Name: Jennifer Burt
Within a short drive of campus, Southern Utah University students can plod through the snows of mountain forests, scale the red cliffs of Zion National Park, or fill their shoes with desert sands.
Cedar City's location at the convergence of several different climates provides a built-in advantage for students interested in range management, the process of maximizing land productivity using scientific tools such as crop rotation, soil testing, and pest control.
While an official range management degree program is still in the works, students have already taken the initiative and formed a range management club as a means of coordinating hands-on learning experiences.
Their proximity to so many types of ecologies allows these students to gain a wealth of real-world experience from working with local farmers and ranchers. That experience definitely pays off, both in the academic world and in the professional world. At a recent competition with other university range management groups from around the state, the SUU club took top team honors, beating much more experienced teams from Brigham Young and Utah State.
Club president Jace Lambeth and club members Rio Franzman and Christen Caffroy took first, third and fifth place in individual competition, respectively.
Part of the competition included an exam testing students' knowledge of a wide range of topics, including the scientific name of sagebrush.
"I definitely got that one right," says club member Justin Reeve. "Artemisia. It's my sister's name."
In addition to having the benefits of southern Utah's unique geography, club members have the benefit of learning from one of the best instructors in the country in Professor of Range Management Dr. Jim Bowns.
As Lambeth explains, “Dr. Bowns is considered one of the fathers of range management in Utah. For decades his students have become some of the most qualified professionals in the West."
Employers definitely recognize and appreciate the special talents and skills of SUU range management students, with many SUU graduates working in range management positions throughout the region.
“The law recently changed, and now to work for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or Forest Service or any government agency, you have to have a degree in range management,” explains Ohms. “Since we don’t have a degree program just yet, I’ve got guys calling me from the BLM begging me to get one started so they can hire our students. There’s a high demand for our graduates.”
While administrators work on putting the degree program together, club members are now setting their sights on the International Society of Range Management meetings in Billings, Montana in February 2011 where they will compete with students from universities across the USA, Mexico, and Canada.
“BYU won the international competition last year,” says Lambeth, “so we are excited about our prospects for a solid showing in Billings.”
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