Sophia Rodbell & Her Post-MFI Reflection

Sophia Rodbell (left) with fellow 2020 MFI grad Jean Zimmerman (center) and MFI Teaching Cadre Member and Council Past President Andy Hillman, enjoying the early spring weather in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

NYSUFC Board Member Sophia Rodbell recently graduated from the 2020 Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI), funded in part by a scholarship from the Council. It was held in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Can you tell us about your job background and education?
Sophia Rodbell: I started working at Davey Resource Group Inc. (DRG) after graduating from Roanoke College in 2014. I started as an inventory arborist, moved to urban forester, took on more responsibility as a site manager, and then became a project manager when I joined our NYC team to manage the urban forestry component of our office. Prior to moving to NYC I was on the road 365 days a year, working up and down the East Coast, all across the Midwest, as far south as Texas and as far west as California. DRG gave me the chance to see all parts of the United States—as long as they had trees, I was there.

I am currently a DRG Project Manager; I work with a team of five to ten arborists in different places in their careers. This is the same work I previously did, but on a regional scale. We help mid-Atlantic clients—from Northern Virginia to Central New York—with their urban forests. We also have the opportunity to send staff across the country to assist other regional offices; it is awesome seeing them have the same experience I received.

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Arborist & Author Jean Zimmerman on Her MFI Experience

Arborist and author Jean Zimmerman. Photo by Maud Reavill

Council Member and SavATree Arborist Jean Zimmerman recently attended the 2020 Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) with partial assistance from a Council scholarship. With this MFI class, more than 750 urban forestry and affiliated professionals have completed the weeklong leadership training. Jean’s account of her experience is literary in nature because in addition to being an arborist, she is a published author.

Sugar white sands. Crashing waves. The occasional parabolic arc of a dolphin off shore. We gathered along Alabama’s famously gorgeous Gulf Coast, sixty-five pilgrims from all over the country and abroad. We had come to sharpen our leadership skills at the Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI), a long-running (since 2006) continuing education symposium that is celebrated as one of the best in the world. I remember arriving at the Gulf Shores Hilton, being unsure of whether I could fit in.

My fellow MFIers came from varied backgrounds. Some were urban foresters at municipalities of varying size, from New York City to Denton, Texas. Others hailed from not-for-profits, such as TreePhilly in Philadelphia. One participant, a champion tree-climber, represented the happiest place in the world, Disneyland. Another traveled from Sweden. There were representatives of PlanIT Geo and Davey Tree. I came to Gulf Shores from SavATree, the third largest tree care company in the United States, where I work as a commercial and consulting arborist.

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