Lisa Mangat, MBA ’96, Director, California Department of Parks and Recreation

There aren't many people who can say that their work is a mainstay on bucket lists across the country and around the world. Such is the case for Lisa Mangat, MBA ’96, director for the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Mangat oversees the state's nearly 300 parks that span 1.6 million acres across California, ranging from Emerald Bay in northern California to Old Town San Diego in SoCal.

"People come here, have a wonderful time and create lasting memories," adds Mangat. "We help define for them what it means to be Californians and that is a true privilege."

Iconic landscapes from towering old-growth redwoods rooted in the Santa Cruz mountains to the sandy beaches of Southern California's coastline are destinations that few can refuse. In fact, California parks welcome roughly 70 million visitors every year, return an estimated $6.5 billion to California's economy and support 56,000 jobs, states Parks Forward, a commission established to assess the state parks system.

Mangat and her department are partnering with Parks Forward as well as a transformation team to develop best practices aimed at engaging future generations and populations, improving access, and protecting historic and natural resources.

"One recent accomplishment is the placement of cabins in state parks such as Angel Island," adds Mangat. "These cabins are designed to attract visitors who otherwise wouldn't want to spend an overnight in a state park."

Other initiatives include a partnership with Google to create online maps that enable Internet users to explore a number of state parks, as well as plans for improved technology to track visitor data.

While visitation to the state's protected parks generates revenues and contributes to local economies, it's the experience that for many is second to none.

"Many people coming to our parks have a sense of ownership and personal connection," Mangat says. "It's our responsibility during this unique and historic time for state parks to think about how we can be more relevant not just to Californians, but to those coming from around the world."