Building Bridges Between Generations

By: Alaina Dismukes

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Posted: 9/24/2019

Building Bridges Between Generations Photo By: David Ammon

How often, as you wander across your hardwood floor to set your mug down on the oak coffee table, do you stop to think about the wood products you use every day? Wood products exist all around us. We work at wooden desks, write notes on paper, and have homes made and furnished with wood.

Kassandra Stout, a sustainable bioproducts graduate student, explores these questions with her research project on "Attitudes and Perceptions of the Millennial Generation Surrounding Wood Products and the Wood Products Industry." She focuses on the millennial generation between the ages of 18 to 38, and is concerned with what they think about the wood products industry.

"There has always been a running perception, for as long as I can remember, that leans towards the negative when you start talking about the wood products industry because people automatically go to, 'Oh, you're cutting down trees. You're harming the environment,'" she said. "There is that perception out there that exists, and with this study, I'm hoping to shed some light on what the millennial generation is actually thinking when they think about the wood products industry."

The project aims to help the wood products industry and academia better understand how the industry is perceived right now with this generation. Stout wants to help bridge the gap and provide more awareness about what the industry actually does to improve the overall persona of wood products. She points out that wood products have been around for years and will continue to be around. Thus, she seeks to foster a better outlook that's more positive and encouraging towards wood products.

Stout further explained the details of the project which involved a survey that was sent out to 1,500 millennial-aged individuals to gage the thoughts and feelings they have towards wood products and the industry. The questions range from simple to more complex. One example is: Do you believe that hardwood floors improve the value of a home?

"We really set a magnifying glass on millennials to see exactly what they think about what we do and the products that we make because going forward in the future the millennials are the up and coming generation," she said. "They are going to be the main consumers and the main workforce for many years to come, so gaining their insight and understanding how they value things and how they view them is very important. It is especially important for a business that relies upon products that consumers will buy and encourage others to buy."

She is currently sifting through resultant data from 1,479 usable completed surveys.

"The big picture problem that I'm working on would be the fact that there has been a decline in interest and awareness in younger generations towards the industry and what we do," she said. "My overall goal is to create a better understanding."

Stout is originally from Buffalo, New York, and she went to Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, where she graduated in 2017 with a double major in marketing communications and English. She plans on graduating from her master's program in sustainable bioproducts in May of 2019.

Stout's major professor, Dr. Rubin Shmulsky, describes her as a very self-motivated individual.

"I am most proud of her helping to design and then jumping into a project which is entirely novel," Shmulsky said. "This is an important research area for all aspects of wood products related business as that particular economic sector contains a large number of employees who are at or near retirement age. The younger millennials will be the people who come in and work for these companies and ultimately become groomed to run these respective businesses."

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