Ashley Parkman Smith currently serves as director of education programs for the Alabama Forestry Association. Ashley’s roles for the Association include forestry education and outreach. She serves as the Alabama SFI State Implementation Committee coordinator. Prior to the Alabama Forestry Association, Ashley worked six years with urban tree non-profit Trees Columbus in Columbus, Georgia, and 11 years with Mead Coated Board and MeadWestvaco in fiber supply and forestry education/outreach. Ashley graduated in 1995 from Auburn University’s College of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences with a B.S. Forest Operations. Ashley and her husband Ben Smith have two teenagers and reside in East Alabama.
Why did you choose to attend Auburn?
“Because I grew up in a rural area as part of a farming family, I wanted a future career working in natural resources too. Between a daddy who farmed and parents who grew trees on family forestland, I realized from an early age that many natural resources were sustainable with proper management. As a land grant university with a long tradition of providing outstanding education in such fields, Auburn offered everything I wanted in a college experience.”
What led you to choose your major?
“When I started Auburn, I declared horticulture as my major. I eventually changed to agriculture journalism and later considered agri-science education as another path. With so many options in areas that I enjoyed, it was difficult for me to choose my lifelong career path as a college student. Thankfully, after taking Forestry for the Small Woodland Owner, I knew forestry was the perfect match for me!”
How did SFWS prepare you for your career?
“I learned the forestry fundamentals at summer camp and added to that knowledge with on-campus classes. Field trips to mills and forests throughout the region greatly contributed to my understanding of forestry. The school encouraged summer internships by assisting with resumes and bringing companies to campus for interviews. The back-to-school picnics and monthly Forestry Club meetings provided opportunities to get to know other forestry students. In hindsight, I quickly realized after college what a close-knit community forestry really is. The forestry friendships made in college last a lifetime. The school prepared me in so many ways, through both soft skills like communication and networking with peers and professionals and hard skills like resume building and interviews.”
What is your current role at the Alabama Forestry Association?
“Working at the Alabama Forestry Association provides the opportunity to interact with all parts of Alabama’s forestry community, from loggers to landowners, foresters to wildlife biologists, and other natural resource professionals. My official title is “education program director.” The title matters little; what matters most is why. Everything I do, and really everything done by others at AFA, promotes Alabama’s forest community so that our industry remains strong. We need Alabama’s forests for BOTH the economic and environmental benefits. Working at AFA allows me to tell others about the benefits of forests. I love my job!”
Why is staying involved and in touch with SFWS valuable to you?
“Staying involved with SFWS allows me to stay up to date on the latest forestry trends, information, and research. I connect to friends from my time at Auburn while also making new ones. I enjoy meeting the students and learning more about them before they enter the workforce.”
What is your favorite memory from your time at SFWS; was there a professor or faculty member that had a great influence/impact on you during your time in the school?
“Although summer practicum seemed never-ending, I look back at that time and place as an important part of my college experience. So many collective memories from camp – boundary line recovery, the blue hole, pitcher plant bogs, and cypress swamps to name a few. Our fall dendrology field trip/camping experience in Tennessee and North Carolina proved meaningful as well. We hiked beautiful mountain trails and saw the giant poplars at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. It was an amazing forest to see and experience – a must do for tree people! Auburn professors impacted my time in school, and many continue to do so now.”
What is your favorite thing about being an SFWS alum?
“I love being able to say that I am Auburn forestry alumni! Perhaps because of the Auburn creed and our unique appreciation for and understanding of forests as renewable natural resources, Auburn forestry alumni maintain a longstanding tradition of being good people.”
Do you have any advice for students entering the work force right now?
“As an Auburn SFWS alum, get ready to begin your real-world education experience! Enjoy meeting the many forestry and natural resource professionals who make Alabama’s forest industry so strong. All the various pieces and parts work together to create the economic and environmental natural resource balancing act. It all matters – the jobs, the products, the trees, the animals, the water, the soil, etc. Working together, we can make it ALL work for future generations.”