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Society of American Foresters Plays Key Role in Studentís ESF Experience

Recent grad Alexa Denhoff encourages students to join professional society
7/19/2018

Alexa Denhoff

As an ESF freshman, Alexa Denhoff did an on-campus interview with Plum Creek Timber as practice for future interviews. It went so well that she ended up with an internship at Plum Creek Timber Company (now merged with Weyerhauser) in New Hampshire.

Her internship included assisting with the harvest, laying out stream buffers and harvest boundaries and working with contractors and foresters. Denhoff realized forestry was the career she wanted instead of environmental chemistry which had initially drawn her to ESF.

"The internship showed me what I wanted to do," she said. She interned again with Plum Creek Weyerhauser the following summer in Maine.

"I was learning GIS before I had a class in it and learning silviculture before I had a class in that," Denhoff said. "It kind of threw me into the forestry world right off the bat."

When she learned about the ESF Ranger School, she realized it "aligned more with what I wanted to do so I asked be put in a major that would get me to the Ranger School."

Denhoff enrolled in the Ranger School's forest technology program her sophomore year. "It complemented the rest of my education really well because I learned about forestry in the field (during the internship) and then I came back and learned forestry based on the more academic side of it," she said.

Denhoff enhanced her education by joining the student chapter of the Society of American Foresters (SAF) as a freshman. She continued her involvement with SAF at the Ranger School, helping Dr. Mariann Johnston establish a chapter there.

After completing her associate's degree in 2016, she returned to the Syracuse campus and majored in forest and natural resources management. She continued her SAF involvement and was elected student SAF vice chair. That position was followed by becoming student district representative.

As a student district representative, Denoff served on the student executive committee and attended the national conference in Madison, Wisconsin, where she helped with the student workshops.

One goal of the student executive committee was to publish a student SAF newsletter. "We wanted to get word out about SAF to students to let them see success stories of student leaders within SAF and really push the value of becoming an SAF member as a student," she said.

The first issue was published at end of April 2018 with plans to publish yearly. "It's cool. You can see what students are doing from across the country," she said.

Denhoff served as vice chair and chair of the student executive committee. As chair she was the student liaison to the SAF board of representatives and gave presentations to the board on student happenings, questions students had and issues they were facing.

"I was the one voice for students across the country when it comes to the society's student membership," said Denoff.

Denoff weighed in on proposals and how they align with the student membership, and how to build young membership within the society. She attended the 2017 national convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she took on a number of responsibilities, including presenting to all the state chairs and vice chairs and helping to run the student workshops. However, her favorite thing about conferences is the people she meets.

"I like attending conferences and meeting students from across the country," she said.

"You're meeting professionals and other students in such a small field. You're going to be seeing them again. They're going to become your networking cloud for the rest of your life," she said.

With her college career behind her, she is now a staff forester with Landvest in Coldbrook, New Hampshire, and has transitioned in her role with SAF. "I'm now on the leadership advisory committee as a meld between a student and a young professional. Again, I'm bringing that voice to help with leadership within the committee."

Denoff encourages students to join SAF or the professional society their major offers.

"It's important to keep yourself up to date in your field so when you do go into interviews you can talk on the same level as a future employer because you know what's happening in your field. It's the same thing with attending conferences. You're meeting at the same level with all your future employers. … It's really cool that I got to sit at the table with professionals who have been in the field for a long time and give my opinion and they valued the opinions that I gave."