For as long as she can remember, Katie Man has been fond of the outdoors. In fact, relishing the spare time she gets, if she isn’t in the kitchen baking, you can most likely find her hiking, camping, or running.

“As a child I was fascinated with bugs and dinosaurs and liked to spend hours outside,” Katie remarks. Her father was a nuclear physicist and her mother was involved with the Arlington Outdoor Education Association, which played a major role in fostering this interest. “One of my sisters ended up studying plant systematics, so it must have been something about the way we were raised!”

Katie pursued a bachelor degree in environmental science, focusing her research on wetland restoration and development impacts on streams in the counties adjacent to Fredericksburg, VA. She subsequently joined the Arlington County Department of Parks  & Recreation through AmeriCorps. As part of a six-member team, Katie worked on the Four Mile Run Restoration Project for a year, which focused on invasive plant removal and natural area restoration.

Katie Man working in a river

Her passion for the environment deepened as she grew older, leading her to apply to the Master of Natural Resources (MNR) program at Virginia Tech’s Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (CLiGS) shortly after finishing her stint with AmeriCorps.

“As an undergraduate, the focus is on learning how environmental systems work, and you learn about the conservation and sustainability problems that we face, but it’s not until you get to the graduate level that you really delve into real-life approaches to addressing these problems,” she says.

Katie began a new job as a government contractor supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ) during her final semester with the MNR program. “I knew I wanted to stay in the natural resources field, and I wanted to continue building my knowledge and skill-set to go into project planning and work in environmental policy,” she says.

Her team supports Verify, a program that collects information on emissions and fuel economy compliance from vehicle and engine manufacturers. This system assures the EPA that the engines, vehicles, and equipment generating mobile source emissions being sold in the U.S. comply with federal emission standards, which leads the agency to decide whether or not to issue Certificates of Conformity.

Katie believes that natural resources is an interdisciplinary field — part biology, part environmental science, part sociology, part business and economics. Through the MNR program, she learned to operate at multiple levels, from establishing a firm technical understanding of the issues to understanding the broader social and economic landscape.

Katie Man working in the field

“These skills are directly transferable to my role as a business analyst, where I have to understand and work with very technical information and regulations but still be able to operate at a higher level for planning, working with our clients, and making sure that things operate smoothly with my team on a daily basis,” she concludes.

Katie found that Virginia Tech’s MNR program prepared her for managing resources in the 21st Century, by helping her to work across sectors, industries, and disciplines, with people that have different goals and concerns but a shared objective of reaching a favorable result. “Through the MNR program, I received a competitive advantage in my career because I wasn’t just learning academic skills, but also practical, real-world skills with demonstrable value in the private sector.”

Download Katie’s story here.