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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Wood and paper sciences students enjoy unique majors

Joe Ibrahim did not have the same problems many students find while approaching graduation.

Sure, he applied for dozens of positions and completed roughly 40 interviews, but he landed eight job offers.

He is now a field manager for Centex Homes, helping to orchestrate construction on a new housing plot in Rosemount.

Ibrahim was one of the first University graduates with a degree in residential building science and technology. It is one of four options in the University’s department of wood and paper sciences, which prepares students for careers such as making paper and building houses.

The University is one of only three colleges nationwide to integrate the study of forest products and paper sciences in one department, which can translate into lucrative jobs even for students fresh out of college.

“(Employers) have never seen anyone like us with the technical experience and formal education,” Ibrahim said.

Department officials say Ibrahim’s experience in finding a job is not uncommon. As part of one of 11 universities in the country to offer degrees in wood and paper sciences, department officials believe they could handle many more than the 64 students they have now.

Frankly, forest science industries simply need more people.

Department head Joseph Massey said virtually every student to graduate in his recent memory from the college found a job after finishing school.

The reason, he says, is that wood and paper science industries have a tremendous amount of jobs spread throughout the country.

“We’ve had basically 100 percent placement for many years,” said Jim Bowyer, director of the college’s Forest Products Management Development Institute.

While many U.S. industries have slowed hiring, industries in forest products pay well and continue to look for more employees.

Degrees are offered in forest products marketing, forest products production management, paper science and engineering and residential building science and technology.

Several college professors said students simply overlook the department’s majors and career opportunities. Like the rest of the department’s majors, students entering paper sciences quickly find work once they finish college, but few students actually know about the track’s potential.

“Paper is going to be very, very important in the future,” Massey said.

While usage continues to surge throughout the world, Massey said paper production industries will continue to thrive for years to come. It will only continue to fill more backpacks, build taller mountains of documents on office desks and become even more widely-used to print photos from computers.

“Paper is very important to economies across the world. All parts of our lives are touched by paper,” Massey said.

Emphasizing how large the industry is becoming, companies are searching the department for future graduates to fill their needs; yet there simply are not enough bodies to fill the void.

Massey recommends students do not let this window close.

“There are so few graduates to fill these positions,” he said. “If we don’t get more students in, the companies are forced to go outside the state.”

Not only will the department educate students, Massey said, but faculty help students locate internships and other opportunities to better prepare them for their careers.

The department also offers a number of scholarships to students seeking degrees in wood and paper science fields.

Generated from 21 companies who form the Paper Science and Engineering Council, $489,000 has been raised to assist students attending classes at the University. Students with at least a 3.0 GPA will receive $9,000 over four years of study.

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