By Jamie Anderson
Special to the Opelika Observer

Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences has established a new initiative called the Forest, Environment and Wildlife Leadership, or FEWL, Academy to create future leaders.
Dean Janaki Alavalapati and Assistant Professor and Alabama Extension Specialist Adam Maggard co-instruct the students.
“To aid in their experiential learning during the two-semester course, students will interface with a range of leadership and private industry executives, as well as policy makers in Montgomery and Washington, D.C.,” Alavalapati said.
Accompanied by their instructors, the first cohort of students recently visited Montgomery to meet with Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and other leaders of the Alabama Forestry Association and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
“We have been reading and discussing a book on leadership that outlines traits of successful leaders, as well as offering tips and insight for us to use in our professional lives after entering the workforce,” said Will Dunnam, an Auburn forestry student.
“To see how the same skills we have discussed in class are used on Capitol Hill was a great learning opportunity for all of us.”
Later this year, they will travel to Washington, D.C., to visit organizations and offices where they will learn about and witness the development of natural resource policy issues.
Qualified students in Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences who are in good academic standing with an interest in developing leadership skills are invited to apply. Each year, 12 to 15 outstanding applicants will be selected to participate in the FEWL Academy.
The 2019 program is sponsored by a private donation from Ed Sweeten, a 1979 Auburn graduate.
“I am motivated to support programs such as the FEWL Academy that will directly benefit the marketplace,” Sweeten said. “As these young professionals advance in their careers, natural resource-related industries will gain from their leadership.”
The school’s long-term goal is to create an endowment to support this program. Individuals or corporations interested in contributing to the endowment may contact the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Development Office at 334-844-2791 or by email at
For more information about the FEWL Academy students and program, visit