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Up and Coming

2013-01-01, Feature, by Andrea Lynn

Meet the new wave of parks and recreation researchers.Most university educators wear two hats—instructor and researcher. In studying and quantifying trends and issues in the field of parks and recreation, they reinforce their areas of expertise, which in turn makes them better teachers and broadens the knowledge base for the entire field of practitioners and advocates.

The magazine’s editors asked the standard bearers of university research for their picks for up-and-coming researchers. These academics have recently made their marks in shaping the way the field is studied and guided by their findings.

Each is listed by his or her current university, education, and field(s) of expertise. They also responded to the editors’ question: What is the single biggest challenge facing the field of parks and recreation in the next several years and how can research address it?

Jason N. Bocarro, Associate Professor
Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina
Education:
Ph.D. Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Sciences (youth development/outdoor education concentration), Texas A&M University; M.A. Recreation, Physical, and Health Education (youth development/outdoor education concentration), Dalhousie University,
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; B.S. Sport and Exercise Science/Sociology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England.
Areas of Instruction and Research:
Bocarro is a recipient of an N.C. State University Outstanding Teaching Award and in 2009-10 was inducted into the university’s Academy of Outstanding Teachers. Bocarro’s research focuses on childhood and adolescent obesity and inactivity and specifically how sport and recreation can contribute to alleviating this public health problem. Most of his current research efforts have been targeted around the issue of how parks, recreation, and youth sport programs can increase the physical activity levels of children and adolescents. He has four current physical activity research projects funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and two funded projects from USA Hockey and the National Hockey League. He also served on the board of the Society for Park and Recreation Educators (2006–09) and is currently serving a two-year term (2011–13) as the research co-chair for the National Recreation and Park Association.
Challenge and Opportunity:
The biggest single challenge will relate to the viability of the park and recreation field/profession. Recent events, such as the worst economic recession in recent memory, combined with significant social trends (e.g., growth of technology, competing service providers, growing population diversity) will provide the park and recreation profession with the challenge of effective program delivery and resource management. With the increased growth of other providers offering leisure programming, the park and recreation profession will have to answer the question of why they are the best option of delivering programs and managing park and recreation resources.
Research tools have become more sophisticated (e.g., geospatial technology, apps), which allows the potential to more accurately answer the questions related to the challenges above. Furthermore, researchers are recognizing (or at least they should be!) the need to better translate their research to wider audiences. The translation/dissemination piece of research will be an increasingly critical part of the research process in the future.

Michael B. Edwards, Assistant Professor
Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
Education:
Ph.D. Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management (youth sport and physical activity), North Carolina State University; M.A. Arts in Exercise and Sport Science, East Carolina University; B.A. History, University of North Carolina.
Areas of Instruction and Research:
Edwards specializes in social inequality in children’s access to spaces and programs for physically active and health-promoting leisure and recreation in rural areas. “My research is primarily positioned within the sociological paradigm, and I generally approach research questions as a sociologist,” he says. “My research has a strong social justice viewpoint in terms of understanding social inequality and seeking to alleviate historical disparities.”
Challenge and Opportunity:
The field of parks and recreation will continue to face challenges related to effectively serving communities in the face of the growing climate of financial austerity. Research can help demonstrate the value of parks and recreation as critical to promoting community health, social, and economic development. Additionally, it is imperative that research assist in enhancing management practices and policies to ensure organizational and community resources are best utilized to provide benefits to a more diverse set of stakeholders.

Jeffrey Hallo, Assistant Professor
Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management
Clemson University
Clemson, South Carolina
Education:
Ph.D. Natural Resources, University of Vermont; M.S. Technical Management—Project Management, Johns Hopkins University; B.S. Wildlife/Fisheries Biology and Chemistry, Frostburg State University.
Areas of Instruction and Research:
Hallo specializes in the topics of park and protected area planning and management; outdoor recreation carrying capacity; sustainable transportation and motorized recreation in parks; and visitor and nature-based tourist assessments–distributions, counts, attitudes, and needs. His research is focused on understanding, planning for, and managing visitor use in parks, forests, and other protected areas. He has authored or coauthored more than 22 peer-reviewed journal articles or book chapters on these topics within the last five years, and in 2011 he taught a course on visitor/tourist management at the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
Challenge and Opportunity:
The single biggest challenge facing the field of parks and recreation in the coming years is instability in funding, support, polices, and personnel due to an increasingly politicized and polarized top-level governance. Research can help overcome instability by providing useful, timely, objective, accurate, and defensible information to help decision-makers understand the consequences (both short and long-term) of various alternatives and actions, or of inaction.

Peter Newman, Department Head
Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Management, Pennsylvania State University
State College, Pennsylvania (July 2013)
Education:
Ph.D. Natural Resources, University of Vermont; M.S. Forest Resource Management, S.U.N.Y. College of Environmental Science and Forestry; B.A. Political Science, University of Rochester.
Areas of Instruction and Research:
Recent courses taught include Principles of Protected Areas Management, Social Aspects of Resource Management, Fundamentals of Protected Areas Management, and Conservation Leadership.
Challenge And Opportunity:
Over the next several years, we need to strengthen and communicate how and why parks and recreation are vital and relevant to a diverse and changing demographic. We need to demonstrate the importance of parks and recreation to the protection of ecosystem services and human health and wellbeing. Our research agendas will have to explore how we can better communicate to a diversifying population and show the psychological and physical health benefits of leisure activities in parks and protected areas. We also need to demonstrate and communicate the ecological function of parks and protected areas for the protection of air, water, nutrient cycling, and other ecosystem services as well as environmental security (e.g., the protection of coastal areas to large-scale storms and inland waterways to flooding).

Nina Roberts, Associate Professor
Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism
San Francisco State University
Director, Pacific Leadership Institute
San Francisco, California
Education:
Ph.D. Recreation Resource Management (emphasis on outdoor recreation and natural resource management), Colorado State University; M.A. Outdoor Recreation and Resource Management, University of Maryland; B.S. Physical Education (emphasis in recreation), Bridgewater State College.
Areas of Instruction and Research:
Responsible for teaching, advising, research, undergraduate assessment, community projects, graduate faculty committee, and other assignments. Roberts’s research concentrates in the areas of race/ethnicity, culture, and gender issues in the fields of natural resources and parks and recreation. She is also known for her work around urban youth as well as women and girls outdoors. At the Pacific Leadership Institute (San Francisco State University), Roberts is involved in programming and leadership, adventure education, youth development, and recreation land management, as well as constraints and barriers to visiting parks and public lands.
Challenge and Opportunity:
Whether discussing parks, adventure, sports, health, entertainment, or technology, demographic shifts of seismic proportions are forcing new alliances within our communities. Research must result in pragmatic approaches to park management and developing recreation policy that leads to more action and meaningful change. Increasing culturally relevant experiences, optimal for deep civic engagement, is absolutely vital!

Jeff Rose, Associate Instructor
Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
Education:
Ph.D. Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, University of Utah; M.A. Geography, San Diego State University; B.S. Mathematics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (minor in Recreation Administration).
Areas of Instruction and Research:
Some of Rose’s courses include Leisure in Your Life, Wilderness in America, and Foundations of Experiential Education. His research focuses on the relationships that people form with the world around them and how to understand socially constructed “nature.” Also, he has explored the ways in which space is appropriated and controlled, particularly through the lens of a neoliberal political economy. His research has focused on the subjectivities of individuals residing in public parks and open spaces. He is also interested in critically understanding outdoor education.
Challenge and Opportunity:
Large challenges that face our discipline concern access to park and recreation amenities and the contributions of these amenities to the social and ecological health of our world. Park and recreation research should be at the cutting edge of exploring the opportunities, tensions, possibilities, and contradictions of balancing the needs for social justice and ecological integrity.

Randall S. Rosenberger
Associate Department Head/Associate Professor
Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society; College of Forestry
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon
Education:
Ph.D., Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University; M.A., Applied Ethics, Colorado State University; B.A., Philosophy, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.
Areas of Instruction and Research:
Rosenberger specializes in environmental economics. His research focuses on non-market valuation, meta-analysis, benefit transfer, recreation economics, and environmental and resource economics.
Challenge and Opportunity:
I believe the single biggest challenge is stable funding to maintain, improve, and expand park and recreation facilities, lands, and programs. Research can help by demonstrating how parks and recreation provides essential public services to individuals (e.g., personal health and satisfaction) and communities (e.g., economic impacts of recreation and tourism spending, and the delivery of ecosystem goods and services), thereby fostering public awareness, appreciation, and support for parks and recreation in the fabric of life.

Ingrid E. Schneider
Professor, Forest Resources
Director, Tourism Center
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, Minnesota
Education:
Ph.D., Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, Clemson University; M.S., Forestry (emphasis on recreation resource management), University of Minnesota; B.S., Agriculture (emphasis on scientific and technical communication), University of Minnesota.
Areas of Instruction and Research:
Schneider’s current course work includes a Transfer Orientation Seminar, Orientation and Information Systems, and Nature- and Heritage-Based Tourism. “My primary research interests focus on human-nature and interpersonal relationships in recreation and tourism settings,” she says. “In partnership with national forests, parks, and tourism-dependent communities, I study how visitors perceive and respond to their consumer experiences. This information feeds into management, planning, and policy decisions for local, state, and federal organizations.”
Challenge And Opportunity:
Relevancy remains a significant issue for parks and recreation. As economies and populations change, research can continue to document and effectively communicate the impacts of effective programming, proactive planning, and active living related to parks and recreation.

Stephanie West, Associate Professor
Department of Health, Leisure, and Exercise Science
Appalachian State University
Boone, North Carolina
Education:
Ph.D. Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University; M.S. Recreation Administration, Georgia Southern University; B.S. Recreation Administration, Auburn University.
Areas of Instruction and Research:
Program planning. West’s research focuses on resource allocation, resource management, municipal parks and recreation, campus recreation, services marketing, and needs assessments.
Challenge and Opportunity:
The single biggest challenge facing parks and recreation continues to be positioning. Many people will say funding, but there’s always funding available for what people find valuable. While we have made great strides, our field often still struggles with being seen as an integral part of a community. And when economies are tight, as they are now, the funding erodes for those agencies or organizations seen as less valuable or less critical. Our position will continue to strengthen, however, because of improvements in our willingness and abilities to collaborate with other agencies and our efforts at disseminating and applying evidence-based research.

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