Staff Spotlight: Mark Masters, director of the Water Planning and Policy Center
To recognize Earth Day (April 22), we our spotlighting Albany State University’s (ASU) director of the Water Planning and Policy Center, Mark Masters. Masters graduated from Auburn University with a degree in economics in 2005, and has been with Albany State for 15 years. He is presently serving on the Research Committee, Master of Public Administration Advisory Board and is a collaborator on ASU’s partnership with the Flint RiverQuarium. Masters was also recently awarded the GA Clean 13 award, which you can learn more about here: https://youtu.be/tSHgpdhRYek.
What motivated you to learn more about your field?
As a native of Albany, the “Artesian City,” I understand how important water was in our history and development and just how critical managing the water resources in our area will be for our future. Water is very much the life-blood of Southwest Georgia and protecting that vital resource is of great personal and professional interest.
Why did you choose ASU as your workplace?
Well, first and foremost, Albany and SWGA is where I grew up; it’s home for me. I’m fortunate to be able to work in a profession that I love in an area that I love. I was drawn to ASU nearly 15 years ago through their affiliation with the Georgia Water Planning and Policy Center. The folks at the Center, including Virgil and Nancy Norton, were true leaders in the field of agricultural and resource economics and working with them and their many research partners was a tremendous opportunity.
What is your responsibility as the Water Planning and Policy director, and what do you love most about it?
I’m responsible for day-to-day management of the Center and our many research grants and contracts; managing and developing research partnerships with other universities, federal and state government and other stakeholder groups; writing reports and giving presentations concerning our work; management of budgets and other administrative functions at ASU as well as with federal/state/private funding entities.
It impacts everybody. We are all connected through the water resources that we share. Unfortunately, managing that shared resource often times divides, rather than unites. Finding ways to sustainably manage water across boundaries, whether geographic, political, socio-economic or interest group is central to our mission and motivates me to head to work every day.
How does it feel to win an award like the GA Clean 13?
It’s certainly an honor to be labeled a Georgia “water hero,” but I view it as much more of a team award. We have an outstanding group of folks at the Center that have done, and are doing, great work in the area of water resources. I’ve also been fortunate to work with a number of other phenomenal groups, like Apalachicola Chattahoochee Flint Stakeholders, that have accomplished a great deal in advancing water management in our region. The Clean 13 award rightly belongs to them.
Who made the biggest impact on you, and who is someone you consider to be a role model?
Certainly my family, including my late father John Masters, who incidentally passed away on Earth Day 2010. He instilled a strong stewardship ethic in me early on and was a leader on water issues in SW Georgia for many years. Professionally, I learned a great deal from Virgil Norton during his time at the Center and through the many doors he opened, to my benefit, stemming from his 40+ years in water research, and also from Marshall Lamb, a research scientist at the USDA National Peanut Research Lab, who encouraged me toward a path of study focused on agricultural water use. In recent years, I have had the privilege to get to know Brad Currey, retired businessman and philanthropist from Atlanta, whose efforts to improve our understanding, use and management of water are an inspiration to many.
What advice would you give to students with an interest in water policy?
There are very few areas of study that will be more relevant over time and the opportunities are many. Our profession needs expertise in economics, ecology, business, computer science, data management, political science and many more. My advice, go find someone that’s actually doing it and talk to them – a lot. The foundation for education may be in the classroom, but a lot of the true learning comes by doing.