Kansas State park management and conservation associate professor wins academic leadership award

November 2, 2019

Dr. Ryan Sharp, associate professor in the park management and conservation program at Kansas State University, was recently honored with the Benton H. Box Award by the Clemson University Institute for Parks in recognition of his academic and instructional leadership in the environmental field.

Dr. Ryan Sharp shared this year's Benton H. Box award with Dr. Steve Trombolak.

Dr. Ryan Sharp shared this year’s Benton H. Box award with Dr. Steve Trombolak.

The institute presents the annual awards program, which is named for George B. Hartzog Jr., the seventh director of the National Park Service, to showcase leading figures in the field of conservation. Specific awards were named after visionary leaders that Hartzog respected and admired. Award recipients are following in Hartzog’s footsteps by making significant contributions to the management of parks and preservation of our natural, historical, and cultural heritage.

The Benton H. Box Award recognizes academic professionals that exemplify Dr. Box’s distinguished career as an educator and administrator. Dr. Sharp shared this year’s award with Stephen C. Trombulak, Professor Emeritus of biology and biosphere studies at Middlebury College, for leadership in preserving our natural environment and inspiring in students the quest for knowledge and the development of an environmental ethic.

Matt Brownlee, associate professor of parks, recreation and tourism management at Clemson University, presented the award to Dr. Sharp at a ceremony on October 22. According to Dr. Brownlee, Dr. Sharp’s focus on finding solutions to complicated and multi-faceted management research problems in American parks, coupled with his ability to connect with park managers, is unmatched.

“I’ve had the great privilege of collaborating on a number of different research endeavors with Dr. Sharp, working in parks from Alaska to Georgia,” he says. “His ability to translate complicated academic theory and research approaches into pragmatic solutions is unrivalled in the research community.”

Dr. Sharp obtained his PhD in natural resources, recreation & tourism from the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia, his M.Ed. from Georgia College in outdoor recreation, and a BS in education from the State University of New York at Cortland. He was also part of the inaugural group of fellows for the George Wright Society’s Park Break program (now offered as a partnership between the Society and Institute for Parks), which brings a diverse set of graduate students to national parks for a week-long service-based learning experience. He’s since become an active champion for the program, helping to plan, fund, and administer severalpark break excursions. He was also designated an Institute for Parks scholar in April 2019 in recognition of his long history of working in park science.

Dr. Brownlee (left) with members of the Box family and Dr. Sharp’s Benton H. Box award.

Dr. Brownlee (left) with members of the Box family and Dr. Sharp’s Benton H. Box award. Dr. Sharp was unable to attend the ceremony.

Throughout his teaching career, Dr. Sharp has always found ways to get his students out into the field, to provide hands-on experiences and opportunities to connect with park professionals. He also includes a service component in his field courses, in hopes of instilling the value of contributing to their communities. Dr. Sharp’s students at Kansas State University have participated in projects across the U.S., such as Grand Canyon National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, and Cumberland Island National Seashore.

“Ryan needs parks and, respectfully, parks need Ryan,” continues Brownlee. “We are lucky to have him in this world.”


The Clemson University Institute for Parks (CUIP) provides research, education, training, and outreach that enhances the management of the world’s parks and protected areas. It accomplishes this by providing park and protected area managers with innovative research to support science-based decision-making; and by developing current and future leaders in the park movement by providing interdisciplinary and transformative education and training programs. The Institute currently consists of 35 Fellows and 8 Scholars, including Dr. Sharp, working on park-related research.

Visit the CUIP website for more information about the George B. Hartzog, Jr. Environmental Awards program and its recipients.