Trailblazing: SRU online master’s student creates own path to success

Kelly Workman and Kim Anaclerio

(From left) Kelly Workman, a Slippery Rock University graduate student majoring in park and resource management, and Kim Anaclerio, flag the new trail alignment for the Mammoth Rock Trail Connector prior to its construction. Workman helped lead a project that added two trails covering three miles to Mammoth Lakes, California.

Aug. 2, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Mammoth Lakes, California, and Slippery Rock University may seem worlds apart - it's actually only 2,355 miles - but for Kelly Workman, pursuing a master's degree at The Rock was only as far away as her Wi-Fi connection.

That connection helped Workman not only find a career path thanks to an online program offered by the University, but has helped her to assist fellow outdoor enthusiasts find literal paths in her community.

The California-based graduate student majoring in park and resource management is spending her summer interning with the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation, a non-profit contractor for the Mammoth Lakes Trail System. As part of an online, 30-credit hour program to earn a Master of Science in Park and Resource Management, Workman is completing a six-credit internship with the MLTPA as a natural resources coordinator.

"I'm deeply invested in the town of Mammoth Lakes," said Workman, who has lived in the town nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains for the past eight years. "It's really exciting working for the Trail System because we're starting to build new trails."

Mammoth Lakes has access to many hiking trails because of its proximity to the wilderness, but the town with a population of about 8,000 had only one small trail for multiuse purposes, such as mountain biking and horseback riding. Only recently, thanks to Workman and the MLTPA, have two new trails opened, connecting the existing trail and covering three additional miles.

"There was nothing out there before; it was all sage brush," said Workman, who along with her coworkers, partnered with community members, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to implement sustainable recreation projects. "It's a big deal for a lot of other user groups that we're able to build two new trails, which creates this stacked loop system so people can choose their own adventure."

Despite a planning document drawn up nearly a decade ago, the project remained dormant until this summer. Because of increased visitation and overuse, the demand for recreational opportunities outpaced the capacity for local government and other agencies.

Workman helped make new trails a reality, which previously seemed like only a paper trail, with all approvals needed through the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the land, along with environmental regulations and funding for the construction.

"From the planning to the implementation stage and actually going out and visiting the trails that we just built this summer is really amazing," said Workman, who administered the trail signs, coordinated volunteers and collected geographic information system data. "To actually see the trail and see people on bikes and horses actually enjoying it, that's most rewarding."

Workman, originally from Redondo Beach, California, earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2008 as a double major in modern literature and environmental studies. She worked for five different national parks and national monuments in four states as an interpretive park ranger before settling in Mammoth Lakes.

The online program proved a great fit for Workman's lifestyle, allowing her to adjust her learning around her husband's work schedule and other obligations that a traditional classroom setting would not have allowed.

"I appreciate the flexibility," Workman said. "I've enjoyed being able to live in the place I love but also be able to study online and access a community of like-minded folks who are trying to expand their knowledge about park and resource management. It's been interesting to compare experiences and try to learn from other students as well. It brings everybody together in an online format."

Workman, who will complete the two-year program in October, has worked for the MLTPA since 2015, but through her internship has expanded her responsibilities by taking on new projects. She'll continue to work for the MLTPA and is looking forward to fulfilling 16 pending projects.

"We are starting to gain momentum and really bring a lot of things together," said Workman, whose longer-term career goals are to work in the National Parks Service or U.S. Forest Service in recreation, education or interpretation.

For more information about SRU's online master's program in park and resource management, visit: http://www.sru.edu/academics/graduate-programs/parks-and-resource-management-master-of-science.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 | justin.zackal@sru.edu