Alison Ormsby, PhD ’03, is a scientist, but she is also an educator. It’s not surprising then that one aspect of AUNE’s PhD program that appealed to her was its interdisciplinary flexibility. Alison brought a passion for environmental education to her doctoral program after working with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo Education Department, conducting teacher-training workshops in life science curricula.
During her time there, Alison personally trained more than 2,300 teachers. In year two of her doctoral program, Alison sought to add an environmental education component to her coursework, though one was not formally available. She and other like-minded students worked with faculty to design their own independent study course. “Antioch’s education model was one of the draws for me,” Alison said. “It’s very student-directed.”
For her dissertation, Alison traveled to Madagascar to study how people living in the periphery of a large national park perceived the park’s mission and importance, to gauge where the park could improve outreach and education efforts. Alison used the results of field interviews to develop a curriculum for schools in the region, aimed at educating younger generations about the importance of conserving the park and its resources. She is now an assistant professor of environmental studies at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. She continues to work with protected areas in Madagascar on developing education programs and has expanded her research focus to investigate the possible role of “sacred forests” — natural areas preserved for their cultural or religious significance — in biodiversity conservation in countries such as Ghana and India.