When some students think of forestry majors, they may picture a lumberjack, park ranger or someone who chops down trees.
But students in the College of Agricultural Sciences said there’s a lot of diversity in majors and study within the college.
One major that was offered in the College of Agricultural Sciences is wood products. But with the declining enrollment, Penn State recently decided to cut the program but will allow current students to finish out the major. The major will transition from wood products to biorenewable systems management, Professor of Wood Products Engineering John Janowiak said.
“Wood products has been changed so many times over the course of the years due to the different demands of the economy,” Janowiak said.
Society is looking toward becoming more environmentally friendly, and people are becoming more aware of renewable resources, so this shift reflects these current demands, he said. Because there are a few students still currently enrolled in the wood products major, this change could take place as late as 2018, he said.
Alumnus Brett Diehl, Class of 2009, majored in wood products and was fascinated with all the different aspects that make up the major.
“A lot of people are surprised to learn that we take a lot of classes in chemistry, marketing and sales, physics and engineering,” he said.
Diehl came from a rural area and he loves hunting and fishing, so when it came time to choose what his major would be, he wanted something that would incorporate his love of the outdoors, he said.
“There were a lot of majors like forest and wildlife or fishery, but none of these offered the best job placement at the time,” Diehl said.
Before he graduated in May 2009, the job placement for students who studied wood products was almost 100 percent, he said. Though this percentage has gone down, there are many things that a graduate can do, Diehl said.
“There’s anything from hardwood flooring, paper, bio fuels, cabinetry or flooring,” he said. “If you continue into graduate school, you could even become a professor.”
Wood products is a “unique” major because it incorporated so many aspects of wood, he said. Wood is unlike any other building material because it is a renewable resource, and it’s important to understand the science behind it, he said.
The students Diehl teaches appreciate the outdoors as well as the sciences behind the major just as much as he did, he said.
Curtis Noll also graduated in fall 2011 with a major in wood products. Now, he is back, finishing up a degree in forest management.
Noll said he chose the major because he always had an interest in wood. When wood products was still offered, students had two options they could choose from. There was the business and marketing side for those who were interested in going into sales of wood products, or processing and manufacturing, which is what Noll chose, he said.
“During my time, I learned so many different aspects of wood that some people don’t even think about,” he said.
Students who studied wood products learned everything from how different stains react to different wood, how much stress certain woods can hold, mill management and wood decay, he said.
“The professors were top notch,” Noll said. “They were all passionate and very knowledgeable, which made the classes interesting”