For Maia Dery, sitting still has never been much of an option. Her teacher had her sit out in the halls to not disturb other students, and as soon as she had her precious drivers license, Dery routinely skipped school to escape to Duke Forest. As Dery says, she never did well in boxes.
Her awe for the natural world led her to a career as a photographer and later as a award-winning professor at Guilford College where she subverted the education system by forcing students to learn outside – sometimes in wind, rain, or snow. She developed the Cape Fear River Basin Studies Program at Guilford College, a curriculum that helped students understand how North Carolina waterways are inextricably linked to race, class, and broader economic systems.
At 40, Dery’s life started anew when she took on a lifelong dream. She hopped on a surfboard, paddled out, and with her first waves discovered a new kind of connection to nature.
Today, Dery’s love of water and her unrelenting commitment to connect education to tactile natural spaces drove her to found “Waves to Wisdom,” a program that combines surfing with deeper critical and philosophical thought.
Dery speaks with host Frank Stasio about her upbringing, her podcast that captures probing conversations about surf culture, and about the transformative effects of plunging your feet in the water.