Missouri State University

Clarissa Hatley

  • Education outreach specialist, divisons of sustainability and water quality, City of Springfield
  • Springfield, Mo.
  • BA, geography, 2013
  • MS, geospatial sciences, 2019

Her kind of workplace

Whether it’s teaching next to a spring-fed creek or leading a park hike, Clarissa Hatley gets to do what she loves. 

Hatley's an education outreach specialist. She teaches others about water quality and how to keep ecosystems healthy. 

“The most rewarding thing is seeing firsthand the connections people are making about the environment,” she said. “It may be the first time a person has taken a hike and learned about how wetlands function, or the first time a child has ever played in a stream and caught a crayfish.”

Making a move

Clarissa Hatley teaching elementary students at Valley Water Mill Park in Springfield.

Hatley had the classic, doubt-filled mindset as a student. 

“I never imagined I was smart enough for graduate school until my last semester of undergrad, so I simply never made plans to pursue a graduate degree,” she said. 

Hatley joined the workforce a few months after graduating.  

She worked two-and-a-half years in a job heavy on office work. She missed working in the outdoors.

“Every day I get to make real-world connections to the things I’m most passionate about.”

Hatley wanted a career change. She contacted one of her mentors at Missouri State, Dr. Judy Meyer. 

‘One of the best experiences of my life’

Meyer encouraged Hatley to apply for a graduate teaching assistant position. Hatley got it. 

As a teaching GA, Hatley earned a stipend and had her tuition costs covered. 

She pursued a master’s degree in geospatial sciences with an emphasis in geography. 

“Some of the most amazing field trips I’ve ever had were during graduate school,” Hatley said. “They were for my speleology (cave science) class. We traveled to numerous caves and did map and compass work around campus and in caves.”

The role helped Hatley extend her love for geography and nature. 

“My graduate teaching assistantship and being the coordinating teaching assistant (TA) for a course was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Her work attire: Chacos and hiking boots

Clarissa Hatley teaching elementary students at Valley Water Mill Park in Springfield.

A new position with the City of Springfield – education outreach specialist for sustainability and water quality – caught Hatley's eye. She applied. 

Hatley’s geography degree and skillset as a teaching assistant qualified her for the job. 

Prior intern and volunteer stints with the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks and James River Basin Partnership helped her stand out.   

“I walked in to the city interview having the facilitation experience,” Hatley said. “I really was an excellent fit having already worked for the watershed committee and people employed with the city. It was an easy step.”

She got the job as she finished her master’s degree. 

Now, she spends her work days around parks, streams and places that deal with water quality. For Hatley, a day outdoors beats any day in the office. 

“I get to talk about all the things I studied – those interrelationships between humans and the environment – and I get to be in a park every day in my Chacos and hiking boots. I absolutely love it.”