Planting a new vision of forestry
Thomas Manness begins his position as dean of Oregon State’s College of Forestry
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 16, 2012 03:11
This year Thomas Manness, head of the department of forest engineering, resources and management, has been named dean of the college.
Manness assumed his position as dean on Aug. 1, succeeding Hal Salwasser, who held the position for the past 12 years. He joined Oregon State University in 2009, after spending 20 years at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia. Prior to working at UBC, Manness worked at Weyerhaeuser in Seattle for seven years.
“I feel excited and energized,” Manness said.
A national search was conducted for a new dean, and among all the candidates, Manness was selected.
“He’s an excellent choice,” Salwasser said, who has now returned to teaching in the College of Forestry. “We had excellent candidates, and he rose to the top.”
Manness feels he was chosen due to his diverse background, especially because he worked in Canada for 20 years.
“I think that they really wanted to bring in someone who had an outside persepective.” Manness said. “My years in Canada brought a very different experience to OSU.”
Manness has many major goals for his tenure as dean of the College of Forestry. His goals center around expanding the college’s reach internationally, changing the way the college is structured and making the college a place where students and faculty will want to come.
“We’re a regional school now, for the western United States,” Manness said. “My goal is to make us an international school.”
Manness plans on drastically changing the student experience.
“We’re changing over our professional forestry programs to a pro school approach,” Manness said. “[In] The first two years, students can take anywhere, including a community college or e-campus.”
Under the new system, students will have to apply to the professional school, once they have completed their first two years. Manness describes the new professional school experience as being different from the traditional classroom experience.
“The first class students take when they come to the pro school is out in the forest, over in the Deschutes National Forest,” Manness said.
Manness began working on the pro school concept when he came to OSU in 2009. It is expected to begin a year from now, in the fall of 2013.
Another one of Manness’ objectives is to give students work experience while they’re in school.
“Our pro school is going to be a co-op education program.” Manness said. “Students will take classes and then they’ll go to work. We’ll have companies that have agreed to give certain learning outcomes to students, and students will be working and getting experience.”
Manness has a very positive outlook for current graduates.
“I think that the opportunities in forestry as a profession are fantastic,” Manness said. “Many people who were hired in the 1980s are retiring now.”
Manness’ professional background is in forest policy issues, land-use planning and ecosystems services. A native of Missouri, Manness became interested in forestry at a young age.
“I kind of grew up in a forestry environment,” Manness said. “My family owned a sawmill in the Ozarks. It was a small family business, but that certainly helped me understand what was important about forestry.”
Salwasser stepped down as dean last year after holding the post for 12 years. He cited fulfillment of his accomplishments as his reason for stepping down.
“I’d been there 12 years,” Salwasser said. “I’d accomplished everything I set out to do, except for getting funding secure.”
Manness is very optimistic about the future of the College of Forestry.
“I want to make this the kind of place where every student wants to be, and I also want to make this as a place where everybody wants to work,” Manness said. “If those two things are true, I believe that the funding will take care of itself.”
Manness did not seem concerned about funding for the college, often a major concern for college deans.
“I’m a believer that if you build a great organization, the funding will come,” Manness said.
Vinay Ramakrishnan, news reporter