Donated photo. Michael Gilgunn, 2020 Haywood Community College Forest Management Technology graduate, was recently recognized by the Council of Eastern Forest Technician Schools for induction into the North American Forest Technician Honor Society. He is currently a student at the University of Idaho seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry with plans to pursue a graduate degree in forestry or a related natural resources/recreation field.  

When Michael Gilgunn, 2020 Haywood Community College Forest Management Technology graduate finished high school, he had no plans to attend college. At age 32, he decided to give it a try. With a plan to move to Oregon to attend a community college to study forestry, Gilgunn had a conversation with a neighbor that changed the course of his future.

“My neighbor introduced me to a 1983 HCC Forest Management Technology graduate Kenneth McJunkin, who was the former Transylvania County Ranger for the NC Forest Service,” Gilgunn explains, “He sang the praises of HCC to me. Once I did some research, the choice was clear. For a two-year program, HCC was the best.”

At HCC, Gilgunn was able to thrive with college life and determine a clear career plan. “The faculty was helpful in guiding a non-traditional student such as myself. The mentoring from the College and the incredible teachers in the Natural Resources department allowed me to realize that college was not something to suffer through but to embrace and see how far I could dive into.”

Gilgunn says spending time in the field as a student at HCC was his favorite part of the experience, learning how to catalog and measure the growth of trees and plants, create maps, and exploring career paths.

Gilgunn was recently recognized by the Council of Eastern Forest Technician Schools for induction into the North American Forest Technician Honor Society. He also received a cash award because of his outstanding Grade Point Average.

Currently, Gilgunn is a student at the University of Idaho seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry with plans to pursue a graduate degree in forestry or a related natural resources/recreation field.  “The number of contacts I received through the Society of American Foresters Student Chapter at HCC and the field trips to various agencies was astonishing. I would not be in school in Idaho if not for those connections that I made.”   

Once he finishes his education, Gilgunn would like to work in a forestry-related public communications and outreach role. This public relations position will allow him to explain what foresters do and why the work is important.

HCC’s Forest Management Technology program prepares students to manage and produce forest resources. Much of the time students spend in the program include hands-on experience out in the field. For more information about HCC’s Forest Management Technology program, please visit haywood.edu or call 828-627-4560.