MSW Student Seeks to Connect Humans with Nature

Photo of Kathleen McIntyre seated outside

“My earliest memories are connected to exploring the little patch of nature in my backyard,” recalled Kathleen McIntyre, an MSW student in the Online MSW Program at the FSU College of Social Work.

Her wish to protect the natural world served Kathleen as a pivotal guide not only for her personal growth but also for her educational and career journey. Originally from Georgia, she studied environmental sciences and ecology at the University of Georgia. She earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental health science and then a master’s degree in forest resources.

As a forestry student, her research focused on the reclamation of drastically disturbed and the restoration of healthy forest ecosystems. Through this and continued work in environmental education and outdoor leadership, Kathleen couldn’t help but notice that what the land needed to be restored was very similar to what people need for health and well-being – including nourishment, rest, community, and space.

“Though I realized education is vitally important around conservation, I began to realize a true missing piece in action is connection – connection to landscapes and trees in need of protection,” she voiced. “You are more likely to protect what you love, which requires a connection beyond what the mind can offer.”

Kathleen also couldn’t help but notice from personal experience and observation just how impactful time in nature was on other people, witnessing them relax and become more grounded after time spent outdoors. “From childhood to the present, nature has always been where I have felt most peaceful and content,” she explained.

With these insights, Kathleen began offering adventure experiences in nature for women in her early twenties to share her love and knowledge of nature. This role as an educator led her to see herself as a conduit for connecting people with nature to better connect with themselves.

This role and interest led her to further her pursuit of knowledge on the topic. In 2009, she moved from a remote region on the side of a mountain to New York City. Here, she began to study ecopsychology, which seeks to expand and remedy an emotional connection between humans and nature. “This experience solidified what I already knew as a young person: our health and well-being at all levels are dependent on the natural world,” she reflected.

In 2013, Kathleen co-founded the Davidson Green School, a preschool through 8th grade program with the mission to “support the nurturing of the whole child through a curriculum based in mindfulness, nature connection, and problem-solving,” where she currently serves as the Director of Mindfulness and Outdoor Leadership.

"Image of the Book Cover of the The Nature Reset by Kathleen McIntyre"After twenty-five years in a variety of educational roles and witnessing the positive impact of experiencing nature on an individual’s well-being, Kathleen decided, “I wanted to deepen my understanding of mental health so I could speak to the benefits of nature from a clinical perspective.”

She chose the FSU College of Social Work’s Online MSW Program to allow her to continue her work as an educator and ecologist while completing her Master of Social Work on a part-time basis.

To share her insights and experiences with a wider audience, Kathleen recently published her book The Nature Reset: A Practical Guide to help expand people’s concept of experiencing nature for mental health and well-being beyond wild spaces while using tools like mindfulness and somatic awareness.

“There are numerous ways we can experience the therapeutic benefit of nature in microdoses…such as urban trees, the night sky, or a cup of tea,” she explained. “This program has fueled me to be a changemaker in supporting all individuals in accessing the therapeutic benefits of nature wherever they are.”

Wednesday, June 5, 2024 - 10:34 AM
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