BOONE, N.C. — Mountaineer Marisa Sedlak ’14 ’20 is a new parks and recreation star. The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) recently named the two-time Appalachian State University alumna in its “30 Under 30 for 2021” feature, which recognizes the top 30 parks and recreation professionals under age 30 to watch in 2021.
Sedlak, 28, who serves as recreation activities coordinator for the Town of Beech Mountain’s Parks and Recreation Department (BMPRD), was one of three parks and recreation professionals from North Carolina recognized. Honorees were chosen based on the following criteria:
- The community impacts they have made.
- Their professional development contributions to the parks and recreation field.
- The innovative ideas, programs and/or research they have developed in relation to parks and recreation.
Sedlak earned her Master of Public Administration with a concentration in not-for-profit management from App State in December 2020 and holds a Bachelor of Science in recreation management-recreation and park management, offered by App State’s Beaver College of Health Sciences (BCHS).
As a prospective undergraduate student, Sedlak said she chose App State because of “the awesome professors in the recreation department. I would not be where I am today without so much of their help and guidance.” The university’s setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains also factored into her decision to attend.
She decided to pursue her MPA at App State because of the positive word-of-mouth about the program from MPA students and alumni — and because she could earn her degree part time through in-person classes while still working full time.
In her role at BMPRD, Sedlak is responsible for planning and facilitating events and outdoor programs and also serves as director of Camp Buckeye — the department’s seven-week summer day camp for children ages 5–12. Additionally, she greets Beech Mountain visitors and answers questions as a front desk person for the department.
‘Amazing opportunities’ at App State
Through her undergraduate studies in App State’s Department of Recreation Management and Physical Education (RMPE), Sedlak learned the “ins and outs of recreation,” including how to plan recreation programs, she said.
She also gained a head start on earning her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification — a 200-hour professional development program in environmental education that Sedlak said helped her obtain her current position.
As part of her undergraduate research, Sedlak collaborated with a recreation management peer to study the effects of programming on climbing wall attendance at gyms across the country. Assisted by RMPE professor Dr. Erik Rabinowitz, the pair presented their research at a national conference.
Sedlak also served as secretary, vice president and then president of App State’s Recreation Management Association — a club open to all students that provides recreation, social and professional development opportunities.
Through these roles, she helped plan, implement and promote events for other recreation management students and worked closely with the club’s adviser and her mentor, Dr. Joy James, an RMPE professor and the director of App State’s recreation management degree program.
During her final semester of graduate study, Sedlak engaged in research focused on volunteer motivation within BMPRD. “This project gave me great insight into why our volunteers participate, ways to recruit more volunteers and ways to keep the volunteers we have,” Sedlak said.
When reflecting on her Appalachian Experience, Sedlak said what stands out the most are the “amazing opportunities” — “from taking whitewater kayaking as a class to backpacking the Linville Gorge, it was all such an amazing experience,” she said.
In 2013, Sedlak received the J. Harold and Hazel W. Moses Endowed Scholarship from the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association and BCHS’ Recreation Management Association Scholarship.
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About the Department of Recreation Management and Physical Education
The Department of Recreation Management and Physical Education in Appalachian State University’s Beaver College of Health Sciences is an innovative, diverse and forward-thinking academic unit consisting of two undergraduate programs. The recreation management program prepares students for careers as professionals in three concentrations: commercial recreation and tourism management, outdoor experiential education, and recreation and park management. The health and physical education program prepares students for careers as K-12 health and physical educators, school-based activity directors and coaches. Learn more at https://rmpe.appstate.edu.
About the Beaver College of Health Sciences
Appalachian's Beaver College of Health Sciences opened in 2010 as the result of a strategic university commitment to significantly enhance the health and quality of life for individuals, families and communities in North Carolina and beyond. In 2015, the college was named for an Appalachian alumnus and pioneer in the health care industry — Donald C. Beaver ’62 ’64 of Conover. The college offers nine undergraduate degree programs and seven graduate degree programs, which are organized into six departments: Communication Sciences and Disorders; Health and Exercise Science; Nursing; Nutrition and Health Care Management; Recreation Management and Physical Education; and Social Work. Learn more at https://healthsciences.appstate.edu.
About the Department of Government and Justice Studies
Appalachian State University’s Department of Government and Justice Studies offers undergraduate programs in political science and criminal justice, and graduate programs in political science and public administration. Housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, the department has over 600 undergraduate majors and more than 70 graduate students. Learn more at https://gjs.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.