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Auburn forestry graduate, Dana Little honored with Outstanding Alumni Award

By August 8, 2023August 14th, 2023No Comments

Dana Carl Little of Columbia, Miss., has been recognized as the recipient of the 2022 Outstanding Alumni Award in the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment. The award recognizes Little’s outstanding contributions to the forestry industry and longtime service to Mississippi forest landowners through his time with the Mississippi Forestry Association. The Outstanding Alumni Award further recognizes graduates who demonstrate exemplary character and integrity.

A 1979 graduate of the forestry program, Little retired from forest products powerhouse Weyerhaeuser in 2022 after more than 20 years with the company and 43 years as a professional forester, ending as the Hattiesburg, Miss. area manager.  He received the Weyerhaeuser Truly Great Award in 2019, and the Weyerhaeuser Diversity Employee of the Year Award in 2015. Before joining Weyerhaeuser, Little was a registered forester in the state of Mississippi for an additional 22 years.

Little found forestry when he was looking for a career that didn’t require him to be behind a desk all day. His unlikely source of inspiration: the park ranger in the cartoon Yogi Bear.

“Growing up in Birmingham, I didn’t have outdoor life experience like hunting and fishing,” Little said. “I had never even seen a log truck.” However, he thought even if he spent his days sitting in a fire tower looking out over the forest, he’d prefer it to the view from behind a desk.

His high school counselor was surprised when he went to talk to her about becoming a forester. “Understanding the science and art of forestry was almost an unknown in the Black community,” Little said. “There wasn’t really a Black footprint in that profession.” Unfazed, Little blazed his own trail. He enrolled in the two-year pre-forestry program at Tuskegee University and later transferred to Auburn’s forestry program.

“The educational experience at Auburn was second to none,” Little said. The classroom knowledge was only part of what he values about his Auburn University education. “My courses helped me develop interpersonal skills so that I could walk into the professional arena and be comfortable.”

He also credits his time at Auburn with a spirit of volunteerism that has been important to him throughout his career. Little has served at the state, county and local level with the Mississippi Forestry Association, or MFA. Little has served three terms as an executive board member, one term as state president, and has served as president of the Copiah and Marion Country Forestry Association. He was recognized in 2019 with the Mississippi Forestry Association Meritorious Service to Forestry Award.

“I have a responsibility to share what I know. And the way you share it is to involve yourself in public service and make sure you are passing on information so that it benefits humanity,” he said.

Among numerous other professional activities and awards, Little is also a dedicated family man and active community member. He serves as a deacon, assistant superintendent of Sunday school and choir member at John the Baptist M.B. Church, and he was a Parent Advisory Council member for the Hazlehurst Public School System and Mississippi Board of Education for multiple terms.

“I have known Dana Little since we met at Auburn in the late 1970’s,” said Kenneth Day ’81. In his nomination letter, Day wrote, “Mr. Little is forward-thinking, extremely dependable, has an outstanding work ethic and always displays a pleasant, professional disposition. I hold him in very high regard.”

Little has given both time and financial support to the CFWE, helping to establish and endow the African American Alumni Endowed Scholarship in the college in 2015. He was recognized for his career achievement and efforts for the university at the Auburn University Black Alumni Weekend in 2016.

“Dana has had an incredible career marked by generous service to help further public understanding of forestry,” said Janaki Alavalapati, the Emmett F. Thompson Dean of the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment. “His efforts to enhance our college, especially with regard to underserved communities, have made a tremendous impact.”

Little has also helped with various recruitment events for the college and made time to mentor young professionals at Weyerhaeuser by serving on the intern recruitment team and helping to interview prospective interns.

“I’ve always had a strong passion to give back to students to help them develop their careers,” Little said. “I think that’s another important thing that Auburn University graduates can do and should do in terms of helping to bring along the next generation of successful professionals.”

(Written by Jessica Nelson)

Photo: Shown on the left is Emmett F. Thompson Dean Janaki Alavalapati presenting the Outstanding Alumni Award to Dana Little ’79, on the right.

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