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girl at Grand Canyon

Trip to Nevada natural area changes senior's future trajectory

Like many people, Keri Greeson’s future was changed by a trip to Las Vegas.

Her fortunes weren’t changed by a slot machine or a blackjack table, though. Instead, it was an excursion her family took to Red Rock Canyon, a natural area located just outside the city, that inspired her to pursue a degree at the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

“That was a catalyst moment,” says Greeson, a senior parks, recreation and tourism management major who was named Outstanding Senior by her peers and members of the PRTM Society at UGA. “That was my taste of what’s out there, and basically ever since then I’ve been interested in how lands are managed—and environmental education, specifically, because if people don’t understand the basic frameworks of how the environment works, they’re not going to care about it and they’re not going to vote with an understanding about it.”

She and other classmates who received the recognition will be honored at this year’s graduation ceremony. For Greeson, her senior year caps a period of growth and new experiences that will now shape her future, which may include grad school. She is interested in pursuing a career in environmental or science-based journalism, and is considering applying to master’s programs in the fall.

She admits, she was initially intimidated at the idea of going to college, in particular UGA. Growing up in Winder, UGA was familiar, but its size and academic expectations had her concerned. “But once I got to Warnell, your professors know you and your labs are incredible,” says Greeson. “I was like, ‘We get to do this for class?’ It was just amazing. And the support here is incredible. Basically, every week something would happen and I was like, ‘I’m so glad I’m here,’”

As a parks, recreation and tourism management major, she’s been studying the human relationships with parks and the environment. Classes connect the natural world with how people interact with them, with a strong educational component. Because, as Greeson says, an uneducated public can easily impede the work of science, especially across a landscape.

One of her favorite Warnell memories is from early in her time at Warnell, when she and her fellow classmates piled into two Warnell vans for her field study class, a Warnell requirement that often takes place in UGA’s Maymester session. The trip allowed her to really get to know the other PRTM majors as well as her professors.

And, the van rides provided some support and guidance at a critical time.

“When you’re riding in a van with your classmates, you get to know each other very quickly. And those van rides are one of the best parts, because I was a little lost in what I wanted to do,” she says. But the trip gave her the opportunity to talk with Kris Irwin, Warnell’s associate dean for outreach who also has a passion for environmental education. “I basically told him I was never going to grad school, and he said, ‘Don’t ever say that. I was like you and I found this path.’

Irwin also told her about his experience in the Peace Corps—another possible opportunity after graduation that she is exploring.

“It was really incredible,” she adds. “That was probably the most fun thing I’ve ever done for school.”

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