Plymouth State Faculty Fellow Develops Technology to Help North Country

March 24th, 2003 by Adam

PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Mark Okrant, professor of geography and tourism development and director of the Institute for New Hampshire Studies at Plymouth State College, is developing ways for the College to use technology to better serve the communities of northern New Hampshire.

Okrant notes that many New Hampshire communities are faced with the decline or disintegration of their traditional, one-dimensional economies, with no apparent alternatives. Others are what he calls “victims of the onslaught of progress” and are being overwhelmed by threats to their traditional way of life.

Thanks to a faculty fellowship from Plymouth State College, Okrant is in the process of developing Web-based sources to assist communities to gather information and to receive support from PSC-based experts. Okrant intends for the program to prepare communities to be better consumers of the services provided by regional or state planning, economic development or social service agencies. “We’re going to use the Internet to provide a series of economic development-oriented education services,” explains Okrant.

Okrant will begin with tourism—his own area of expertise. He points out that many communities are facing difficult decisions about tourism. What Okrant calls the “development side” and the “planning or management side” often operate independently and at cross purposes. “In order for tourism to be a catalyst for positive types of change, it needs to be done carefully,” Okrant explains. His project is to help both sides work together to develop “sustainable tourism,” which will be profitable without destroying the integrity of the community or having a negative impact on the environment.

Using his own project as a model, Okrant will develop a “boilerplate” that other faculty members can use to address problems identified by northern New Hampshire communities. The faculty fellowship provides a year and a half of release time from teaching duties so that Okrant can devote his attention to this project.

For more information about this outreach program, contact Mark Okrant at (603) 535-2364 or mokrant@mail.plymouth.edu.