The School of Forestry & Environmental Studies recently received an anonymous $400,000, multi-year donation, which the school will use to increase practical learning experiences.
The environment school endowment has already received the first installment, and additional payments will be made in the coming years.
“The donor is not in a position to give us $400,000 today,” said Eugenie Gentry, a development officer in the environment school development office. “It is a pledge of $400,000, of which some has already been put in [the endowment] and has already begun to pay out — it’s a multi-year donation.”
The interest the money will accrue in the environment school’s endowment will be used to supplement one of the school’s summer internship programs. The money will not be directly spent on the summer internship program, because it was donated to the endowment and not to the program specifically.
Through the program, environmental school graduate students are hired to work in one of the school’s forests to learn the basics of forest management.
“The primary focus will be to endow student internships,” Alex Finkral ’97 FES ’04 said. “We have master’s students working for us while we teach them things in the summer, and so the gift was set up to enable us to afford to hire more students in some cases, and also to free up money to do other things. The real intent of the donation was on educational value.”
Finkral said the summer internships allow students to learn about forestry management while also working. Between three and eight students have participated in the program each year, and Finkral said he expects the number to eventually rise to 15. The program lasts from 10 to 12 weeks and takes students through a series of steps that Finkral said are fundamental to managing a forest.
“By the end of the summer, you’re pretty well-qualified to take on general forest management tasks,” Finkral said. “You’re pretty much qualified to serve as a forest management consultant.”
The long-term plans for improving the program include expanding the teaching staff and purchasing new equipment. Finkral said he does not expect the number of students participating in the program to increase beyond 15.
“There is a longer-term plan in place to increase the quality of the education by being able to afford more instructors and cover the cost of equipment,” Finkral said.
Christopher Rieley FES ’04 was an intern last summer and said nearly everyone who participated in the program was pursuing a master’s degree at the environment school. He said the program was especially well-geared for such students.
“You really get to apply the classroom and academic learning you’ve done in the year in the field — it’s like class come to life,” Rieley said. “You want to have an understanding of how [a forest] works on the ground, and that’s pretty critical in presenting your qualifications to prospective employers.”
The environment school dean, Gus Speth ’64 LAW ’69, said in an upcoming environment school publication that the donation is a visionary gift that will strengthen the school by supporting practical learning experiences.
Rieley also expressed support for the donation’s intended usage and said the money will “definitely be beneficial to the program.”
“We’re really grateful for this donation, and I think it will do a lot for the environment school and the people who are doing other things at Yale — trying to reach out to other parts of the community,” Rieley said.