Graduate School Spotlight: Brandon Loomis

16 Mar

Brandon Loomis is a graduate student in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and is currently pursuing his Master of Natural Resources degree. After graduating from Furman University in 2005 with his B.A. in Political Science and from the University of Delaware in 2007 with his master’s degree in international relations, the Maryland native served seven years as an Army Officer, including three deployments. From the experiences he had as an Army officer and his appreciation for the outdoors, Loomis knew he wanted to ultimately have a career in forestry. He is the first recipient of the Vick Fellowship, which was established thanks to a generous gift from John and Faye Vick of Andalusia, Alabama.Brandon Loomis 

After being in the military, how was it you chose to come to Auburn for graduate school?

My wife’s from Jasper, Alabama, and when I was in the military, Jasper was kind of home base for us. I’ve been an Auburn football fan for 10 or 12 years, since my wife and I met at Furman. My wife’s family is involved in the forestry business. They’re land owners, so I got introduced to that through them. Of course, Auburn has a good forestry school. That was kind of my No. 1 choice. The program here fits me perfectly because I don’t have a forestry undergraduate degree. I don’t even have a biological sciences degree. With the program they have here, I took a few prerequisites before I came here to get me up to speed, and then I take all the undergraduate coursework to get my license as a forester, and at the same time, I take 36 hours to get my master’s in natural resources. So it’s kind of a perfect scenario.

Are you involved in any research projects?

My degree of Master of Natural Resources to become a professional forester is not a research-based degree. So typically, we don’t do that. But because I have this fellowship, I’m free to go where I want with [research]. This semester, one of my professors is doing research in Tuskegee National Forest through the Department of Agriculture, and I’m going to start working with him there this spring. It’s a win-win. I want to take the resources I’m being provided as a Vick Fellow and move that toward what my academic interests are, and I can work for him and he doesn’t have to pay me, which is great.

How would you describe your experience coming back to school after several years away?

Coming back, just being a little bit more mature and knowing what I want to do is such an advantage. At the end of undergrad, I knew I wanted to go into the military, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I kind of figured that out, and coming back to school has just been so much easier having that purpose. I was definitely nervous wondering if I’d be able to learn as fast as I used to and retain things, balance a family and things like that, but all the ducks have kind of fallen in a row for me. Whether it be the financial side (there’s a lot of support at Auburn for graduate education, specifically for veterans, but also for everyone), or the academic side, it’s come to me a lot easier with that professional mindset as opposed to just being a student trying to figure out what you want to do. For me, it was the best way to go back to school, to get some life experience after college. It’s really just been a rewarding experience for me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat do you want to do specifically once you complete your degree and are a professional forester?

In the long term, I’ve always thought I would probably own my own business — a land management business, timber business, some type of forestry consulting. In the short-term, forestry, like a lot of professions, isn’t something you can just know what you’re doing straight out of school. So I want to work for someone for a while. There are a lot of good companies in the South, especially in Alabama. But in the long run, I’d like to have my own business.

What makes Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences great?

Everybody’s been super accessible. The biggest thing I notice at Auburn are the resources we have at a big university like this. It’s unbelievable what you have access to as a student. I can’t think of another school that has some of the things we have: the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center, the resources we have on campus, and the people we have access to.

— Francesca Tully |


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