Southern University leads in urban forestry in U.S.

Urban and forests might not seem to go together, but just like good forestry practices make sure rural forests are healthy, urban forestry does the same for trees and landscapes planted in cities large and small.

Students in Louisiana who want to stay close to home have only one place to go if they want to major in urban forestry: Southern University and A&M College.

Urban Forestry is a relatively new field of study for Southern; it began only about 25 years ago, considerably more recent given the university was founded 138 years ago.

Yet this program has already expanded, becoming only one of two urban forestry programs in the country to include bachelor, master and doctoral degrees.

“Right now, our program is considered the most comprehensive higher education urban forestry program in the nation because we offer all three layers of degrees,” said Dr. Yadong Qi (pronounced CHEE).

Qi arrived in Baton Rouge in 1992 when the Urban Forestry program started at Southern. It was her first collegiate teaching job.

“So I didn’t expect to stay long,” Qi said. “I expected to get some experience then move someplace else.”

Twenty-five years later, the professor of Urban Forestry is now department chairwoman and director of the Urban Forestry Graduate.

Program at Southern University. She and 10 other professors and professionals each year help on average about 100 undergraduate and graduate students work toward their degree.

Qi said the idea is to show that urban forestry is essential to society, adding value to city dwellers’ living by caring for the trees in urban areas.