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UAM’s Ficklin Brings Home Top Forestry Award

By Lon Tegels

College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources

University of Arkansas at Monticello

Arkansas Forest Resources Center

U of A System Division of Agriculture

MONTICELLO, Arkansas — University of Arkansas at Monticello, forestry professor Dr. Robert Ficklin has received one of the highest honors in the forestry profession. On September 30, Ficklin received the Society of American Foresters (SAF) Fellows Award. Ficklin has been a member of SAF since 1991. He joined the faculty at the UAM School of Forestry in January 2002 and worked his way through the ranks,now a Professor and Associate Dean of Academics at the UAM College of Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resources.

Ficklin has taught several courses in natural resource ecology, management and sampling, but his benchmark course is in forest soils. “I teach soil science principles primarily from the natural resources perspective, which contrasts a bit with the agronomic view. I place a little bit more emphasis on nutrient cycling and sustainable productivity with limited inputs.”

Fellows Award Highest Forestry Honor

According to Ficklin, “the Fellows Award recognizes individuals with a long-standing commitment to forestry, promoting forestry. Depending on your particular discipline, you must distinguish yourself in some aspects of your career. It is an award that your peers nominate you for. I’m humbled and honored by that. My nominators were from across the state of Arkansas.

“The fellow award from the Society of American Foresters is its highest level of recognition for folks in the forestry profession, said Dr. Michael Blazier, dean of the UAM College for Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resources. 

Blazier adds, “It’s awarded for service in the forestry profession, and Dr. Ficklin has contributed substantially to the forestry profession through his teaching; his students hold him in high regard. Those students are working throughout the forestry profession nationally, thriving, and look back to Dr. Ficklin as one of their favorite professors. He said Dr. Ficklin is also highly committed to service to the Society of American Foresters.

Ficklin Recognized for Research

Retired forester Larry Nance is one of the people who nominated Ficklin for the award. Nance is a retired Deputy State Forester with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, Forestry Division. Nance said, “Rob has been involved in a lot of research with the university, especially in the loblolly pine. His research has been very helpful to us in the field.”

Nance and Ficklin served on the Ouachita Society of American Foresters Executive Committee for nearly 15 years. Nance said Ficklin has been instrumental with SAF at the state and national levels. “The Society depends on Rob to get out communications to all of the members. The Ouachita Society is not just Arkansasbut a multi-state society. It also includes Oklahoma. Ficklin held high offices in both in the Ouachita Society, both the Chair, Vice Chair, and Secretary.

“Rob always brought his students to the different national meetings. Ficklin was the advisor for the UAM Quiz Bowl Team. “That’s a national event they have at the National Society of American Forester’s meetings, and it’s a competition amongforestry schools from across the country,” said Nance.

“I guess part of Rob’s legacy would be that over 20 years, he’s had a lot of students that have graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. He’s been responsible for many students who have taken leadership positions in their employment. I know students who graduated from UAM and have taken leadership positions in industry, government, and the private sector. Nance added, “Rob takes a personal interest in everything, including leadership. He is a great leader in anything he is involved in.”

Ficklin Builds Student SAF Chapter at UAM

Retired University of Arkansas Extension Agent Carroll Guffey also nominated Ficklin. He said he worked with Ficklin for 10 or 12 years. 

“One of the reasons that I nominated him is that when we first started continuing education for foresters, we had 400-plus foresters out in the field, and we didn’t have a good contact mechanism. Rob created a list of all foresters, and then anytime a continuing education class or anything adventurous to foresters came up, we passed that to Rob.” Ficklin, in essence, has built a database for the Ouachita Society Chapter of Foresters.   Guffey added, “He boosted student chapter participation. When Rob came, there were there just 4-5 members. He built that program up to what it is today.” Guffey added, “It’s a much better program from the student chapter than it was.”

“He wasn’t an easy ‘A’; he was a taskmaster. But the students liked him, and they appreciated Dr. Ficklin. He was upfront with his students. He’s highly interested in them, you know, he didn’t want anybody to get behind.

“He went beyond his position at SAF. He stepped up and put together and organized meetings. He was a big, big positive and was the Go-To person. If you wanted any information out to foresters about meetings, about anything, you gave it to Rob,and all the foresters in Arkansas and Oklahoma knew about it.

Ficklin said he didn’t have a forester in his family. He grew up in a rural, suburban area with a creek behind the house that he fished- when chores were done. He said he would go on float trips and run around in the woods, but he didn’t grow up surrounded by industrial forestry.

Like many young students, Ficklin has a person who was instrumental in focusing his career. Ficklin’s appetite for nature was fed by sixth-grade teacher Mr. Cowan. Ficklin credits Mr. Cowan with assigning students to compile a study of nature and conservation- Nature Study 6. Students collected leaf samples, insect samples, and informational pamphlets during the school year. Students wrote letters to the US Forest Service, political offices, and nature-type agencies. Although he didn’t know it at the time, the two bound books he kept were organized much like a thesis.  

Ficklin eventually decided he wanted to study nature. “Enjoying and appreciating nature and forests is a first step, but there’s a leap that has to be made for someone to make a career working with forests,” said Ficklin. “Instead of just enjoying being outside, I wanted to commit my professional life and career to studying nature. The forestry profession is founded on management based upon sound science about forests and natural systems- a good personal and professional fit,” said Ficklin.

Ficklin believes an appreciation of nature needs to be fostered at a young age. “I think it is important for us to try to reach students at about sixth or seventh grade. By the time they’re in 10th grade, it’s probably too late; we may have missed them.

Ficklin is only the third forestry professor in the history of the UAM forestry program to receive the SAF Fellow Award. UAM Forestry Department founder Hank Chamberlin won in 1982,and Dr. Timothy Ku in 1985 are the other two recipients.  

“It’s a testament to a lifetime of service to the forestry profession and the Society of American Foresters in particular. It is an example of high-level achievement,” said Dr. Blazier.

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About the College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Arkansas Forest Resources Center

The College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Arkansas Forest Resources Center, a University of Arkansas System Center of Excellence, brings together interdisciplinary expertise through a partnership between the University of Arkansas at Monticello and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The College and Center are headquartered at the University of Arkansas at Monticello campus, but their programs range statewide with the mission of developing and delivering teaching, research, and extension programs that enhance and ensure the sustainability and productivity of forest-based natural resources and agricultural systems. Academic programs are delivered by the College of Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resources through the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Through the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, research is administered by the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, and extension and outreach activities are coordinated by the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

The University of Arkansas at Monticello and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offer all of their programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and are Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employers.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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