The University of Georgia
Lee, Jonathan

UGA's Amazing Students

Jonathan Lee

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November 10, 2008

Junior Jonathan Lee is happier in the woods than behind a desk. He is a forestry major who plans a future in natural resource policy, and he hopes to work, in particular, with biofuel production in Georgia. He recently completed a spring internship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, serving in the Office of the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment.  While at U.S.D.A., he helped plan a wildlife policy conference in compliance with President Bush’s Executive Order on Hunting, which he later attended in Denver. He also worked as a summer intern for the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources. While there, he was able to witness Capitol Hill’s dramatic summer debates on domestic energy production. These included the historic Republican “speak-in” which he was able to see from the floor of the House chamber immediately after Speaker Pelosi had gaveled the close of the summer session of Congress. On campus he has served as a Warnell School Ambassador, SGA Senator, and on the Student Board of Directors for UGA HEROs, in addition to being involved with multiple other natural resource professional and student organizations.

Expected graduation:

Fall 2009

Degree objective:

B.S.F.R. in forestry

University highlights, achievements and awards:

During my time at UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, I’ve been the fortunate recipient of the Stripling, Norris, and Archie Patterson scholarships. Involvement in Warnell’s professional societies and help from faculty mentors has taken me both to the woodlands of the Oregon Coast and the marble halls of Washington, D.C. Most recently, I spent the spring semester of 2008 as an intern for Under Secretary of Agriculture Mark Rey. The Under Secretary oversees the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. As for on-campus involvement, I’m privileged to have been the SGA Senator for the Warnell School, and I’m proud that I was the 2007 Director of External Affairs for UGA HEROs, UGA’s 2008 Organization of the Year. In calendar year 2007, nearly 1,500 student HEROs raised more than $306,000 to benefit children in Georgia affected by HIV/AIDS.

Hometown:

Macon, Ga

High School:

Central High School

Current Employment:

I work for the Warnell School assisting graduate student Amanda Newman with her research investigating silvicultural options for restoring shortleaf pine-bluestem grass communities within the Cherokee National Forest of the southern Appalachians. Under the direct supervision of UGA’s Ron Hendrick, the project is funded by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service in partnership with the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory. The work entails prescribed burning, herbicide applications and measuring shortleaf pine seedling growth and bluestem grass success. We collect soil moisture measurements, light penetration to the forest floor and identify and measure plant competition.

Family Ties to UGA:

Though their circumstances were very different, both my grandfather and my brother graduated from UGA. John P. Tucker, my mother’s father and the oldest of 8 children, was the first in his family to attend college. Barely a teenager, he left his family’s farm in Decatur County near Brinson, Ga. in the late 1920’s and boarded a train bound for college wearing his first pair of long pants. After two years at Young Harris, courtesy of the Methodist Church, he proceeded to finish his degree at UGA by taking courses only in the summer. He taught school the rest of the year in Atapulgus, Ga. and would ride with a friend to and from Athens in a Model T at the beginning and end of each summer. I can only imagine how much longer the commute was back then on Georgia’s washboard dirt roads! In contrast, my brother, Bronson Lee, preceded me at UGA and graduated with a dual degree in history and economics in 2001. A highly-involved Foundation Fellow, Bronson was able to travel to more than 25 countries before graduating. He certainly gave me some big shoes to fill! I’m proud of him, but as far as I’m concerned, he can have his globetrotting. For the time being, I’ll gladly take the Georgia woodlands. Both of us were fortunate to have parents who both attended college and placed post-secondary education among top priorities for us.

I chose to attend UGA because...

...it is home to one of the top forestry programs in the nation. As an elementary and middle school student growing up in the cookie-cutter suburban sprawl of Macon, Ga., I was branded a “troublemaker” because I couldn’t sit still and keep my mouth shut in class. Fortunately, I was often able to visit my grandmother’s farm in Terrell County. In the woods that had overtaken many of the cotton fields and cow pastures, I found a place where I didn’t have to apologize for exploring and letting my imagination run wild. Hunting and fishing became pastimes. I engaged in further outdoor adventures in the Boy Scouts of America. By high school, I knew I wanted to go to college to prepare for a career where work in a cubicle was an oddity. Forestry seemed to be a likely choice, and in my search through the top programs, I quickly found I didn’t need to look out of state as UGA’s forestry program is consistently ranked among the top five out of over 50 accredited programs nationally.

My favorite things to do on campus are...

...exploring the 800 acre Whitehall Forest at the end of South Milledge Avenue, which embodies the crown jewel of Warnell’s 24,000 acres of forestland across the state. I also enjoy exploring local history including the stone Lumpkin House that was the prized possession of the governor notorious for Georgia’s part in the Trail of Tears; Soule Hall embodies the College of Agriculture’s commitment to educating women two years before they could even vote; and the Warnell School’s “Classic Building” was the result of a student demonstration staged in the thick of the Great Depression spearheaded by a single, third-year forestry major. The list goes on and on and will keep me eagerly awaiting the opportunity to bring my future children back to UGA so they can start learning where I left off.

When I have free time, I like...

...to run through campus on my personal “campus tour” route which encompasses all of main campus from Stegeman Coliseum to the Arch and even includes some off-campus highlights such as the “Tree That Owns Itself” on Finley Street. My favorite time of day for running is at sunset.

The craziest thing I've done is...

...worked the “goody bags line” at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll during my time in Washington, D.C. My shift lasted six hours, during which nearly all 22,000 attendees filed past my post at the goody bags station. The most prized possessions of the day were commemorative wooden eggs engraved with the President’s signature and included in each bag. Naturally, almost everyone wanted to snatch multiple bags! Fortunately, our goody bag commander prepared us well.  Decked out with her Secret Service earpiece and microphone, she gave firm instructions that we were to give only one bag per child and that she was more than willing to call in backup to enforce this mandate!  I have never heard more groveling at a free event! The kids weren’t nearly as bad as their parents, who could be a real embarrassment. I was swindled, accosted and cursed. Some mommies went through the line 5-6 times. Others sent their crying kids back through to get more bags. I have sold football programs to 92,000 crazed fans at Sanford Stadium, and I can confidently say that the Easter Egg Roll was much crazier, by far!!! Nevertheless, working this White House event was an experience of a lifetime.

My favorite place to study is...

If I want quiet, I’ll go to the fifth floor of the Main Library and sit by a south-facing window. How could I not want to study with a beautiful view of Sanford Stadium, South Campus and the “Hills of Georgia’s Northland”? The Grill and Snelling Dining Commons are my favorites for all-nighters, or when I’m just feeling academically sorry for myself. The background noise of downtown partiers or a hug from Ms. Sandra at Snelling is perfect for motivation.

My favorite professor is...

...Bob Izlar, director of the Warnell School’s Center for Forest Business. He has quite a storied career in forest policy and could be holding down any number of lucrative private-sector jobs. Instead, he chose to return to his beloved alma mater to teach. Despite his hard-nosed reputation, the retired U.S. Army Reserves Colonel has a very engaging teaching style. Of all of my mentors at UGA, he is one who never tells me what I want to hear, but always makes time to listen to my most recent musing.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...

...legendary high school football coach Billy Henderson who lives here in Athens. Though Coach Henderson forged his place in Georgia sports history through his career at Clarke Central High School, he is proud to claim the same alma mater that I do: Macon’s Central High School, formerly called Lanier High School for Boys. Known as the Macon Meteor, Coach Henderson dazzled hometown crowds with his speed in the early 1940s before coming to UGA to play for Coach Wally Butts. Much more than a sports standout, Coach Henderson’s character and leadership style impress me the most. When he took the helm of the Clarke Central program, Athens was embroiled in the throes of desegregation. Coach gave the entire community, white and black, public and private sector, a common cause around which to rally. He continues to advocate for numerous causes, including the Athens Champions Foundation, which he founded. Coach even made time for UGA HEROs, offering his coalition-building advice and attending our 2006 HERO Olympics as its guest of honor.

If I knew I could not fail, I would...

...reform public education in Macon, Ga. I am a proud product of the Bibb County Public Schools and thanks to many great teachers and two involved parents, I received a great education there. However, I am deeply concerned about the poor reputation of my county’s school system throughout the state and even back home in Macon. The schools are too often regarded by the business community as an embarrassment and a tax burden, rather than a vital community component. Without public schools that perform to their full potential, Macon cannot attract or maintain industry. This job loss negatively affects every developer, realtor, insurance agent and countless other small businessmen and women. I intend to join the ranks of this business community someday and hope to do my part to rally its leadership around improving Macon’s public schools. Demanding excellence in education has a purpose far greater than spurring economic development. Of paramount importance, it benefits the schools’ primary clientele: the children.

After graduation, I plan to...

...take a few months for adventure in the Great American West. Subsequently, I’d love a job as a forester procuring woody biomass for Georgia’s budding renewable fuel industry. Foresters will play a pivotal role in ensuring a reliable, environmentally sustainable supply of wood for energy production, as well as for our state’s existing pulp, paper, and wood products industries. I am thrilled at the thought of being a part of such an exciting career field, and while I hope to engage in forest policymaking further down the road, I feel it is critically important to first learn about the application of forestry at its most practical level – within the forest itself.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...

...sneaking past all of the construction barriers and into Old College during its renovation with a friend of mine. We felt like little kids breaking the rules and got much more out of the experience than a thrill. It was intriguing to see how the brick and mortar in a 200-year-old building met modern structural steel. I hope my experience at UGA will resound in much the same way – whether snooping through the Tanyard Branch tunnel under Sanford Stadium (check!) or pulling consecutive all-nighters on a research paper (sigh…check!), the risks I have taken at UGA for the sake of inquiry should transform me into a person who, while enlightened, maintains a grounded sense of place.