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Alex Hinson (MFR ’99): ‘You’ve got to be credible in your life’

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As his career took shape over the years, forestry is always where Alex Hinson found his footing. 

Raised on his family’s farm in South Carolina, his goal after college was to return home and run the family business. A growing part of this business involved timber production—something the family was warming to after experiencing the ups and downs of row-crop agriculture. Hinson received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and then came to Warnell, where he completed his Master of Forest Resources.  

While at Warnell, Hinson felt connected to the forest business faculty in a way that made him feel like more than a student. The conversations he had with faculty members such as Graham Brister, Barry Shiver, Bruce Borders, Dale Greene and others made him feel more like a peer. As a result, as Hinson landed jobs after graduation, working toward a goal of management in the forestry industry seemed like a natural step. 

“Some of those folks are now colleagues of mine, or peers of mine in the industry. So, I think that speaks to the way Warnell has long thought of itself as being a good partner to, or participant in, the realm of commercial forestry,” said Hinson, who in October was named president and CEO of RMS. “And maybe I was lucky—maybe I was good or bad at those jobs, but I got to do a lot of cool stuff across the industry.” 

'Some of those folks are now colleagues of mine, or peers of mine in the industry. So, I think that speaks to the way Warnell has long thought of itself as being a good partner to, or participant in, the realm of commercial forestry.'

Alex Hinson

Hinson’s experience after college ranged from working as a consulting forester to managing his family farm. He then went back to college, this time to obtain an M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University, and after graduation went to work for Plum Creek Timber Company.   

As a result, timberland experience and business skills solidified a path toward forest investment management. After Plum Creek, Hinson joined RMS; he’s worked in the company’s business development, portfolio development, and investments and client relations areas; he also ran the company’s operations in the United States, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia.  

In his current role, Hinson says he draws from his post-college experiences nearly every day. 

“In my opinion, a good managerial rule of thumb is you can’t ask someone to do something that you don’t know how to do. So, I was lucky in doing a lot of this, including boots-on-the-ground experiences, more quantitively-oriented projects or some of the more academic-oriented projects,” he said. “I had all that either by hook or by crook, and it lets me draw on that background now.” 

His advice to newly minted forest business students? Seek a variety of experiences; the forestry industry is changing, as technology continues to open new options. Trees are viewed differently than they were 20 years ago, now aligning with climate goals and carbon initiatives. This means growth in new areas of consulting and science, whether it’s a cottage start-up working on carbon capture or an army of experts with drones and satellite imagery. 

Warnell’s program will set you up for success, he says—but it’s up to the students to find their way in the forest.  

“You’ve got to be credible in your life—people have to believe that you know what you’re talking about,” he said. “Getting that is hard, but it’s about being thoughtful about jobs you take as a younger person and the path you take in your academic career … With most companies, the organizational chart looks like a triangle; a successful person has to figure out some intentional plan to go up.” 

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