Building credentials through experiential learning

Students in the College of Natural Resources' Department of Wood Science and Forest Products and those involved in the Wood Enterprise Institute (WEI) are finding success through an experiential learning environment and business ventures.

“Our Wood Enterprise Institute students had phenomenal success this summer and [they have] made huge strides,” said Professor Paul Winistorfer, head of the wood products department. They were honored during Wood Week, September 4-8.

Wood Week 2007, in its third year at Virginia Tech, blended the strengths of the wood science and forest products program with those of its wood industry partners for symbiotic results.

Enterprising students


2007 Wood Enterprise Institute students 2007 Wood Enterprise Institute students

Under the guidance of Professor Earl Kline, 12 students participating in the Wood Enterprise Institute took a customizable table-top wooden bookshelf from conceptual stages to market.

Kline, Associate Professor Brian Bond, and David Jones, manager of the department’s wood machining and manufacturing lab, provided daily guidance during the process.

“We realize that human capital is the most important thing we can bring to the future of the wood and renewable materials industries,” Winistorfer said. “Our industry is a leading employer in Virginia and contributes over $25 billion annually to the Commonwealth.”

Student Adam Birkett explained, “The group goal is not about selling the product; it’s about selling the program. If we can do that and keep this institute alive, we’ve been successful.”

WEI was developed to foster higher order learning to augment the very strong technical curriculum. The experiential learning environment allows student to hone team-building, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills while enjoying opportunities in creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

WEI will continue in summer 2008.

“In our inaugural year, we could not be more pleased with the interest, enthusiasm, and commitment of our students," Winistorfer said. "Putting theory into practice in a concept-to-market enterprise environment makes this about as real world as you can get.

"I have never seen a group of our students more engaged and excited about a project.”

Wood Week 2007


Asa Christiana Asa Christiana

Wood Week was a series of department-sponsored opportunities designed to bring awareness of the achievements of the department, faculty, and students and to provide educational information on the importance of wood and other renewable materials.

Other activities for Wood Week included the kickoff keynote speech by the Editor of Fine Woodworking (Taunton Press), Asa Christiana. Christiana also presented several lectures on campus to various academic departments.

A career awareness fair provided a chance for students to learn about potential careers and internships, and to explore various fields in the industry.


Ward Burton Ward Burton

NASCAR Driver Ward Burton participated in the fair. A Virginia native, Burton drove the #4 State Water Heater Chevrolet for Morgan-McClure Motorsports in 2007.

"More than 40 companies are participating in our career fair during Wood Week,” Winistorfer said before the event. “We literally are bringing the wood industry to campus, and we hope to put our campus community of students in front of our industry. The industry needs managers, marketers, engineers, chemists, architects, industrial designers, wood scientists, foresters and many other skill sets."

Another featured Wood Week event was the award-winning Wood Magic Program, which provided active, hands-on, science-based education to fourth- and fifth-grade students and teachers.

The program, in its 10th year at Virginia Tech, has reached more than 10,000 students and teachers. Children will participate in activities that are tied into the Virginia Standards of Learning to foster adoption and uptake by local schools.

The marquee event of Wood Week was a “Student Recognition and Scholarship Reception,” held by the Department of Wood Science and Forest Products. Students in the department were recognized for their achievements.

Additionally, more than $65,000 in scholarship money was handed out to undergraduate students for the 2007-2008 academic year.

“These high-achieving and deserving students are the future of our industry, and we would like to recognize and reward them for their efforts,” Winistorfer said.

  • For more information on this topic, contact Lynn Davis at or (540) 231-6157.

2007 WEI product

    The WEI wooden bookshelf with the Virginia Tech logo on it

This customizable wooden bookshelf was developed for the 2007 Wood Enterprise Institute concept-to-market project.

Research centers and programs

Wood Science and Forest Products uses teaching and outreach activities to educate others about the wood and forest products industries.

Did you know?

  • A one-inch cube of wood contains about 5 million wood cells.
  • The average American uses about three pounds of wood every day.
  • While paper grocery bags are biodegradable, their plastic counterpart would still be in a landfill 1,000 years from now.
  • In one day, an average tree exhales enough oxygen to keep a family of four breathing for a day.
  • Trees are the longest living organisms on earth.
  • One acre of trees can remove about 13 tons of dust and gases every year from the surrounding environment.
  • Paper is the most recycled product in the United States.

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