Getting to know Outstanding Masters of Science Award Recipient: Maude Dinan
As someone who wants to influence positive change for the sake of the environment, winning this award makes me hopeful in my efforts. To be recognized for my work means I have the potential to make a difference. I also felt incredibly grateful for the mentors and friends who inspire and guide me. My work is never fully in isolation, but a product of great hearts and minds working together.
What made you decide to major in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management & why did you want to get your Masters?
I chose to pursue a Masters because I was caught in a knowledge gap. I have a background in conservation biology, but I lacked a critical understanding of human behaviors, attitudes, and values in regards to the environment. I was presented an excellent opportunity to work with Dr. Bethany Cutts as a graduate assistant, studying cultural ecosystem services, or nature’s non material benefits to people (think recreation, cultural heritage, and spiritual enlightenment — how cool, right?). Understanding how and why people benefit from and connect to their environment illuminates how we can strengthen those relationships. Moreover, the distinction of the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management (PRTM) was an encouraging (and intimidating) driver! No matter what, I knew I would only benefit from pursuing a Masters, coming out the other side a better person, scientist, and advocate.
What was you favorite project you’ve worked on as of yet and is there one you’re looking forward to?
Working with Dr. Cutts through my research assistant ship was incredibly enriching. We used cultural ecosystem services to understand how people value desert grasslands in southwest New Mexico. For decades, climate, development, and overgrazing has fueled the encroachment of woody shrubs into grasslands across the globe. As restoration management efforts, such as herbicide application, do little to control this encroachment, we need different values to inform management practices. We sat down with a diversity of New Mexico residents to understand their relationship with their environment. Their stories of connecting, learning, and growing from the grasslands were powerful and provided novel insight to land management. I’m looking forward to continuing this project through the distribution a survey informed by interview results. We hope the use of photographs will help us unite cultural visions of the landscape with ecological data.
I’m fortunate to have traveled and worked in some of our Nation’s most spectacular places. Even in Raleigh, the nature outside our windows is astounding. I know first hand and backed by science what nature can do for us as individuals and society as a whole, and I want to ensure that everyone has access to these benefits. These connections lead to healthier people and a culture that cares for its environment. I was honored to serve as chapter president for the International Association for Society and Natural Resources and the George Wright Society. With a rock star group of officers and members, we camped under the bright Milky Way in the Smokies, strengthened our advocacy skills through Civic Voice Workshops, and removed over 100 bags worth of trash from our community lakes and wetlands. The profound impact these experiences had on my peers was hugely motivating, especially when caught in the intensity of coursework and research.
What has been a highlight of your time at NC State as of yet?
The PRTM community was more than I could have ever asked for. It is a department of faculty, staff, and students who champion, celebrate, and constructively challenge one another. I have found a network of inspiring colleagues and an abundance of meaningful friendships, all of whom I genuinely believe will change the world for the better. These relationships have sustained my hard work, growth, and exploration of opportunity in my graduate career.