Valedictorian Hengda Liu makes nature his office

Dream big, take on challenges, and don’t quit.

Hengda Liu says this is his credo in life and he wants to share it with fellow graduates of the School of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences at convocation, where the Forestry Technician graduate will serve as Valedictorian this Friday.

Hengda came to Fleming College’s Frost Campus as an international student from China, wanting to learn everything about nature.

“Just like many other Forestry Technician students, instead of working behind a desk we want nature to be our office,” he said. “I want to be one of those forestry professionals to seek the harmony zone between our economic needs and ecological sustainability. This is why I chose the Forestry Technician program: its outdoors, meaningful, hands-on – get my hands and boots dirty – and I get to stay in the environment where I’m supposed to be in.”

He credits the College for its efforts on making Frost Campus sustainable, and appreciates the warm and welcoming campus community.

“The faculty, staff and students here at Fleming are incredibly friendly and warm. They have never treated me differently because I am from another country or because of my language barrier,” said Hengda. “I have always felt like a part of the Fleming family, and I am really proud and grateful for that.”

Hengda said the Forestry Technician program combines theory with hands-on experience to prepare students for their careers, including fundamental skills courses like communications and applied mathematics, as well as forestry skills courses like forest inventory and forest management using GIS, among others. He describes the faculty as very supportive, helpful and “lightning fast” to respond to emails.

“I’ve truly learned a lot during my time here at Fleming and I want to pat my own back to thank myself for choosing Fleming. Great job, Hengda!” he laughs, patting his back.

The programs two field camps were Hengda’s favourite experience at Fleming. At The Canadian Ecology Centre and Haliburton Forest, students learned how to safely operate a chainsaw, canoed to an island to do a stream assessment, participated in tree planting, took forest inventory, and more.

“We basically combined the knowledge we learned in school and applied it to the real world during these two camps, with the help and supervision of forestry professionals who are working in the industry,” said Hengda, who also enjoyed networking with experienced technicians and forest managers at the field camps.

Outside of class, Hengda worked part-time at a local Chinese restaurant, Friendly Restaurant, which improved his English speaking skills and cooking skills.

“I am an okay chef now,” he said. “I love to cook some Chinese food for my friends sometimes and the smiles on their faces while they are eating my dishes is such a priceless reward.”

Moments such as this are treasured memories to Hengda, who enjoys documenting life and has a passion for video editing. He created a YouTube channel to share his Fleming experiences with others, including this beautiful tribute video for the teachers, technicians and staff of Fleming’s Forestry and Urban Forestry programs.

Video by Hengda Liu as a tribute to Fleming’s teachers, technicians and staff from the 2019 Forestry and Urban Forestry programs.

Now that Hengda has completed classes at Frost Campus, he is working full-time as a Forestry Technician at Spectrum Resource Group, a forestry consulting company in Prince George, British Columbia.

“Last shift, we went to a logging camp in a place called Ospika, BC, where you can’t even find it on the map! It’s a mountainous area and we were constantly climbing a 75% slope with tons of blowdowns and devil’s clubs,” he explained. “It’s tough but I loved every single piece of it. It’s a dream come true for me.”

He plans to continue growing his career in this field, and hopes to one day lead others in sustainable forest management and to enhance communication between Canada and China in terms of forestry.

“What I love about the Forestry Technician career path is that it is outdoors,” he said. “As a Forestry Technician, we are literally getting paid to walk in the forest. The forest is my office, birds and wild animals are my sidekicks. Nature is where I came from and I want to be there for the rest of my life.”