John R. Seiler, The Hon. and Mrs. Shelton H. Short Jr. Professor of Forestry in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, is a popular classroom and online professor known for his caring, thoughtful, innovative, and passionate teaching. He excels not only in engaging the student with a board and chalk, but also in developing creative multimedia software.
Recently, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors honored Seiler by naming him an Alumni Distinguished Professor in recognition of his “extraordinary academic citizenship and distinguished service within the Virginia Tech community."
While Alumni Distinguished Professors have an enviable record of scholarship and service to their disciplines, they are selected in particular for their distinguished contributions to the instructional program and their influence on the lives of generations of Virginia Tech students. Less than 1 percent of the faculty hold this elite honor.
During his tenure in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Seiler, known as “Dr. Dendro,” has received almost every teaching award given at university, state, national, and international levels. Dendrology is the science and study of wooded plants, which includes trees, shrubs, and vines. When an Internet user searches for “dendrology,” Dendrology at Virginia Tech is often the first item that pops up in the search.
Paul Winistorfer, dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment, said, “It is not only his credentials that make John deserving of this high honor, but he is also a man of character, conviction, passion, honesty, vision, and enthusiasm. He is a rare mix of intelligence, ingenuity, and common sense.”
Seiler’s long list of faculty awards attest to his remarkable scholarship: the William E. Wine Award for Excellence in Teaching (1997), Institute for Distributed and Distance Learning Fellow (2000), University Student Leadership Award – Service Learning Educator Award (2001), University XCaliber Award (2001), U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Agriculture Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award (2001), University Diggs Teaching Scholar Award (2002), and Ernest L. Boyer International Award for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Technology (2004).
Additionally, Seiler was selected for membership in the Virginia Tech Academy of Teaching Excellence and is a repeat recipient of numerous college-level teaching awards. In 2002, Seiler received the Commonwealth of Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, which recognizes superior accomplishments in teaching, research, and public service. It is the commonwealth’s highest honor for faculty members at Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities.
“Dr. Seiler’s innovative education technologies and programs have had an incredible impact on thousands of students at Virginia Tech and beyond,” said Winistorfer.
Seiler’s multimedia computer software for tree identification and an electronic textbook are popular at both national and international levels. His natural resource outreach program for middle school students engages Virginia Tech students in service learning, and an interactive website connects middle school children with Virginia Tech faculty members. Seiler’s dendrology website, which includes over 900 Tree Fact Sheets, is used by hundreds of students, teachers, and other professionals on a daily basis. His popular Web link, "Ask Dr. Dendro," provides direct answers to tree-related questions.
Seiler has been a major or co-major advisor for 37 graduate students and a committee member for more than 80 other students. Five of his Ph.D. students received outstanding graduate student awards in the department or college. Frequently, his graduate students and postdoctoral researchers are awarded special recognition for outstanding presentations at scientific meetings.
One of Seiler’s previous graduate students declared, “Dr. Seiler’s energy and enthusiasm for his job, his coworkers, and his students is contagious and uplifting, and serves as a model that I strive for in my professional career.”
In addition to his teaching and curriculum development, Seiler’s research program is also stellar. He has a nationally and internationally recognized research program in woody plant ecophysiology funded by $6 million in extramural funds. In addition, he has authored over 87 refereed publications and given hundreds of presentations at professional meetings.
“His contributions to enhance the productivity of Southeastern forests and advance the science relating to carbon flow in forest ecosystems are unparalleled,” added Winistorfer.
As Winistorfer summed up, “Dr. Seiler excels in every aspect of teaching, research, outreach, and service. You can’t separate John from his positive influence on students. He demonstrates every day his interest in students and learning. Not many faculty can claim this type of impact while also achieving excellence in research and outreach.” Seiler said simply, “I love to talk to anyone at any time about trees and forests.”
Seiler has been teaching at Virginia Tech ever since receiving his doctorate from the university in 1984. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Penn State.
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