The Many Benefits of SAF’s National Convention

Written by Marcella Windmuller-Campione

Photo of Marcella Windmuller-Campione During my junior year of college, I discovered my passion – silviculture – and was immediately hooked. I started thinking about attending graduate school and, at the time, had the naïve idea that being a professor would be cool. However, I was unaware of the steps required, or how much work and sometimes luck landing a tenure track job entailed. That same year I had the privilege to attend my first SAF National Convention in Portland, Oregon. At the time, I had no idea how attending would provide an opportunity for a lens into my future.

During my first meeting, I was in awe – I was seeing professors speak in person that I had only read about in articles. I even admit that I was a little star struck seeing Drs. Bruce Larson and Chadwick Oliver from Stand Dynamics. I saw graduate students share their research as I moved from room to room soaking in all topics related to silviculture, forest stand development, and forest ecosystem processes. As a college student, the experience was also intimidating. So many people knew each other, and networking and conversing appeared to be easy and natural. That first year, I felt a little like an outsider, looking in.

Now, 15 years later, I’ve continued to attend SAF’s National Convention. My network of colleagues, colleagues that have turned into friends, and current and now former students has grown. I am no longer that outsider looking in but part of the larger community.

If this year’s convention will be your first meeting, welcome! If this is your 30th convention, welcome back. For those who are seasoned attendees, I encourage you to think back on your first convention. Were you equally nervous like I was? If so, introduce yourself to someone new, take that invitation to grab coffee, or consider expanding your professional network by attending a new working group or a presentation that might be outside of your comfort zone.

This year I’m the Program Chair of the Committee on National Convention Programs. This has been a professional goal of mine since attending my first convention back in 2007. The committee is leaning into the passion that foresters feel with our theme "Forestry: It’s in our DNA."  During the convention, we will hear from passionate speakers on the big stage as they share their stories, knowledge, and experiences as foresters.

Still not sure if you’re ready to join us at this year’s convention? Read from members of the Committee on National Convention Programs on the value of attending:

During my first convention in 2019, I felt a bit like I was 'the only one' and a little scared that maybe SAF wasn't for me. I continued attending because I knew I couldn't be alone here. I decided to find my people by submitting a proposal to talk at both virtual conventions that would bring out my allies. In doing so, I found other folks who felt like me, and I finally got to meet them in person in Baltimore. I will continue going to the SAF National Convention because I have finally built a community, I belong to within SAF.” –Krause, Michigan SAF

Every year, the SAF Convention offers me not just an opportunity to learn technical information about forestry, but an opportunity to reflect on my career and to engage with and grow my professional community. I began attending convention as an undergraduate student, presenting at the convention as a graduate student, and, now, planning the convention as a working professional. Each year I attend, the community of people I engage with grows. As I prepare to attend my sixth National Convention, I'm looking forward to reconnecting with familiar faces and taking a break from my own work to consider forestry in a broader context. It's truly a highlight of my year.” –Amy Shaunette, California SAF

The National Convention provides me with a wide perspective of how other forest practitioners around the country are engaging in their work. All year I focus on the forest in my small corner of the country, but the National Convention lets me see how my work fits into the bigger picture. I'm always reenergized about my chosen profession after attending the National Convention.” –Jeremy Douse, CF, Alaska SAF

The National Convention offers opportunities to attend field tours with professionals who are passionate about what they do. Last year I attended the urban forestry tour of Baltimore and I continue to share the lessons I learned: rural silviculture has a place in urban settings; communities desire information and action on sustaining their urban forests; SAF professionals make a difference in their communities.” –Callie Schweitzer, Southeast SAF

Marcella Windmuller-Campione is the 2023 SAF Committee on National Convention Programs Chair and an associate professor in silviculture in the department of forest resources at the University of Minnesota.