New forestry undergraduate program aims to offer students flexibility, community

Forestry students are about to see a massive change in how their faculty grants undergraduate degrees. Starting in fall 2024, five of the Forestry department’s seven existing Bachelor’s degrees will become majors under a new, unified Bachelor’s of Science in Natural Resources. 

Currently, the faculty offers seven direct-entry undergraduate programs, five of which are Bachelor's of Science. These five will be combined into the new program, with students having the option to choose bioeconomy sciences and technology, conservation, forest management, forest operations, forest sciences or wood products as majors.

New students will no longer need to choose which Bachelors of Science program they want to pursue before coming to UBC. Rather, they will take a common core of 20 credits in first year before having to declare their major going into second year. 

According to Director of Curriculum for the Faculty of Forestry Dr. Patrick Culbert, the faculty has been working on this change for four years, consulting with students and faculty members to ensure that the new degree captures the breadth of students’ interests. 

Culbert said some key motivations for the new program were simplicity for new students and enhancing community among first years. With a broader first year cohort, students will have the opportunity to make connections across the faculty early on. 

“We’ve heard from students that they felt community in our faculty is really strong from second year on, but they didn’t necessarily feel that in the first year when they were taking lots of courses across campus,” he said. 

Liam Doering, a second-year Forestry student studying natural resources conservation, thinks this is a valuable change, also noting the likelihood of building more community. 

“[This change will] create, I think, a bit more solidarity in the faculty,” he said. 

Doering sees other benefits too, especially in terms of future employability. 

“I think [the unified program] gives people a broader likelihood of being a good candidate for a job,” he said. 

The first year curriculum won’t completely eliminate the choices first years need to make. Beyond the 20 core credits, students will choose an additional 12-13 credits as prerequisites for courses in the major they are most likely to pursue. 

However, Culbert said the faculty made an effort to design the new degree to accommodate students whose interests evolve after first year. 

“Our hope is that … with use of electives and things like that, [students] should be able to switch to a different major without too much of an impact on their schedule,” he said.

This new degree will come into effect for students entering UBC in fall 2024, but current students have the option to remain in their original program or transfer to the unified one. 

Doering said he was interested in pursuing the new degree considering all the benefits. 

“Combining the six options that are currently there … does seem like a more versatile degree.”