StoriesRenee Strnad ’15

Making an Impact through Environmental Education

Ecological Teaching and Learning alum helps promote environmental learning in North Carolina.

Strnad examining lobster on boat off coast of Maine

Alumna and Educator Committed to Environmental Education 

Renee Strnad, who graduated from Lesley in 2015 with a Master of Science in Ecological Teaching and Learning, was first introduced to environmental education at Kansas State University, where she pursued a dual major in Wildlife Biology and Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. She honed her newly discovered passion for introducing others to the natural world around them during an internship with the Aquatic Resource Education Center in Delaware and also with Trinity Center's Sound to Sea education program in North Carolina.

In July of 2000, Renee joined the Extension Forestry team at North Carolina State University in a newly created Environmental Education position. She is currently the statewide coordinator for the North Carolina Project Learning Tree program, leading forestry and wildlife programs for 4-H, and assisting forestry landowners across the state. Working within the Cooperative Extension system has provided her with opportunities to promote environmental education across the state.

Renee has served on North Carolina's Environmental Education Certification advisory committee, the NC Children and Nature Coalition's leadership team, North Carolina's Environmental Literacy Plan writing team, and helped link North Carolina's Essential Standards to environmental literacy, leading to the creation of the Geography and Environmental Literacy strand in the state’s social studies standards. Currently, she is involved with grant-funded research projects looking at the benefits of environmental education, the effects of Project Learning Tree training on student achievement, and creating climate change activities to supplement popular environmental education curricula.

In her role as a board member of Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC), Renee has increased ties to the North Carolina’s Association of environmental education centers and the North Carolina Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, leading a campaign in 2011 encouraging the state legislature to keep the office funded and staffed. Her role in EENC has allowed her to become involved with the North American Association for Environmental Education by being a part of the NAAEE Action Network, Affiliate Network, and helping to form the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance, bringing together eight southeastern states under one organization for environmental education capacity building.

Additionally, Ms. Strnad organized a Community Environmental Education Roundtable in 2012 as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s EECapacity project to help add North Carolina’s voice to a national conversation about the best practices, challenges, needs, and solutions around urban community environmental education.

In 2014, Renee was awarded the Melva Fager Okun Lifetime Achievement Award from the Environmental Educators of North Carolina. This award recognizes persons serving in key EENC leadership roles, making significant contributions in furthering EENC’s mission to serve as a leader in building a statewide network of environmental education practitioners, providing excellent professional development, strengthening environmental education throughout North Carolina, and ensuring EENC is an active state affiliate of the North American Association for Environmental Education.

Jonathan Marchal, Manager of Youth Education Programs at The North Carolina Arboretum, stated, “Renee’s organizational skills, ability to reach out to vital interest groups, and passion for environmental education make her very worthy of this honor."