Skip to main content

Student Spotlight: Massey Stichter

A North Carolina native born in Charlotte, Massey Stichter is blending a love for the outdoors with an interest in helping people in a therapeutic setting.

“Coming to college, I was interested in psychology and becoming a therapist, but I wasn’t sure enough to commit to pursuing a degree in this area,  I remember coming to my academic advisor within exploratory studies to sign up for spring classes. She asked me if I was any closer to deciding a major, and I talked to her about how conflicted I was because of my love for the outdoors and my interest in helping people in a therapy setting. That’s when she recommended that I take PRT 152: Introduction to Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Event Management, and look more into recreational therapy. After the first few days in that class, I knew that I was exactly where I needed and wanted to be and since then I haven’t looked back.”

Exploring opportunities in the great outdoors

Outdoor recreation was always present in Stichter’s childhood. Her parents always made a point of taking her into the outdoors, whether that was through hikes, mountain biking, or signing her up for camps revolving around outdoor adventure. An early explorer, she was drawn to NC State and in particular the university’s exploratory studies program.

Designed to meet the needs of first-year students who wish to explore their options in order to find a “best fit” major, NC State’s exploratory studies program allows students opportunities to interact with advisors, faculty, upper-class students and professionals from different fields to discover their passions and make an informed decision on a major.

Learning from professionals in the field

“My most meaningful classroom experiences have been going out into the field and seeing what professionals in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism actually do,” explains Stichter. “In PRT 350: Outdoor Recreation Management, we took field trips to different parks in the Raleigh area and learned about the staff’s experience there. In PRT 358: Recreation Program Planning, we worked directly with parks and community centers to plan programs for the Raleigh community. And in PRT 359: Leadership and Supervision in Recreation, we had the opportunity to speak directly with professionals in the field. Through all of these experiences and more, I’ve been able to gain knowledge from experience, which I’ve found is one of the best educational tools for me personally.”

Stitchter’s educational experiences gave her the opportunity to connect with professors and peers in a personal and professional way.

“I’ve learned that it’s extremely impactful to feel supported by the people you are working with, and that interpersonal communication can be much more important than what’s on your resume,” says Stitchter. “Throughout my entire time at NC State, I have felt led to success by the educators I’ve been surrounded by. This has taught me that I value that sense of community, and will search for that in a job, in a place to live, and everywhere else in my life.”

“These experiences have made me love learning. In high school, I never really felt like I reached my full potential and always felt like I could have done better. Coming to college, I’ve been able to pour myself into my classes because I know how much knowledge and experience I have to gain. Once I saw that learning wasn’t just flashcards and textbooks and busy work, I became much more dedicated to learning in every faucet of my life.”

From apprentice to facilitator: a leader in the making

Stichter has been working for the challenge course at NC State since the spring of 2019. She started as an apprentice and later moved on to become a facilitator and is currently working towards becoming a lead.  She also worked as a raft guide for the US National Whitewater Center the past two summers and found it to be very physically and mentally challenging.

“Not only do you have to have the strength to guide a boat of nine people,” explains Stichter,”you also have to constantly be making split decisions in order to get through the rapids as safely as possible. From coming home on the second day of training thinking that I was never going back, to being promoted this past summer, I can say I’ve seen drastic personal growth through my time as a raft guide, which has made it an incredibly valuable experience.”

Funding an Outward Bound semester via The Terry Enrichment Fund

In the 2021 spring semester, Stitchter decided to take time off of traditional NC State schooling to do a 50-day Outward Bound Outdoor Educator’s course in Big Bend, Texas. This co-curricular experience was partly funded by College of Natural Resources Terry Enrichment Fund. See video from Stichter on the experience.

“Living in the wilderness for 50 days really taught me that I am capable of anything. Whenever I encounter stressors or challenges in my everyday life, I can think to myself that I lived in the desert with no electricity, no plumbing, no bed in the middle of a winter storm. I also learned so much about how to be a part of a team, what good communication looks like, and how to be an effective leader in the outdoors. As the course progressed, my team gained more independence, and as a result I really got hands-on experience in the decision making of an outdoor leader.”

Examining privilege and reflecting on life lessons

“My education also forced me to face my privilege,” says Stitchter. “While I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am and to have the opportunities that I have, I recognize that the color of my skin and my socioeconomic status have given me an advantage in life that have led me to this point as well. Growing up I didn’t face many obstacles to success, but the educational tools that NC State has provided me allowed me to see that this is far from the case for everyone. Learning about this has made me even more passionate about removing barriers to recreation and the meaning that it can bring to people’s lives.”

Protecting and advocating for a sustainable workspace

Almost everything Stichter enjoys is tied to the outdoors and most of her professional and paid experiences happen outside. As a result, she has become passionate about the environment.

“Because I’ve found so much value from the outdoors, a fire about protecting the environment has been ignited within me. I’ve taken big steps to protect the environment, like going vegan, refusing to buy from fast fashion companies, and biking or walking when I can. I have taken some significant steps to minimize my impact, but I still have a long way to go; we all do!”