Lead Articles


Center for Wood Innovation and Sustainability

The School of Forest Resources is home to a number of research centers, and our faculty are affiliated with quite a few more external to our unit.

The School’s newest center, the Center for Wood Innovation and Sustainability, was initiated in late 2008 with funding from the U.S. Forest Service’s Wood Education and Resource Center, with additional funding from Pennsylvania’s Hardwoods Development Council.

The name of the Center indicates that innovation and sustainability are critical for the future of industries allied with eastern hardwoods, both primary and value-added. The overarching theme of the Center’s work is increasing the competitiveness of companies that manufacture products from hardwoods, and both economic and environmental sustainability are addressed.

Judd Michael, professor of sustainable wood-based enterprises, serves as Center director, and Bob Berg is assistant director for economic analyses. Berg, a School of Forest Resources alum, studied forest economics under Chuck Strauss, director and professor emeritus, and then enjoyed a long career in industry before returning to Happy Valley. Other School faculty involved with the Center include Paul Smith, professor of sustainable building materials marketing; Chuck Ray, associate professor of wood products operations; Nicole Brown, associate professor of wood chemistry; and Lee Stover, senior research associate.

Key areas of activity during the Center’s first year include: business management, economic analyses, product testing, and supply/demand issues for wood-based raw materials. The Center will provide product testing for the industry when new environmental chambers in the York Group laboratory in the Forest Resources Building come online.

One example of how the Center has assisted the Pennsylvania forest products industry is the dissemination of information to help producers better manage their human resources. A firm’s “human capital” is a distinct source of competitive advantage, and yet most firms in the hardwood industry are not very good at fully utilizing their people. This fall the Center will publish the second edition of the “Human Resources Best Practices” handbook, which is sponsored by the Hardwoods Development Council and will be available from the School.

One of the Center’s biggest impacts has been its Executive Briefings newsletters. This publication began earlier this year and is currently sent electronically to more than 2,000 recipients. In the first issue, Bob Berg wrote a series of articles giving his outlook on the housing industry and hardwood markets. Back in March, Berg predicted that the U.S. housing market was about to hit bottom and that by the end of 2009 the overbuilt conditions and excess inventory of homes would be reduced to acceptable levels. In a later issue, Berg debunked the myth that housing starts cannot rebound until unemployment rates decline.

The Center has also tried to tackle the tricky question of what will happen to demand for hardwood products. Analyses have been conducted on the end-use demand for hardwood lumber, and whether there will be enough “certified” hardwood products available to meet the new demand for these “green” products.

An example of the data presented in the Center’s newsletter is seen here. The graph illustrates the consumption of hardwood lumber by four key industry sectors, and clearly shows the decline during the past two years. Additional analyses are being conducted, with special attention being paid to the so-called “woody-biomass” that is available for bioenergy and other innovative uses.

Other activities of the Center include presentations for industry associations and training programs for industry managers. Center personnel also gave testimony before a committee of the Pennsylvania Legislature. One of the Center’s strengths is management development training programs that address leadership, communications, and conflict resolution.

Center personnel enjoyed working with the Keystone Wood Products Association this past year, and this fall will partner with the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association (PFPA) on a day-long training program at PFPA’s annual meeting in September.

The Center’s Executive Briefings newsletter is free, and alumni and friends of the School are welcome to sign up. To add your name to the list, please send an e-mail to David Harry ( or call 814-865-7541. Back issues of Executive Briefings are also available.


Wolfingers Create Trustee Scholarship

Sandy Wolfinger (’65 FORSC) knows without a doubt his career achievements were made possible by his Penn State education, and he wants to ensure that hard-working students receive the same opportunities. To accomplish this goal, he and his wife, Connie Wolfinger, are giving $50,000 to the University to establish the Harold H. "Sandy" Wolfinger Trustee Scholarship. The award will assist undergraduates with financial need, giving first preference to students majoring in forest science in the School of Forest Resources.

"Our hope is that the scholarship will not only help financially, but also validate the student's hard work and plant a seed of encouragement that they might help others when they are able to do so," said Wolfinger.

Wolfinger is president of the consulting forester partnership Northern Forests, LLC. In addition, he and Connie, a real estate broker, developed Field & Stream Real Estate along with their son, Shawn. The couple resides in Cuba, N.Y., where they are developing an arboretum on the extensive grounds of their current residence.

The Wolfingers previously supported the new Forest Resources Building and also established a scholarship at Penn State Mont Alto, where Wolfinger spent his first year of school. Their commitment to Penn State also has been demonstrated by hosting forestry students and faculty at their home for overnight forestry field training.

The Trustee Matching Scholarship Program is designed to keep a Penn State education accessible to all qualified students, regardless of their financial means. The program has a unique matching component -- the University matches 5 percent of the principal of each gift annually and combines these funds with income from the endowment to effectively double the financial impact of the scholarship. Implemented in 2002 upon approval by Penn State's Board of Trustees, the program assisted approximately 4,600 students University-wide last year.


Conservation Leadership School

Penn State’s experiential summer youth education program celebrated its 60th year with the completion of this year’s Conservation Leadership School (CLS).

Wetlands were the focus of CLS this summer, with activities at Scotia Barrens vernal pools, Interstate 99 mitigated wetlands, Black Moshannon State Park Bog Natural Area, and several sites that were once agricultural fields.

Presenters included personnel from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, and several Pennsylvania state agencies, namely the Game Commission, Department of Environmental Protection, and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of State Parks.


Along with wetland education, CLS provided students with team building, conflict resolution, and problem solving challenges through programs by the Centre County Youth Service Bureau’s Zerby Gap ropes course, Rural Leadership program of Pennsylvania (RULE), and the new vertical adventure course located at the Stone Valley Recreation Area.

More than 55 high school students from across Pennsylvania participated, with many expressing interest in attending Penn State in the future. Students experienced numerous “firsts” such as shooting a gun, cutting down a tree, and viewing three of the five carnivorous plants in North America.

Throughout the week of CLS, students explore their beliefs in conservation and themselves, and interact daily with activities to improve their knowledge of the world around them.

CLS 2010 will run June 27-July 3, July 11-17, and July 18-24, with a focus on wildlife. For more information, please contact CLS Director Mike Powell at 814-863-1113 or