Alex Loflin ‘17 Finds Niche Where Environmental Sustainability and Community Development Meet

Alex Loflin ‘17 discovered her love for environmental science and conservation through her participation in North Carolina Envirothon competitions during middle and high school. She came to NC State to pursue these passions with the goal of becoming an environmental educator within a park system, science museum, or nonprofit organization that would allow her to equip others to be environmental stewards. Loflin’s coursework as a natural resources major and extension education minor has not only developed her technical knowledge, but informed her understanding of how to share that knowledge and enact change on a community level.

The summer following her freshman year, with assistance from a Park Enrichment Grant, Loflin had the opportunity to explore her interests in an international context by studying abroad in New Zealand. The program, focused on sustainability of human cultures and the environment, combined lectures from distinguished university faculty, Department of Conservation officials, and agriculture and tourism business owners with experiential learning through visits to national parks, homestays, and service projects. Loflin has always viewed New Zealand as an international leader in conservation, and chose to study there learn about some of the factors contributing to their success.

“I realized that the country’s strength in protecting and managing its resources stemmed from a common vision,” said Loflin. “Every citizen we met – whether a farmer, tour guide, or grandparent – recognized the value of New Zealand’s natural resources and acknowledged personal responsibility in maintaining their integrity.”

Loflin was also struck by the ways in which this common vision led to the creative development of sustainable systems powered by community involvement. She returned home inspired to be more innovative when considering solutions to problems or creating change in her home community and at NC State.

Loflin further cultivated her interest in the intersection of community groups and the environment while serving as a natural resources planning intern for Woodhaven Baptist Church in Apex, N.C. last spring. Her primary responsibility was to create a sustainable development plan for the church’s five acres of wooded space to be used for community recreation and outreach. Loflin enjoyed being able to take the concepts and skills she had acquired in the classroom and apply them in a real-world framework to serve a local organization. The internship also piqued her interest in a career in public affairs, policy, or community development.

This summer, Loflin is interning with assistant park manager Colleen Bockhahn at Lake Crabtree County Park in Morrisville, N.C. She is helping to create and lead educational programs for visitors of all ages on topics ranging from orienteering to birding to tree identification. Additionally, Loflin is updating the volunteer-managed monitoring systems that are used to record the diversity of bird, amphibian, and reptile species in the park. This internship has struck an effective balance by affording Loflin opportunities for both teaching and learning, exposing her to many facets of park programming and management.

While Loflin currently plans to attend graduate school, she has not yet finalized the specifics of her next steps. Reflecting on her first three undergraduate years, she said the Park Scholarships program has played a key role in her personal and professional growth.

“I am forever grateful for the experiences I have been able to have as a member of the Park community,” Loflin said. “As college students, we are often encouraged to ‘dream big,’ but not always guided in how to do so. The Park program, in everything from Learning Lab trips that increased my understanding of local and national issues facing leaders, to the unique learning opportunities provided by our Leadership and Diversity Academies, has inspired and prepared me to think deeper, pursue worthy challenges, and lead and serve well in any role the future may hold.”