Helping Others See the Forest for the Trees

Have you ever met a natural-born leader?  You know…someone who, just from his unassuming but confident manner, lets you know everything is under control and that you matter?  The Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources is very fortunate to have many student leaders, but none stand out more than Austin Heine, a senior in Forest Management.  During his academic career at NC State, Austin has held several leadership roles in student organizations and has been the recipient of many scholarships and awards. Recently, Austin was awarded the Ben Meadows Natural Resources Scholarship for Academic Achievement. Only two students in the country are named to the Ben Meadows scholarship each year, and only one receives the academic achievement award. But for all of his scholastic success, it turns out that Austin’s character is what best reveals him as a true leader.

Earning and maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average is an impressive feat under any circumstance, but Austin has done this while…now get ready for this… working for the NC State Tree Improvement Program, holding Secretary and Vice President positions in the State College Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, being President of the NC State Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters (SAF), peer tutoring in dendrology class, and mentoring incoming students in a special topics course.  This last course was developed by the department just this year to help enhance relationships between experienced students and new students. “Austin’s consistent good will, patient personality, and clear thinking have gone a long way toward helping us meet that objective,” said Dr. George Hess, professor and co-instructor of the special topics course. “In peer reviews from fellow students, Austin was universally admired for his leadership, encouragement, and ability to provide guidance while still letting others set their own direction.”

Knowing how to let others discover their own confidence in a subject is a rare talent. For Austin, this occurs in a very natural and genuine way. “The most rewarding thing about my education in forestry at North Carolina State University has been my dendrology course with Dr. Braham,” relayed Austin in an interview. “I have enjoyed many courses at NC State, but this class was special to me because it really changed the way I look at the woods.”  That love of being able to newly go through the forest and appreciate it for all of its complexity was passed along to the students that he tutored during the 2011 Fall semester. “He is always respectful and displays considerable grace,” observed the dendrology professor, Dr. Richard Braham.

During NCSU SAF Wilderness Management Expedition, Glacier National Park

During NCSU SAF Wilderness Management Expedition, Glacier National Park

With the National Wild Turkey Federation, Austin helped organize Turkey Hunters Care that donates turkeys to those in need, including the Raleigh Rescue Mission. In his role as president of the NC State Student Chapter of SAF, he helped plan a 2012 pre- SAF conference wilderness excursion the students took to Glacier National Park in Montana. “One of the reasons this trip was so enjoyable,” stated Austin, “was because we had a really great group!” His consensus building and organizing skills are once again in use as several students are preparing for the next professional development opportunity at the Appalachian Society of American Foresters 2013 Meeting in Charlotte, NC, later this month.

“Austin has all the makings of one of the great future leaders for the Forestry Profession,” said Dr. Joe Roise, professor and faculty advisor for the NCSU Student Chapter of SAF. “Austin was recognized by his classmates when they voted him to be the NCSU SAF President last year. I didn’t know much about him at that time,” continued Dr. Roise, “but I trust the insight of students when they choose a leader, and they certainly reinforced my trust when it came to electing Austin. Since becoming Chapter President he has been getting a lot of things done using a quiet, thoughtful yet professional style.”Austin Heine

Leading while learning at the same is truly the art of being able to see the forests for the trees.  Austin seems to be a natural at this. “The first thing that got me interested in forestry is that I have always loved being outdoors. I wanted to be in a profession where I would love to go to work every day, and I knew that forestry would enable me to do this,” explained Austin, adding that Doug Smith, a timber company owner and family friend, also fueled the flame by taking him to a forest tract when he was in high school.

Perhaps one reason Austin is such a good leader is because he, himself, is so open to being mentored, as is clear from the many responsibilities he has taken on and relationships he has built over the past few years.  As Austin considers the next few years, he may have his compass set for graduate school.  We know he will find what he seeks and, along the way, will help guide others to find their own paths to the future.

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