Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences names Roberson as Alumnus of the Year

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Joe Roberson has been named Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Outstanding Alumnus for 2020.

A 1988 graduate in the forest engineering program, Roberson has been a forest engineer and wood settlement coordinator for 20 years at WestRock, one of the world’s largest packaging and paper companies. The company, headquartered in Atlanta, has made a substantial commitment to sustainability.

Before that, Roberson worked for 13 years as a geographic information systems, or GIS, forester at Mead Corporation. Combined with his studies at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, or SFWS, he has cultivated decades of expertise in GIS and the forest products industry.

“It's always an honor to be recognized by your peers, especially for doing something you love,” Roberson said of receiving this honor. “I love travel, forestry, Auburn, family and friends. Being active with SFWS alumni combines all of these.

“I'm glad to be a part of the SFWS family and try to give back as much as possible, not just money but with my time. As an essential worker in an essential industry, I am fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and ready to travel with Auburn baseball, Auburn football and the War Eagle Travelers.”

Currently, Roberson chairs both the Alabama Implementation Committee and the Georgia Loggers Educational Committee of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. He is also active in the Alabama Forestry Association and its educational activities with high school teachers and students.

He is also active in the SFWS Advisory Council, the Society of American Foresters and the Georgia Forestry Association.

Don Heath, fellow SFWS alum and Regions senior vice president of natural resources and real estate, nominated Roberson for the honor.

“I have had the privilege of working with Joe on the SFWS Leadership and Development teams and the Advisory Council,” Heath said. “I feel I know Joe well, and his commitment to this school is demonstrated by the generosity of his time and resources. Joe truly embodies the Auburn spirit.”

Dean Janaki Alavalapati said Roberson’s impact in forestry is impressive, both professionally and through his outreach initiatives.

“Joe has taken his impressive skills and knowledge of forestry and GIS and shared them not only with his colleagues, but with the community at large, assuming a vital role in educating and fostering public interest about forestry,” Alavalapati said.

For Roberson, forestry is not just his profession, but also his passion.

“I always take offense when foresters advise students looking at forestry or wildlife to ‘pick something else, where you can make money.’ I always jump in and say, ‘Earning a comfortable salary and loving what you do every day is more important than being rich.’ I am rich in experiences and friends.

“Our love of nature binds all natural resource professionals. Our love of Auburn binds all Auburn graduates,” Roberson said. “But our love of both and our love of mankind binds our SFWS family.”

(Written by Teri Greene)

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The Auburn University College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment is a flagship institution for natural resources-based degrees including natural resource management, geospatial and environmental informatics and sustainable biomaterials and packaging. The school serves as the backbone for Alabama’s $30 billion+ forest, wildlife and natural resources related enterprises. Its mission is to create next-generation professionals and leaders, to develop new knowledge and disseminate science-based solutions to our clientele to improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of citizens in Alabama and beyond.