olga Bolden-Tiller, associate professor and head of Tuskegee’s Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, co-manages the program. She noted that it seeks to boost diversity within the private forestry industry.
“Tuskegee University and NC State share a strong commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in the forestry profession. We are extremely excited about this partnership, as it will allow our students to capitalize on the growing demand for trained foresters in both the public and private sectors,” Bolden-Tiller said.
Students who earn forestry, wildlife and fisheries degrees typically enjoy a wide variety of careers in the public and private sector, according to Bolden-Tiller. Research suggests, however, that both women and minorities are less likely to pursue a career in forestry and natural resources due to economic, cultural and discrimination-related barriers.
“Underrepresented groups, especially inner-city students, often have limited access to green spaces and associated opportunities for outdoor recreation, and are thus less likely to pursue a career in forestry and natural resources,” she explained.
Dr. Tom Gower, professor and head of the Forestry and Environmental Resources Department at NC State, said the partnership marks the beginning of a “foundation, network and culture that aims to establish a ‘trust pipeline’ between underrepresented communities and academia.”
Tuskegee’s College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences, and NC State’s College of Natural Resources plan to launch the accelerated degree program in the spring as students begin classes in January 2020. Students wishing to participate in the program will adhere to the standard Tuskegee tuition for the first four years, then pay North Carolina’s in-state tuition rate for their final year.