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Kami Lanning Completes Online Master’s Degree

Cherokee Citizen Furthers Opportunities through Education in the NC State PRTSM Program

Kami Lanning poses with her beaded graduation cap.
Kami Lanning beaded her NC State graduation cap and included an eagle feather gifted to her by her sister, Chi Shipman, who is preserving the Cherokee language and culture through teaching and storytelling.

Written by Debbie Willmschen.

Kamiyo “Kami” Lanning works for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as the Recreation Manager on the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, North Carolina. When Kami started this job in 2018, she became familiar with the NC State University Recreation Resources Service, which provides technical assistance for parks and recreation professionals and the communities they serve. When Lanning decided it was time to further her educational journey, it was that connection to NC State that made her decision regarding which institution to choose easier to make. 

“My previous work experience was in private sports and facility management, non-profit organizations, and education,” Lanning explained. “My undergrad was in business administration and law. I had the work experience but was lacking parks and recreation-specific knowledge. After looking at educational options that would meet my time availability and provide post-graduate opportunities, it was a no-brainer to choose NC State!”

Lanning recently graduated from NC State University with a Master of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Sport Management (MPRTSM) through NC State Online.

For Lanning, the reputation of the program also played a key role in her decision to apply. She describes running into colleagues who spoke highly of the MPRTSM degree program and NC State in general.

“Previous graduates loved the knowledge gained from their professors and cohort,” Lanning said. “I can’t go to a conference or training without running into an NC State graduate who shares enthusiasm and praise about their university, which made me want to be a part of that community.”

As a full-time working professional, a wife, and a mother, Lanning understood the challenges that faced her and was ready to put in the hard work needed to be successful.

“Although I did not get accepted the first time I applied, with the assistance of Online and Distance Education Coordinator Erin Adair I set a plan to help build me as a stronger candidate,” Lanning said. “I began first in the Non-Degree Studies (NDS) program and took a couple of courses, which I did well in! I then enrolled officially in the fall of 2022 as part of that MPRTSM cohort. I understood that I needed to balance life, work, and school to accomplish my goals, and that showed in my work effort. I work full time (oftentimes over 40 hours a week). Thankfully, I had great leadership within the program that allowed me time to do my work when needed, whether for projects or papers. Also, my family (husband, two kids, and a sister) have been super supportive, which helped me complete my assignments and dedicate time to classes.”

Kami Lanning at her desk making the NC State wolf hand sign.
The day she was accepted into the program at NC State, Lanning sent this photo of herself in her office to friends and family without any explanation. Go Pack!

Adair was also pleased that Lanning found a productive way to become a part of the MPRTSM degree program. 

“Starting as an NDS student is a great way for folks to get a taste of graduate-level coursework and see how online graduate classes will fit into their current lifestyle,” Adair said. “Classes taken as an NDS student can also transfer into the MPRTSM program to cover elective requirements, so your time and money do not go to waste. Kami has been a wonderful addition to our cohort, and I’m glad she found a path into our program that worked well for her.”

Lanning found her time in the program both informative and useful, as she was able to apply assignments and projects to her current organization. 

“I used many assignments — such as the Risk Management Plan, Emergency Action Plan, and Marketing Plan — in my position as a recreation manager,” Lanning explained. “This was a two-year professional development program for me, and I felt I could use everything that I learned to further my career in this profession.”

When Lanning looks back at her time with the MPRTSM program and her cohort, she is grateful for everyone involved who contributed to completing her degree.

“Having professors that had open-door communication and classmates that I could email or text was very helpful,” Lanning said. “I am extremely proud to have been a part of an amazing cohort! Every professor was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and made learning enjoyable. Distance learning on this level made me nervous at first, but with so many methods of communication and knowledge sharing, it truly was a great learning experience!”

Lanning’s MPRTSM degree program cohort.

Although a mostly online student, Lanning also appreciated the camaraderie that the faculty and cohorts brought to the experience.

“Associate Professor Jonathan Casper was the first professor that I had a class with. His love of pickleball literally impacted my insight on the sport, because I had just added it to my recreation repertoire at work,” Lanning said. “That and I didn’t know if I could learn anything from a Broncos fan. Go Raiders! Also Professor Michael Kanters allowed the cohort to tour the assignment facility in person, which was the most amazing experience! The interviews that each professor had from professionals in the field were as hands-on as an online course can get. But I cannot say enough about all the professors and their overall enthusiasm for educating, it is inspiring and motivational.”

Now that Lanning has completed the program, she has advice for others who might be considering an online learning program to broaden their educational repertoire. 

“Do it!” Lanning said. “Use it as a task in your job, knowing that you will benefit. Use the syllabus, and plan your calendar for appointments. I encourage any working professional or recent graduate to take an online program because it is built to allow us the time and benefit of controlling our own schedule to complete tasks. The eight-week courses were fast but fulfilling, and I gained so much more than I thought possible. Going forward, I feel confident that I will use the knowledge I gained in my professional life, and I will continue to connect with the people that I have networked with as valuable resources.”