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Professor Mary Ann McGarry Honored with Named Professorship

Professor Mary Ann McGarry, an inspirational environmental educator and naturalist, has been named Plymouth State University’s Helen Abbott ’39 Professor of Environmental Studies. McGarry globalizes her classrooms by incorporating her extensive international experience.

Professor Mary Ann McGarry, an inspirational environmental educator and naturalist, has been named Plymouth State University’s Helen Abbott ’39 Professor of Environmental Studies.

“Our faculty members’ dedication to preparing students to be successful after graduation sets Plymouth State University apart,” says Associate Provost Ann McClellan. “The Helen Abbott ’39 Professorship of Environmental Studies recognizes an outstanding faculty member for doing just that. Professor McGarry demonstrates her commitment to PSU by embracing our Integrated Clusters education approach, which enables students to develop the skills they need to have lasting, positive impacts on their communities.”

The Helen Abbott ’39 Professorship of Environmental Studies was created by Janice C. Griffith, Professor of Law at Suffolk University in Boston, who wanted to honor her childhood teacher, New Hampshire educator Helen Abbott, a Plymouth State graduate. Griffith, a former student, established the Helen Abbott ’39 Professorship of Environmental Studies in 2010 to honor her friend, teacher, and mentor for her commitment to environmental education, particularly for youth. The endowed professorship recognizes an exemplary member of the PSU faculty who integrates elements of environmental studies into coursework or research.

McGarry is an educator in Helen Abbott’s vein. Nominator Sheryl Shirley praised McGarry for inspiring others across the campus, New England, and the world through her multiphase, interdisciplinary Cluster projects, such as working with students to secure the first Tree and Bee Campus USA designations in New Hampshire for PSU. McGarry launched and currently serves as co-administrator of the Tourism, Environment and Sustainable Societies Cluster, which helps students understand the impacts of change and development, prepare for new challenges and opportunities, and produce innovative plans for ensuring sustainability and resiliency through stewardship and entrepreneurship.

“I am thrilled to be named the endowed Abbott Environmental Studies professor,” says McGarry. “Although I am sad to not be able to celebrate in person with colleagues, friends, family, and current students because of the pandemic, I am grateful for the opportunity to connect in new rich ways with my students through our recent transition to fully online learning.

“I hope to use the recognition that the Abbott Professorship brings to shine light on and attract students to environmentally focused interdisciplinary service projects, believing that society will benefit if we integrate scientific and creative thinking. In the words of one of my students, ‘Environmental science is all about seeing the bigger picture of the world around us and this poetry exercise helps expand our thinking to reflect and think more to see an even bigger picture, along with details we never before considered.’” 

McGarry received her BA in environmental education from Dartmouth College, her MS in earth science from Northern Arizona University, and her EdD in science education from the University of Maine.

Since arriving in Plymouth in 2004, McGarry has led short courses, semester-long programs, and partnership building teams; participated in visiting fellowships, conferences, and workshops; and hosted delegations from Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Ecuador, India, Ireland, Pakistan, Finland, and Russia. She helped direct a five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project (Maine Math Science Teaching Excellence Collaborative) and served as an advisor to another NSF multiyear initiative (the Bioregional Outdoor Education Project) in the Four Corners area of the United States. From 2007 to 2009, she served as director of education of New Hampshire’s Hubbard Brook Research Foundation as part of a joint appointment with PSU. She also served as a faculty member for the Pakistani Educational Leadership Institute on the PSU campus for nine summers, assisting with place-based community initiatives around environmental stewardship and cultural heritage preservation.

In 2012, McGarry spent a semester in Turino, Italy, with 14 PSU students on a green environmental service learning project developing a sustainable plan for a sixteenth-century castle. In 2013, she received a Study Abroad Italy Faculty Fellowship to study hazards and mitigation plans of active volcanoes.  

Since 2016, McGarry has been working on completing graduate credits through The National Writing Project New Hampshire Summer Institutes (formerly the Plymouth Writing Project) with the goal of becoming a teacher/consultant in environmental writing. She has also attended writing programs offered by the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Center for Northern Woodlands. Her new passion is using poetry to reach and teach wider audiences about environmental issues.

She is in the process of completing three projects involving art and poetry related to different Cluster projects. The first is using the Bicknell’s thrush as a catalyst to explore sustainable development at the two ends of the bird’s migratory path: New Hampshire and the island of Hispaniola. Another is sharing her experiences from January 2020 of participating in an Indian sustainable community, Sadhana Forest, focused on reforestation, and the third is creating a guide with other faculty and students on the diverse, unique trees of the PSU campus. 

McGarry has been invited and is excited to connect in November with graduate students and faculty in the Department of Science Communication at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

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