Chairs Perspective - Changes 2018

Rich Kobe, Department Chair, shares his insights

Dear MSU Forestry Alumni and Community,

The theme of this MSU Forester is about change and I wanted to share with you a recent life-changing experience of mine. On my lunch break on 5 July, I hopped on my bicycle for a quick workout. Westbound on Kalamazoo Street crossing Harrison Road, an Audi SUV turned left in front of me. I was in the crosswalk to enter the Lansing River Trail. To avoid collision with the Audi, I turned sharply to the left to get around its back-end. But as soon as I cleared the Audi, I struck the curb that suddenly appeared in front of me, which sent me and my bicycle flying. I doubt that I would be alive today if I had not been wearing a helmet. A bruised spinal cord that caused temporary paralysis, a concussion, broken front teeth, lacerations above and below my right eye, and various other injuries placed me in the intensive care unit for 3 days, step-down intensive care for another 1.5 days, and home recovery for almost a month before transitioning back to work. I am very grateful to have mostly recovered, for continued improvements, and to have surprised the physicians. Most were expecting a far worse outcome.

In a moment, life can change dramatically. These potentially life-changing events are a good reminder to make the most of the limited time that we have on earth. While I have longstanding inclinations towards optimism, innovation, the big picture, and the importance of community, my recent bike crash reinforced these inclinations and how they translate to leading MSU Forestry:

Move forward boldly and take risks. Of course we want to be thoughtful about where we direct our energy. And we want to vet ideas with stakeholders. But we don’t want the fear of failure to be immobilizing — there’s not enough time for that. As MSU’s Department of Forestry re-emerges as one of the world’s leading forestry programs, trying new things and learning from missteps are imperatives.

Focus on the big issues. As a field, forestry has the opportunity to step up and help address some of the biggest issues of the day — climate change, enhancing the health and livability of urban environments, and the provision of renewable resources for a sustainable economy and good jobs. Let’s keep the big picture in mind and not get distracted by fretting about the small stuff.

A dynamic community based on strong relationships — grounded in honesty, transparency, and trust — are necessary to move forward in a bold way. Even before the Nassar scandal broke, MSU Forestry was deliberately working on building a strong community; this work is even more important now. Prospering as a Department requires that all voices are heard, everyone’s contribution is valued and respected, and everyone feels welcomed and included.
We can accomplish great things together.

Despite some dark clouds passing over MSU, I have never felt more optimistic about the future of MSU Forestry. Thank you for your continued support!

My best,


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