MF Curriculum Description

Details on the SAF Accredited two-year Master of Forestry degree program.

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    The Master of Forestry (MF) curriculum is designed in three educational stages along with an emphasis on professional skill development.

    • STAGE ONE Basic Knowledge, is a focus on understanding the biological, physical, and social science that is the foundation for forest ecology, management and policy. The purpose is to provide students with a scientific understanding of ecological and social systems that can be applied in a policy or management context. This can be described as a process of assimilating knowledge, understanding values, and comprehending the relationships between knowledge and values that form essential concepts and hypotheses within the biological, social, and physical disciplines. This is the baseline upon which the remaining framework for synthesizing and integrating knowledge for management decisions is built. This curriculum encourages students to understand the land, plants, ecosystems, and people before developing management and policy solutions.
    • STAGE TWO Frameworks and Skills for Integrating Knowledge, provides many of the analytical techniques and tools for synthesis and analysis of scientific information within a social and political context. This stage includes courses that teach management techniques, economic and finance methods, and quantitative skills for both temporal and spatial measurement of natural resources and human behavior.
    • STAGE THREE includes both Synthesis and Analysis of Knowledge and the MF Capstone (ENV 955). Generally, students take these courses during their second year. Both are designed to address and prepare students for solving important real-world problems and resource conflicts. The courses fall into two main categories.
      1. The first is the management of forest resources, and includes interdisciplinary courses that teach students to approach complex issues, ask relevant questions, in useful sequences, to gather data to answer these questions, and develop a coherent and well thought out management or policy plan. These courses are designed to maintain high faculty-student and student-student interaction. A significant group project component is expected in these courses, some being client driven while others are research reports or assessments.These projects are intended to be of high professional/academic caliber, publishable as part of the School’s communications or in recognized journals.
      2. The second category is that of professional knowledge, including courses which provide exposure to aspects of forestry that broaden and add to the student’s knowledge base from a professional perspective. Included in this category are extensive field trips, and professional skills useful for working in an organizational context. All MF students are required to take an evening session on professional ethics and encouraged to take a session in conflict resolution. The MF capstone course (ENV 955) in our program addresses leadership, among other management skills, a characteristic that we have sought to strengthen in all of our students since the inception of the School. Instead of ENV 955 (or an equivalent seminar approved by the MF faculty leader), students can complete a project course with a faculty member to satisfy their capstone requirement that strengthens an individual’s analytical, communication, and publication skills. Note that MEM capstone courses are separate from the MF capstone; MEM capstone courses cannot be used to fulfill the MF capstone requirement and vice versa.

    During summers students are encouraged to learn technical and management skills through the Apprentice Forester Program at the School Forests, an internship with a forest management organization, or an independent management and research project that can lead to publication.


    Electives allow the student to choose a variety of courses, or to concentrate on a particular area as a specialization. Specializations are constructed by the student and his or her advisor. Their focus should be a particular land use or management issue concerning forest resources. The flexibility of course choice within the required topic areas of the MF curriculum also allows the student to tailor required courses to a  desired specialization.

    Sample specializations are:

    1. community development and social forestry in urban or rural environments
    2. protected areas management
    3. extension and education
    4. finance, consulting and business around forest products and services
    5. watershed health, ecosystem services, and restoration
    6. tropical forest ecology and management
    7. agroecology and agroforestry
    8. urban forestry.

    SAF Accreditation

    The two-year Master of Forestry is a professional degree reviewed and accredited by the Society of American Foresters (SAF). It is the policy of the School to insure that each student’s program conforms to the standards set by the SAF. The Master of Forestry program is overseen by a committee consisting of faculty and an MF program coordinator, Mark Ashton. Students should formally notify the program coordinator of their intent to do the MF. Should you have questions about the program course requirements please seek advice and counsel from the program coordinator in consultation with your advisor. Forms may be obtained from the program coordinator for crosschecking each student’s individualized course of study against SAF Standard II.

    Curriculum Notes

    • Students with previous relevant coursework may petition their advisor and the MF Coordinator to waive courses that they have had for requirements under basic knowledge and frameworks and skills. This has to be clearly apparent—for example: a student who majored in economics as an undergraduate should not need to do the economics requirement; or a student with a forestry undergraduate major should not need to take silviculture. No substitutions will be allowed for requirements under frameworks and skills, resource management, and professional skills. Nevertheless, no student will be required to repeat previously taken coursework.
    • The resource management and leadership/project seminars will involve significant group and individual project components respectively.
    • The MF coordinator in consultation with the MF Committee will determine each year which courses offered that year fit each of the topic descriptions.
    • Joint degree programs are available with the School of Management, the Law School, the Divinty School, the School of Architecture, and the School of Public Health. Individuals participating in joint programs are subject to the joint school agreements and approval of the MF Committee.