App State alumna Marisa Sedlak is a parks and recreation star


BOONE, NC – Mountaineer Marisa Sedlak ’14 ’20 is a new park and recreation star. The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) recently named the two-time Appalachian State University alumna in their “30 under 30 for 2021” role, honoring the top 30 parks and recreational professionals under 30 to see in 2021.

“From whitewater kayaking as a class to backpacking Linville Gorge, everything was an amazing experience.”

App State Alumna Marisa Sedlak ’14 ’20, Recreational Coordinator in the Department of Parks and Recreation of the City of Beech Mountain, about her Appalachian experience.

Sedlak, 28, who serves as the recreational coordinator for the Park and Recreation Department of the City of Beech Mountain (BMPRD), was one of three recognized park and recreation professionals from North Carolina. The winners were selected according to the following criteria:

  • The impact on the community that made them.
  • Your professional development contributes to the park and recreation area.
  • The innovative ideas, programs and / or research they have developed regarding parks and recreation.

Sedlak earned her Masters of Public Administration majoring in Nonprofit Management from App State in December 2020 and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation Management Recreation and Park Management offered by App State’s Beaver College of Health Sciences (BCHS) . .

As an aspiring undergraduate student, Sedlak said she chose App State because “the great professors in the Recreation Department. Without their help and guidance, I would not be where I am today. “The university’s location in the Blue Ridge Mountains also reflected their decision to attend.

She chose to do her MPA at App State because MPA students and alumni had oral positive ratings about the program – and because she was able to earn her degree part-time through personal tuition while she was still working full-time.

In her role at BMPRD, Sedlak is responsible for planning and running events and outdoor programs, and also runs Camp Buckeye – the department’s seven-week summer camp for children aged 5 to 12. She also welcomes visitors to Beech Mountain and answers questions as a receptionist for the department.

“Amazing Opportunities” at App State

During her undergraduate studies in App State’s Recreation Management and Physical Education Division (RMPE), Sedlak learned the “pros and cons of recreation,” including planning recreational programs, she said.

She also had a head start on earning her North Carolina Environmental Education Certification – a 200-hour professional development program in environmental education that Sedlak says has helped her achieve her current position.

As part of her undergraduate research, Sedlak worked with a colleague in Leisure Management to study the effects of programming on climbing wall visits in gyms across the country. With the support of RMPE Professor Dr. Erik Rabinowitz, the two presented their research results at a national conference.

Sedlak was also secretary, vice president, and then president of the App State Recreation Management Association – a club open to all students that provides opportunities for recreation, social, and professional development.

Through these roles, she helped plan, run, and promote events for other leisure management students, and worked closely with the club’s advisor and her mentor, Dr. Joy James, an RMPE professor and director of App State’s Leisure Management program.

During her final semester of the graduate school, Sedlak did research that focused on the motivation of volunteers within the BMPRD. “This project gave me a great insight into why our volunteers are participating, how we can recruit more volunteers, and how we can keep the volunteers we have,” said Sedlak.

When Sedlak reflected on her Appalachian experience, she said what stands out most is the “amazing options” – “from 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 Fellowship of the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association and the BCHS Recreation Management Association Fellowship.

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Community commitment to nature

As part of her “30 under 30 for 2021” award from the National Recreation and Park Association, App State Alumna Marisa Sedlak ’14 ’20 was recognized for creating and implementing the following BMPRD programs to help get her local community excited about the outdoors.

  • The Volunteer Trail Guide program that Sedlak uses to recruit and train local residents to serve as Beech Mountain Trail guides. Volunteers take lessons to learn about the local flora and fauna, as well as the history of Beech Mountain, and are required to take Sedlak on a guided hike to complete the program.
  • The Beech Mountain Water Conservation Training Program, which was set up in the summer of 2020 and is part of the Beech Mountain City’s Watauga River Intake Project. Through this program, Sedlak educates community members about the importance of local river systems and their relationship with Beech Mountain.

The Recreation Management (BS) – Recreation and Park Management degree prepares students for managing parks and leisure agencies and programs.

The Master of Public Administration is a graduate degree that trains individuals to manage public agencies and programs and to evaluate their effectiveness.

Peterson's recognizes App State as a top 20 school for outdoor enthusiasts

June 18, 2019

Peterson’s – the world’s leading educational services company – recently named Appalachian to its “Top 20 Colleges For Outdoor Enthusiasts,” highlighting the university’s outdoor and academic programs that can lead to careers outdoors.

Via the Leisure Management and Physical Education Department

The Leisure Management and Sports Department at 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 areas of focus: commercial recreation and tourism management, outdoor adventure education, and recreation and park management. The health and exercise program prepares students for careers as K-12 health and physical education teachers, school-based activity leaders, and trainers. Further information can be found at

Via the Beaver College of Health Sciences

Beaver College of Health Sciences in Appalachian opened in 2010 as a result of a strategic commitment by the university to dramatically improve the health and quality of life for individuals, families, and communities in North Carolina and beyond. In 2015 the college was named after an Appalachian alumnus and health industry pioneer – Donald C. Beaver ’62 ’64 of Conover. The college offers nine undergraduate programs and seven graduate programs divided into six departments: Communication Studies and Disorders; Health and exercise science; Maintenance; Nutrition and health management; Leisure management and physical education; and social work. Further information can be found at

Via 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 as well as graduate programs in political science and public administration. The department is located at the College of Arts and Sciences and has over 600 undergraduate majors and more than 70 doctoral students. Further information can be found at

About the College of Arts and Sciences

The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, a stand-alone academic program, two centers, and a residential university. These units include the humanities and social sciences, mathematics and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity based on the strengths, traditions and unique location of our university. The college’s values ​​lie not only in serving the university and the local community, but also in inspiring, educating, training and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 undergraduate majors in the college. Because the college is also instrumental in implementing the general Appalachian curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those who pursue majors at other colleges. Further information can be found at

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University is the premier public institution for students in the state of North Carolina, preparing students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand their responsibilities and are committed to creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience fosters a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, grow holistically, act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. Appalachian is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is one of 17 locations 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 degrees.


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