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Ranger School Students Complete Residential Program and Graduate 4/17/2020

Ranger School Graduate

Fifty-three students at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Ranger School will graduate on Friday, April 17, 2020, in the Ranger School's 106th Commencement. The celebration will feature remote presentations from the College's leadership, but the students will be in full regalia and attendance, albeit socially distanced.

"We believe these students may be one of the only graduating classes - if not the only graduating class in the country - to complete their coursework in residence this spring," said Interim President Dave Amberg. "ESF's pedagogical model leans heavily toward experiential learning, and these students were not willing to give it up so close to the finish line, despite having the option. We gave the students the choice to either skip spring break and maintain residential learning or go to virtual instruction, and they unanimously decided to work through spring break, which of course required isolation. Our faculty have transitioned all of our other classes online, and I am proud of the transition, but the Ranger School students really paid tribute to our hands-on tradition. They have proven that they have grit, focus, a strong work ethic, discipline and a high level of responsibility."

Parents will be invited to watch the ceremony online, which will be hosted by the Ranger School Director Michael Bridgen and feature brief remarks, offered remotely, by Amberg, Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs David Newman, Chair of the Department of Sustainable Natural Resources Christopher Nowak, Bridgen, and Alumni Association President Christi Barber, from the Class or 2010. The ceremony will be held in the School's main classroom, where the Class President and Valedictorian will salute their classmates with remarks and their degrees will be conferred.

The average age of this year's class is 19.9 years, the youngest since 1974, and the Class of 2020 includes 17 women, the largest percentage of female students ever recorded for a class. This class also had a large group of out-of-state students, including some from California and Florida. The students are sitting for an associate degree in applied science.

"We offered the option of going virtual, and they all chose to stay," said Dr. Michael Bridgen, Professor and Director of the SUNY ESF Ranger School. "They are a close group of students who have worked well together all year, but have really united behind this common problem. They are resilient and determined to have a Ranger School degree on their resumes. We expected a lot of them, and they have demonstrated their resolve."

To ensure coursework was completed, spring break was canceled, students were in class for eight hours a day, and Saturday classes were added. To ensure the health and safety of all, students were restricted to campus, and they were required to hand over car keys. No one was allowed to enter or leave the grounds. Food and other deliveries were kept outside and retrieved by staff.

"We've built in some stress-relieving activities, too," said Bridgen. "Students did some weekend camping, and we organized some hikes into the local mountains. We offered some movie nights, a Saturday night musical "shindig" sponsored by the faculty, and as Easter Day egg hunt. The student vehicle parade, allowing them to run their cars and trucks around campus, was very well received."