Alumni Spotlight: Carrie Kelly Gazda, ‘86

This Alumni Spotlight shines this week on Carrie Kelly Gazda from Wallingford, Connecticut, who graduated from the University of Maine at Machias in 1986 with a major in Recreation and Business Management.  She is currently working in the town of Madison, Connecticut, as a Recreation Supervisor.


Tell us a little bit about what you are doing now.

For over 9 years I have been the Recreation Supervisor in the Town of Madison, CT.  I plan programs and activities for all ages of the population year round. My job has many functions, but it includes interviewing, hiring, training and evaluation of staff, working with grant programs, summer concert series and special events like the Town Tree Lighting ceremony.  Additionally, I work with outside vendors and also contract with instructors to run programs, I do payroll for my staff and contracts for those I hire, I maintain my programs on our website using the Rectrac system, advertise through social media, online newspapers and local papers and more. I am currently serving on the Connecticut Recreation and Parks Association Board of Directors; I am on the CRPA Golf Tournament Committee and work with our Annual Entertainment Showcase.

 I live in Guilford with my three children who are all seniors in high school and will be graduated by the time this is printed. Yes, spontaneous triplets if you are wondering how I have three graduating seniors! I am currently a Boy Scout Leader with Troop 474 in Guilford and proud mom of two Eagle Scouts.  Through my positon with Beach and Recreation I also work with scouts and their planning of Eagle Scout projects so it is great to have the opportunity to work on both sides of the scouting program. I am also on the Connecticut Yankee Council District Advancement Committee and in the Order of the Arrow in Boy Scouts. I also work part time at Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale in Madison which is a must visit place if you are in the area. Before working for the Town of Madison, I began my municipal recreation profession working for the Town of Hamden, CT.


What is the most valuable thing you learned while at UMM?

There are so many things that I learned while attending UMM that I am still using today.  However, if I had to pick just one, it would be to always have a backup plan.  The best made plans can go wrong when you are dealing with Mother Nature and other outside influences.


Do you have any advice for current students at UMM?

So many things come to mind here but first and foremost, put the time in and do the work.  You get out of this what you put into it and if you do not take it seriously you are missing out on valuable knowledge and experience because it really does matter when you graduate and are looking for a job.  Second, be open-minded and willing to take a leap of faith. Be willing to move if you find an opportunity that will be a good fit for you. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone!  Lastly, enjoy your college career and the lifelong friendships you make. These friendships will provide support; possibly help with your career path or with career advice and more. These are your peers and your connections.  If your professors and classmates were asked to describe you in one word, what would you want that one word to be?   This is what will follow you when you leave UMM.


How did your time at UMM prepare you for what you are doing now?

Everything that I learned at UMM is being used today and then some. When you are a student sitting in a class and wondering why you have to be there and how could this class be important to your future field of study, it is! There is a reason for the degree requirements although they may not become apparent for a while. One day you will be at work and it will hit you.  When I went for my first job in the Recreation field I had the highest interview score and the best interview out of all the applicants and I was offered the job.


How has UMM made a positive impact on your life?

My time at UMM was one of the best times of my life. I made some amazing lifelong friendships with my peers and my professors which will always mean a lot to me personally.   The campus size gave me the opportunity to try new things and get involved in clubs and activities where I probably would not have been so brave in a bigger setting.  Here I wasn’t just a number. The relationship with professors, being that it is a small campus, helped me to grow and push my own boundaries and it also forced me to be more accountable to myself and to them.  When you have the opportunity to know your professors by their first names and you know them outside of class because you babysit for them or they invite you to dinner at their house, you form an amazing bond that adds to the learning experience. You are a person, not a number. They helped me to get better at the things I wasn’t strong in and gave me a push when I was having a hard time.  I was thrown into real life experiences within my major that I wasn’t always comfortable with and that is how I learned some of my valuable skills. They invested in me and the more I wanted to learn the more they gave and this experience has been the basis for my career in the recreation field.  Besides the academic impact, the location of UMM has had a major impact on who I am today. I had the opportunity to work at Acadia National Park and spent a lot of time there as a student.  The opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and nature has been a huge part of my life since college.  Growing up I had never been camping or canoeing and now these things are an important part of my life. Who knew I would be a Girl Scout Leader, a Cub Scout Leader and a Boy Scout Leader. Who knew I would be camping in the white mountains of New Hampshire, in a tent in the snow, in February in 18 below zero weather. My time at UMM has not only prepared me for this career but it has also shaped who I am as a person and how my life has evolved with my children, with my volunteering in the community, and my life as a mom.