Voices of Idaho: Celebrating 100 Years of Excellence
The University of Idaho was founded in 1889, a year before Idaho became the 43rd state admitted to the union. Natural resources programming has been a part of our educational mission from nearly the beginning of this great land-grant institution. In 2017, the College of Natural Resources celebrated its centennial — 100 years of leadership, excellence and service to the citizens of the great Gem State.
When you think about Idaho, the first things that come to most of our minds are the beautiful natural resources that characterize our landscape — majestic mountains, roaring rivers, glacial lakes and vast open rangelands. Idaho’s natural resources support the livelihoods of many Idahoans. The College of Natural Resources has been training professional land managers since the beginning, and our graduates have gone on to become leaders in their respective disciplines.
I hear a lot today about the importance of training students in an interdisciplinary manner. What many people fail to recognize is that formal college education in any of the natural resources sub-disciplines has always been inherently interdisciplinary.
You cannot be a proficient natural resources manager unless you are able to understand both the biophysical world (math, chemistry, biology, ecology) and the social sciences (economics, policy, law, business, political science). All of the undergraduate students in our college have formal interdisciplinary training across what the catch phrase today is “coupled human-natural systems.”
We also have always taken pride in training students in the field. We don’t just talk about natural resources — we get out there and expose students to the real world by conducting classes and laboratories in forests, lakes, rivers and rangelands. These days, our students work all over the world, alongside our world-class faculty.
When I became dean, I set the college on a quest for excellence in education, research and outreach — the three legs of the land-grant stool. It isn’t enough to identify problems, we must find solutions. We have a social contract to help the people of Idaho of all ages learn about natural resources and how to manage them for the well-being of society. I am happy to report that we are often ranked as the No. 1 value for prospective undergraduates in the United States. In other words, the College of Natural Resources offers the highest quality, most affordable formal education in natural resources in America. For 100 years, we have been training high-quality graduates who go on to do great things.
The future looks bright! Our faculty are amazing, the demand to help solve environmental problems and wisely use natural resources is only increasing as the human population continues to grow and people demand a high standard of living and sustainable natural environments. The College of Natural Resources is an integral part of the University of Idaho, then, now and always. Go Vandals!
- Kurt Pregitzer is the dean of the College of Natural Resources and has earned the distinguished title of Thomas Reveley Professor. He has his doctorate from the University of Michigan. He is retiring as dean at the end of the 2017-18 academic year.