Knight Center alum promotes outdoor recreation with safety messages

DNR StaffWhen Knight Center alum Debbie Munson Badini worked at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, she was often frustrated by reports of people dying while enjoying the water or woods, especially when the death could have been prevented with basic safety measures.
“My philosophy is that we need people to engage with nature and the environment if we want them to care about it,” she said. “Empowering citizens to feel confident about their safety while recreating outdoors plays a big part in getting them outside and connected to the world around them.”
Now the 2005 graduate of MSU’s masters in journalism program does just that as the new outreach and education coordinator for the Minnesota DNR’s boating and water safety program in St. Paul.

“I’m responsible for identifying and capitalizing on opportunities to reach the state’s 2.3 million boaters with important safety messages, using channels such as earned media, paid advertising, DNR publications, social media, direct marketing, special events and the DNR’s boating education course,” she said.
The job involves all facets of media and public relations, web and publication design, photography, production of video and radio public service announcements, managing social media campaigns, market research. She produces media releases, op-eds, brochures, marketing pieces, and web/digital content.
The program’s goal is to reduce boating fatalities and accidents in Minnesota. Its  primary focus at the moment is encouraging adults to wear life jackets.
“The most challenging piece of that puzzle will be figuring out how to motivate boaters to make this behavioral change, which is where market research becomes invaluable,” she said.
Munson Badini worked as the deputy public information officer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from 2012 to 2015 where she was primarily responsible for media relations and managing the department’s social media channels. She was a regional communications representative for the agency from 2009 to 2012.
Before joining the Michigan DNR, she was on staff at several community and regional newspapers in Michigan, Wisconsin and Wyoming, reporting primarily on natural resources and outdoor recreation. She also did freelance writing, photography and graphic/publication design.
While at MSU, she was the assistant editor of the Knight Centers’ EJ Magazine, president of the Environmental Journalism Association and held graduate assistantships with the Knight Center, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Office of Campus Sustainability.
She graduated with a masters degree in Journalism, concentrating in environmental reporting and visual journalism.
As an undergraduate at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, she majored in environmental studies and minored in political science.
Between college and graduate school she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, teaching environmental education to children and adults. You can reach her at