Natalie Lang, a Louisiana Tech junior forestry major, couldn’t see the forest for the tears.
She’d just been told that Louisiana Tech was one of eight schools in the country to receive a scholarship and summer internship from Resource Management Service (RMS), which was to be awarded to a forestry major with at least a junior standing. The value of the scholarship for the student at each of those schools was staggering: $10,000.
Natalie, 20 and a single mom since high school, a logger’s daughter who spent last Wednesday trick-or-treating with her daughter, and Saturday picking up trash as a community service with members of her Women of Louisiana Forestry and Supporters organization, started crying when she was told she’d been selected by a faculty committee as the recipient of this scholarship for the 2018-19 year.
“From our standpoint, it was really neat to tell someone they’d won something like this,” Dr. Joshua Adams, assistant professor in the University’s Department of Agricultural Sciences and Forestry, said. “She broke down in tears of joy.”
“I was in Dr. Adams’ office when I was told,” Natalie said. “After I got out of my first class of the day, I was taken to his office where I was greeted by five of my professors and was asked to sit down. They joked with me for a bit and then my advisor, Dr. William Patterson, was the one to give me the news. I was so excited … I couldn’t believe it.”
“RMS knows that Tech still produces out-in-the-woods real foresters,” Adams said. “This scholarship goes to only eight universities, so we felt good about being recognized, but better about being able to award the scholarship to such a deserving student.”
Founded in 1950, RMS is a global timberland investment firm based in Birmingham. Its investors are public pension plans, university endowments, charitable foundations, insurance companies, and family offices. This firm manages forest investments in the U.S., Brazil, China, New Zealand and Australia that are collectively valued at more than $4.5 billion.
“We’ve never had a scholarship like that,” Adams said. “That’s a big chuck of money, a huge scholarship that will hopefully offer more opportunities in the life of this young lady.”
“We’re very pleased to be able to offer this scholarship to a well-deserving student, like Natalie,” said Craig Blair, president of RMS. “She is exactly the type of person we envisioned this program benefiting when we developed it and we look forward to watching her take the next steps along her path to a meaningful and rewarding career in forestry. We’re grateful to the forestry faculty at Louisiana Tech for helping us award the scholarship and to the university, in general, for supporting our efforts to attract talented students to the profession.”
Besides junior standing, criteria included first a student with economic need and second a student from an under-represented group, which, in forestry, includes females. And finally, there was a minimum GPA requirement. Natalie met all three.
“We had a bunch of applications,” Adams said. “They had to write an essay and explain what this would mean to them. Natalie can tell her story much better than I can…she’s an unwed mother coming out of high school, she’s worked her way through school, and hopefully she should graduate next year (May of 2020). We are all happy she’s being recognized.”
Natalie will use the $10,000 scholarship for tuition, textbooks, and supplies for school. She also earned a bonus: along with the scholarship is a summer internship at RMS’s Louisiana office in Jena. That’s after she goes to the main office in Birmingham for a meet-and-greet.
“I’ll be doing a large variety of activities,” Natalie said of her internship. “For one, I’ll spend a good chunk of my time cruising and making sure that the computer system shows exactly what is going on in the woods. I’ll be shown just what to do.”
“For example,” she said, “the computer system may say that a tract is three miles all the way around. I will be given an iPad and will be sent to that tract to pace it out by foot, and the GPS in the iPad will track my steps as I walk all the way around the tract. In the end it may come out as being larger or smaller than what the computer system shows. It is vital that the system is correct because you can’t pay someone to cut a tract and they end up either underpaid or overpaid, which is not the fair thing to do. We also use drones to fly over the trees and make sure that there is not significant damage in the middle of the tract — insect or pest outbreak, excessive lightning damage, tornado damage, things like that —and if there is, then someone will go out and make calls on what to do from there.”
Natalie’s daughter, Ava, will be 3 in January; for Halloween, she dressed up as Princess Jasmine. But Ava’s mom was once a toddler too, and it was at that time and in her hometown of Atlanta, Louisiana, that her love for forests was born.
Her family owns and operates a logging company, and as a little girl she’d go to her dad’s job “and see how everything worked and I always found it so intriguing,” said Natalie, whose concentration is in forestry management.
“I also competed in forestry in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and received first place in the state with my team, overall high individual in the state, third place in the nation, and ninth overall high individual in the nation,” she said. “At the Louisiana Forest Festival in Winnfield, I participated in the forestry competition for 4-H and placed first in two events and second in the third event.”
Her experience and education has led her to believe, at least for now, that the harvesting side of the industry, the person responsible for determining which trees would and wouldn’t be cut, would be most to her liking. But “I also enjoy soils,” she said, “and determining what is good ground to log on. Another aspect I’m fond of is raw materials and wood products, being in the office and monitoring the mill or mills and being responsible for knowing how much inventory is on the log yard and how many loads we will need to get for that week.”
“I’m open to any opportunities in the forestry field,” Natalie said, “but I think these are my top three.”
Last summer she was involved in Tech’s Forestry Summer Camp, and the summer of her freshman year, she said, “I was fortunate enough to work for Weyerhaeuser. This was a wonderful internship, and I was able to meet a lot of great men and women and learn aspects of the forestry world that I didn’t realize existed.”
And now, because of both her hard work and RMS — “I can tell you they are a blessing,” Natalie said — she has earned another timely opportunity.
“I am so thankful that I’ve been given the opportunity to receive this scholarship and internship,” Natalie said. “It is such an honor and a blessing. This adds to my list of things that my daughter, Ava, can look up to as she grows up. This wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for her, for my parents, Mark and Tonya Lang, who have stood behind me every step of the way, and for both my classmates and professors who have pushed me and helped me and encouraged me my entire college career.”