Nick Dioguardi ’10 is set on a trail
An environmental studies major, Dioguardi has been pursuing his dream of becoming a park ranger since he was 4.
By Oliver Fischer ’19
When Nick Dioguardi ’10 was 4, he visited Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with his family. He remembers receiving his junior ranger certification from a park ranger then, a moment his mother captured in a photograph. That moment planted a seed in Dioguardi that blossomed in 2014 when he was sworn in as a North Carolina State Park ranger. The picture of his 4-year-old-self signing his ranger badge at Shenandoah all those years ago now adorns Dioguardi’s desk at William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh.
It’s a testament to his dedication and passion for conservation, which he was able to explore fully during his time at Elon. “He is a great example of identifying a career goal and working toward it,” says Elon’s Director of Sustainability Elaine Durr of Dioguardi, who worked in the Physical Plant and Office of Sustainability as a student. “He truly worked his way up to get to his ultimate goal of becoming a park ranger.”
An environmental studies major, Dioguardi completed basic law enforcement training as part of his park ranger preparation. That’s because being a park ranger in North Carolina means more than just knowing about the environment and biological life in the area. Rangers have similar powers to those of police officers, which means they are able to enforce the law within the state park system, an aspect of the job that is sometimes overlooked by applicants.
“It scares a lot of people away because they want to be outside doing nature hikes but at the same time, you have to become a sworn law enforcement officer for the state of North Carolina,” Dioguardi says. “In my time at Elon, I was educated about that concept. You would have to be up for that part of the job as well. In the back of my head I knew that if I was going to do this, I would have to be a cop essentially.” There was never a doubt in Dioguardi’s mind about becoming a park ranger. “Protecting the natural places in North Carolina is so important to me that even if I had a second thought, it didn’t make a difference,” he says.
Outside of enforcing the law, park rangers frequently interact with the community. Dioguardi regularly works with people and his arts and science education helps him do a better job. “In general, the varied course load at Elon was a great preparation for this job,” he says. It not only taught him biology and chemistry, but it also prepared him to work well with others and be a good communicator.
Like all North Carolina state park rangers, Dioguardi is a certified environmental educator. He teaches children and adults about local wildlife, including wild edible plants, local trees and renewable energy. The latter has been a passion for Dioguardi since his days at Elon, where he was the first student to assist Durr with the annual carbon footprint calculations for the university. He and another student created the first curriculum for Eco-Reps and often visited Elon 101 classes to explain to students how to be as sustainable as possible and reduce their carbon footprint.
Dioguardi has not lost this passion for sustainability since becoming a park ranger. “I’ve always been a proponent of renewable energy and that carried on through to this job,” he says. He is leading the efforts to raise money to install solar panels in the park’s visitor center. He hopes the panels will help to power the facility and educate children about renewable energy and its advantages over traditional energy sources. He’s thankful to Elon for molding him and shaping him along the way and wants to pass on the guidance he received to inspire others to make a difference.
“If I can educate the mind of one young child who can go on in the future to get an engineering degree and change the world or make a new discovery, then I’ve more than done my job here at the park,” he says.