University of Vermont

Ross Whaley Brings Many Years in Higher Ed, Government Agencies, and a Nonprofit to RSENR Board

Board Member profile

Rubenstein School Board member Ross Whaley lives and works in the Adirondacks of New York.
Rubenstein School Board member Ross Whaley lives and works in the Adirondacks of New York.

Like a ramble through the woods without a path to guide the way is how Ross Whaley describes his career.  “I had the good fortune to be in positions that I enjoyed, and I would have stayed in a particular place longer except another great opportunity came along that offered a new and exciting challenge.  I did not have a defined career plan, and I was able to have a variety of jobs in and outside of higher education,” reflects Ross.

Since October 2007, Ross has served as Senior Advisor to the Adirondack Landowners Association.  He started this position after serving the Governor of New York as Chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency for four years.  He also served as Director of Economics Research for the U.S. Forest Service for six years.  From 1984-2005, Ross was associated with the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry, 16 years as its President and subsequently as University Professor.  As Professor, his interest focused on the political economy of sustainable development.

Ross is a humble man who gives much credit to a professional mentor he met early in his career.  “He taught me that you can be a gentleman and be candid at the same time. I admired his unique and effective style very much,” Ross states.

This same mentor recommended Ross for administrative leadership positions.  Ross has been working in higher education for more than 45 years with experience as a university teacher, researcher, and administrator.  He has witnessed many changes throughout his career, starting with the multiple generations of students – from students of the tumultuous 1960s to the present. Ross notes, “Another obvious change is technology today compared to the past and the easy access to information through the internet.  It is important to teach students the difference between good and bad information, reliable and unfounded data.”

Ross is currently co-teaching a course on sustainable development for the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the Adirondack Ecological Center. The course is equivalent to a semester abroad and uses the Adirondack Park as a case study to understand and learn from a sense of place.

Ross lives and works in the Adirondacks.  As Senior Adviser to the Adirondack Landowners Association, he recognizes and works on some of the most pressing current issues such as taxation, navigable rights on private land, and best practices for forest management.  Ross remarks, “I enjoy this job as it gets me back into forestry research, teaching, and outreach, and nicely blends my experiences in academia and environmental organizations. Most of all, I hope I can influence policy to continue to maintain an essential sense of place within the Adirondacks.”

Speaking of influence, Ross has been a member of the RSENR Board of Advisers since 1996.  He has seen the School grow and develop, especially in the area of graduate education.  “The Rubenstein School has always enjoyed a sound reputation as a place to receive a quality education; it has been wonderful to see the School continue to prosper over these many years,” Ross states.

As the Rubenstein School searches for a new dean, Ross was asked what advice he would pass to the new School leader.  He quickly responded: “I would advise the new dean to be open and candid with faculty and staff and encourage him/her to spend his/her lunch money.”  He explained that he would recommend the new dean to be accessible to the RSENR community as well as external partners by hosting random lunch meetings that did not have a set agenda and required the attendees, especially the dean, to slow down, listen, and learn about others and their creative ideas.

Ross has a broad range of commitments and a full schedule, so you have to wonder if he has any time for leisure.  He enjoys fly fishing, reading, and hiking with his family, including his grandchildren.  He especially likes giving back to his community in a quiet, effective way like a candid gentleman he once knew and admired.