NEWCOMB — With Adirondack campuses in Newcomb and Cranberry Lake, and a main campus in Syracuse, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry has just celebrated its centennial year.
More than 18,000 students have graduated from the college since its founding in 1911, many of them from northern New York.
The College of Environmental Science and Forestry offers 22 undergraduate and 30 graduate degree programs in the sciences, engineering, forestry and landscape architecture. Associate degrees in environmental conservation, forest technology and land surveying are based at the college's Wanakena Ranger School in St. Lawrence County.
LOVE FOR NATURE
Sophomore Daniel Dohman of Jay said the school is getting him on the path to a career in environmental resources engineering.
"I grew up in Jay and, as a child, I gained a passion for the Adirondacks, hiking, fishing and a real love for nature. Based on my experiences, for anyone who is a conservationist, environmentalist, outdoorsman or genuinely concerned about sustainability, ESF is a great place to be.
"It's often said, and I think this is fairly accurate, that the students at ESF are composed of half tree-huggers and half tree-choppers, but all love being outdoors."
The college has three satellite campuses in the heart of the Adirondacks: Wanakena, Cranberry Lake and Newcomb in Essex County.
The College of Environmental Science and Forestry's Newcomb campus includes Huntington Wildlife Forest, a 15,000-acre field station, the Adirondack Ecological Center, the Arbutus Great Camp, bunkhouses and a dining center.
Dohman said he's taking most of his courses at the main campus in Syracuse.
"Though the campus is located in the heart of Syracuse, many of my classes have brought me out to local streams and forests to identify trees, collect and analyze water samples, observe the health of ecosystems and estimate the sustainability of human actions. All classes here, even the more conservative ones, like my history and economics courses, have been focused on environmental awareness, which I love.
SENSE OF COMMUNITY
"Students here come from diverse backgrounds, but all have at least one thing in common: an embracing of nature, which makes it easy to get along with others," Dohman said.
Portia Osborne of Plattsburgh graduated in December from the main campus.
"I loved ESF. I finished my bachelor's degree and my master's there. I would definitely recommend it. It's a great place. It's not big; everyone knows each other."
She got her bachelor's in environmental science and her master's in ecology.
"They're environmentally focused programs. It was a great experience," she said.
Osborne said she's now looking for a job, and her prospects look good.
The college began with 52 students, but it now boasts 2,250 undergraduate and graduate students.
Last year, the college completed construction of Centennial Hall, its first residence hall separate from Syracuse University housing.
"The modern-looking Centennial Hall is a beautifully furnished new dormitory that seems more like a hotel than student housing," Dohman said of his new lodging. "Each student is given a personalized 'fob,' allowing for keyless entry to the dorms and rooms. Many upperclassmen apartments in the building have full kitchens with ranges, ovens and full-sized refrigerators, so students may cook their own meals and aren't obligated to purchase a dining plan through the school.
Dohman said he likes it there, but there are some bugs to work out.
"My primary complaint with the new dorm, however, is that, due to these full kitchens, the fire alarm is set off frequently, forcing the entire dorm population to evacuate. Otherwise, Centennial Hall is in a great location, and most classes are only about a five-minute walk from the front door."
Freshman Anthony Kordziel of Wilmington is majoring in forest ecosystem science at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and will graduate in 2015.
"I have absolutely loved being at ESF. At first, it was a little tough to transition from being at home in a small town in the mountains and moving to a large-city environment."
The College of Environmental Science and Forestry is not an easy school, he said, but that's because the quality of education there is high.
"The professors are brilliant, and they really know what they are talking about. In lectures, they know what to do to keep students paying attention, and when I went to talk to them in their private office hours, we had conversations just about life, and I really enjoyed getting to know them on a more personal level," Kordziel said.
He said he also has all the benefits of Syracuse University while there.
"I have to say that probably my favorite thing, though, is the affiliation with Syracuse University and having the ability to use the Syracuse libraries and gyms. I also was able to get tickets for Syracuse football and basketball at the Syracuse student rate. All other sports I can have free tickets to."
Kordziel's staying in Centennial Hall.
"I am the first person to have lived in my room and, to me, that is awesome. The room is carpeted, comes with a microwave and refrigerator, and is furnished with Stickley furniture. The only other college in the nation that has that perk is Yale," he said.
Now he's learning maple-sugar making through the College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
"Last spring, I got into maple sugaring by volunteering to help at Cornell Cooperative Extension's Uihlein Forest in Lake Placid, and I plan to help out at the ESF maple-sugaring operation this spring at their sugarbush," Kordziel said. "This is something that I am very excited about getting involved with, because this is really the first thing that I will be involved with that the school does."
Jake Hooper of Elizabethtown is studying natural resources management at the college and is slated to graduate this year.
"The school is very professional and has a unique atmosphere, since most people live off-campus and it's closely tied to Syracuse University," Hooper said.
"I also did a summer semester at the SUNY-ESF Ranger School in Wanakena. It was an outstanding experience, and we learned very practical forestry-based field techniques. We visited the Huntington Wildlife Forest in Newcomb while at the Ranger School."
When the College of Environmental Science and Forestry was founded in 1911, the main issue was loss of forest lands in the state.
Now it's pollution, climate change, ecosystem damage by invasive species, all part of a huge range of life-changing environmental issues.
Dohman said the single biggest environmental issue of today is a lack of sustainability in the design of products and materials, which ends up depleting natural resources faster than they can recover.
"The industrial-sized farms of today have maximized the amount of food they can produce per dollar, yet compared to other smaller farm practices, which typically produce a much greater amount of food per acre, they deplete resources, such as the soil, clean water and energy much more rapidly.
"There are no-till methods of farming that require far less energy, fertilizer and pesticide inputs but are not at par with the output levels. Because resources are being depleted like this, our current method is simply not sustainable in the long run, and this is a huge issue."
Our disposable society is partly to blame, Dohman said.
"Too many products today are designed with a disposable approach in mind — think batteries, disposable cameras, plates, plastic-ware, packaging materials — and are used just once before they end up in a landfill."
He said that makes sustainable design — things that can be reused — one of the major issues affecting the environment.
"That's why sustainable design, in my opinion, is a big part of what needs to happen in the future if we want to continue living in a way similar to the way we live today."
Those issues make an environmental education more important today than it's ever been, Dohman said.
Email Lohr McKinstry at: firstname.lastname@example.org