Steve Shook (Forest Products Developer, Professor)

U of I Forest Products Developer/Professor   

As is often true, a captivating learning experience with an inspiring teacher pointed University of Idaho professor Steve Shook directly toward his niche within the forest industry. “I was introduced to the area of forest products through a particular course, required for a forest management degree,” he recalls. “This course was taught by a dynamic professor who introduced the students to the wide number of opportunities available in the forest products industry. I decided then I would pursue a B.S. in both forest management and forest products.”

Since then, the Purdue University graduate and lover of the outdoors from Chesterton, Indiana, has earned an M.S. in wood and science engineering from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in forest products marketing from the University of Washington. The U of I professorship, where he’s taught since 1998, provides Steve both flexibility and the opportunity for pursuing his core interests: teaching, forest products and working with like-minded experts.

His class load includes forest products marketing, forest products business management, pricing strategy, marketing research and consumer behavior. Many of these courses involve projects with industry partners. He oversees graduate students and occasionally trains industry organizations in the area of marketing wood products. Steve also conducts studies on consumer acceptance of wood products and pricing strategies in the forest industry.

A wood science and engineering background led to his research focus on wood science. “My interest also originated from my interaction with a professor at Purdue who embraced my interests in the emerging area of composite wood products,” he explains. “I prepared an undergraduate research grant that was funded by industry and mentored by this professor. Together, we published an article in the academic press, and I became hooked on academic research.”

Steve now lives on Moscow Mountain with his wife Mary and three children. He enjoys mountain biking, cross-country skiing, hiking, genealogy and collecting postcards from the early 1900s. In addition to his university responsibilities, he serves on two nonprofit boards and conducts consulting projects for forest products companies, investment and capital management firms, industry associations and government entities.

All these professional efforts depend heavily on information gleaned from data, news, trade journal articles and academic articles. “Together, this information allows me to be an effective market observer,” he says. “My advice is the same advice I received from a former mentor: read as much as you can about the industry, learn how it works and ask questions. “

In reviewing the road leading toward his current career, Steve cites a childhood spent outdoors in a rural setting where he spent most of his free time participating in sports, fishing and exploring. Two high school biology teachers nurtured his interest in plant biology. Since then, an ongoing list of mentors has inspired him, including Purdue professors, his University of Washington PhD advisor, Ivan Eastin; and fellow U of I faculty members. Most significantly, however, Steve draws guidance from his own university students who go out into industry. “They provide me with a gauge as to what I should teach more in my courses,” he explains. “I also get to work with very bright people in a wide variety of discipline areas. It’s great to be in an environment where new ideas and technologies are the norm of operation.

Each day is different.” As for the future of a career in forest products, he believes that an improved economy will open a tremendous array of new opportunities with jobs ranging from production manager, lumber wholesaling, technical sales, wood design, distribution manager, procurement manager, industry association representatives, etc. “Historically, we have been able to place every
graduate in the forest products degree program in a job,” he says.

“Several have had two, three or more job offers upon their graduation.”

Want to know more?

º Information about the Forest Products Society, an
international not-for-profit technical association providing
information networks for all segments of the forest products
industry – from standing tree to finished product.

º Information about the Society of Wood Science and Technology

º Overview of the American Marketing Association (AMA)

º Steve Shook’s directory of Forest Products, Wood Science and Marketing

º University of Idaho Forest Products Department

º U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory