U supports rural majors

Students say the U’s urban campus has enough resources for nature-centric majors.

Hailey Colwell

Growing up near Plymouth, Minn., Luke Midura watched as developers turned the farmland and woods near his home into suburban dwellings.

The University of Minnesota senior chose to major in forest and natural resource management because, he said, he takes it personally when land is developed in ways that aren’t ecologically sound.

Though his major could lead to a job in a rural area, Midura and other University students in similar fields still choose the urban-based University because of the quality of its programs.

In some majors, opportunities for hands-on experience may be far from the Twin Cities, but students say the University’s programs make it worth the commute, and they’re not worried about transitioning into a rural setting after graduation.

The University’s reputation often draws in forestry students, said forest and natural resource management senior Sawyer Scherer. 

But the campus’s metropolitan setting isn’t always attractive to forestry students, he said.

“We want to be in the forest and not
necessarily in the city,” Scherer said. “It’s something we sort of deal with in order to get this quality education.”

Fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology professor Raymond Newman said he thinks the University loses some students to more remote schools like the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Bemidji State University and the University of Minnesota’s Duluth campus because they don’t want to study in an urban environment.

“There’s a little bit of selection that we probably miss,” he said.

The University has adequate resources for fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology majors, Newman said, but lacks many fieldwork opportunities on or near campus that some other schools offer.

But students can get hands-on experience by doing internships or summer jobs at agencies like the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, he said. Enrolling in a master’s or Ph.D. program also allows for more experience in the field.

Though far from the Twin Cities, the University’s Cloquet Forestry Center near Duluth, Minn., gives students in these majors hands-on opportunities in three-week summer sessions during their sophomore and senior years.

For forest and natural resource management students, Sawyer said, the quality of courses in the major makes long commutes to places like the Cloquet Forestry Center worthwhile.

Minnesota’s chapter of the Society of American Foresters takes University students to forestry sites around the country to work in new environments and network with professionals in the field, Midura said.

Other student groups on campus, like the Fisheries and Wildlife Club, connect students in rural-focused majors with volunteer field opportunities.

Fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology junior Anthony Bodelson said if students in those majors take advantage of the “little things” on campus, like the Bell Museum of Natural History, they can find plenty of resources. Getting in contact with people from around the state who work in students’ desired fields can also be helpful, he said.

Even though the University doesn’t have much forest land to work with in the city, Midura said, students can still learn the basic principles of forestry here in the Twin Cities.

“What you gain for having a school like the [University] makes up for that,” he said.