News and Events


The College of Health and Human Development (HHD) values excellence in teaching. Through a review of Student Rating of Teaching Effectiveness scores, student comments and input from others in HHD, the Teaching Excellence Award recognizes some of our best faculty for their hard work and dedication to undergraduate teaching and learning. Read more.

Patricia Kleban receives national outstanding professor award

Patricia Kleban, senior instructor and student services/internship coordinator with the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management (RPTM) in the College of Health and Human Development, received the Outstanding Professor Award from the Resort and Commercial Recreation Association (RCRA).

Kleban received the award Nov. 10 at the RCRA annual conference at Grand Harbor Resort in Dubuque, Iowa. RCRA is a national organization that supports the field of resort recreation as well as other commercial entities in the field of recreation service delivery. The organization issues the Outstanding Professor Award annually to a member of the organization who supports either the field or the organization itself.

"It was quite a surprise and an incredible honor to be recognized by my peers in the resort and commercial recreation field,” Kleban said. “RCRA is an outstanding organization that provides support for students and other professionals in the recreation industry." Read more about the award.

RPTM alum starts Colorado-based sport and social club

As a student at Penn State, Mike Ross worked numerous sports officiating jobs, including at the White Building on the University Park campus and for Penn State Intramural Sports as well as off-campus for the Centre Region Parks and Recreation agency.

Mike Ross

“I've always enjoyed officiating and the satisfaction that comes from running an event,” Ross said. “The energy and excitement that comes from the participants, and knowing that I was part of it, was really fulfilling to me.”

Ross graduated from Penn State in 2010 with a degree in recreation, park and tourism management (RPTM). He took that degree and his experiences at Penn State and turned them into a business -- Mile High Sport & Social Club in Colorado, which he started with his fiancée, Erin Shaw. Mile High Sport & Social Club provides different types of recreation for adults, including sports leagues, pick-up games, tournaments and socials.

“The concept of the company is just an extension of my experience at Penn State,” Ross said. Read more about his business venture.

Andrew Mowen

RPTM faculty, alums write Best Paper on parks, health partners

The Journal of Parks and Recreation Administration (JPRA), the official publication of the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, has named a paper written by Penn State faculty and alumni as Best Paper for 2014.

Toni Liechty, Andrew Mowen, Laura Payne, Karla Henderson, Jason Bocarro, Candice Bruton and Geoffrey Godbey are the authors of "Public Park and Recreation Managers’ Experiences with Health Partnerships," which appeared in the Summer 2014 edition of JPRA.

The purpose of the authors’ study was to explore experiences with health partnerships from the perspective of park and recreation managers, as public health concerns are on the rise (e.g., obesity and chronic disease) and public health organizations are seeking to increase effectiveness and efficiency through partnerships as research exploring partnerships with park and recreation managers is limited.

Careen Yarnal and Hsin-Yu Chen

Careen Yarnal (left) and Hsin-Yu Chen (right)

Associate professor, graduate student recognized for engaged scholarship poster

Careen Yarnal, associate professor of recreation, park and tourism management (RPTM) and co-chair of the Council on Engaged Scholarship, and graduate student Hsin-Yu Chen received a first-place prize for a poster focusing on engaged scholarship.

Yarnal and Chen received the award Oct. 7 during the 15th annual Engagement Scholarship Consortium conference, “Engaging for Change: Changing for Engagement,” hosted by the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Their award was for “... integrating high-impact scholarship into a general education class.”

“Hsin-Yu and I were honored and thrilled to receive the award,” said Yarnal. “It is especially gratifying as our focus on scalability and low cost is unusual in the high-impact literature. Hsin-Yu deserves much credit. It is an honor to work with such a talented graduate student and frankly, I have learned a lot in my collaborations with her.”

Read more about this conference.

Jafar Jafari and Moji Shahvali

Tourism studies pioneer to present retrospective and prospective views

Jafar Jafari, an international pioneer in tourism studies, will present his retrospective and prospective views on tourism studies at 3:45 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, in Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library on the University Park campus of Penn State.

Jafari is founding editor of Annals of Tourism Research, the first publication of its kind, which is still considered the most prestigious journal in tourism studies. He also is the founding president of the International Academy for the Study of Tourism. He is a professor of hospitality and tourism at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Jafari will discuss why it is important to study tourism, the challenges in developing new theoretical frameworks, and the role culture plays in tourism research. Learn more about the seminar.

Cirque du Soleil crew offers insight and advice to students

Cirque du Soleil crew offers insight, advice to students

Forget the textbooks, the long lectures and the PowerPoint presentations – students enrolled in RPTM 370, Introduction to Arena and Facility Management, in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management (RPTM) learned things Oct. 9 they likely wouldn’t learn in a traditional classroom setting.

Inside the Bryce Jordan Center, Bernard Punt, instructor and director of marketing for the center, arranged for his students to hear straight from the folks who deal with venue management on a daily basis – the staff and crew for Cirque du Soleil’s "Dralion."

Inside the arena, students listened intently as Mikey Newnum, production manager; Eric Gerard, production stage manager; Jerome Vezina, travel and lodging coordinator; Julie Desmarais, publicist; and Jessica Fabo, lighting technician and Penn State alum; offered real-world industry insight and career advice.

The crew addressed the students while taking a break from preparations for "Dralion" -- five performances were held at the center from Oct. 8 to 12 -- each offering individual advice.

Corby Smith, a sophomore studying RPTM, said the crew offered rare insight into a field he’s been interested in for some time.

“It definitely gives me an idea of what it’s like in the real world. This is something I’ve been interested in for a long time. I can hear from them and learn about the different jobs there are, which leads me toward where I want to be when I graduate from Penn State,” Smith said.

While these classroom opportunities are rare – roughly once a semester – Punt said they are critical for his students.

“Now, everything we’ve said is validated because now they hear from the people who do it,” Punt said.

Read more about the special lesson from Cirque du Soleil crew sharing their experiences with RPTM students.

Marriott Vacations conference gives students hospitality tools

Marcus O’Leary, vice president of resort experience at Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corp., thinks Penn State students “just get it.”

The business, that is.

For one week, students in RPTM and HM attended a U of the Way conference on Penn State’s University Park campus, hosted by Marriott Vacations Worldwide (MVW) and held in collaboration with Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center.

U of the Way Meeting attendees

The vision? To recruit Penn State students into Marriott Vacations Worldwide, a Florida-based company that is a recognized leader in timesharing and through its Marriott Vacations Club (MVC) brand, has 54 properties around the world. This gives students the knowledge, experience and tools to succeed in their respective careers.

“MVW is different from Marriott International in many ways,” said Patricia Kleban, senior instructor of RPTM. “It is a separate, publicly traded timeshare company where 'owners' have paid in advance for an amazing vacation and experience that they can now enjoy every year. Property offerings have gone way beyond ‘kids clubs’ and (now) include special events, wine and beer tastings, etc.”

The 2014 Resort Experience Conference was divided into two focuses: food and beverage leaders and recreation leaders. Throughout the week and through different activities, demonstrations and programming, students delved into the hospitality, recreation and experiential education aspects of the industry to help prepare them for, and potentially land them, jobs. The slogan, “It’s not what we do … it’s the way we do it” aimed to highlight the importance of hosting a quality experience. The event was held Sept. 8 through 12.

Read more about the U of the Way conference.

More than a ‘Fun Boss,' alumnus builds morale on aircraft carrier

Recreation, park and tourism management grad gives sailors a boost on USS

When he’s not running programs he’s planning them. Whether it’s a basketball tournament, concert or Christmas party, Josh Watson is always hard at work to ensure a good time.

Josh Watson

Despite the job description, it’s more than just fun and games. Watson and his staff of 15 strive to raise the spirit of sailors on deployment.

A 2009 graduate of recreation, park and tourism management (RPTM) in Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development (HHD), Watson is the director of recreation on the USS George H. W. Bush naval aircraft carrier. Responsible for planning and implementing morale building activities for more than 5,000 servicemen and women, Watson is casually known as the “Fun Boss.”

“Life of being the ‘Fun Boss’ is pretty busy and can be frustrating (and) rewarding depending on what day it is,” Watson said. “When people ask me what I do, I ask them if they’ve ever been on a cruise ship before. If the answer is yes, then I tell them I’m the ‘cruise director.’”

Read more about 'Fun Boss' Josh Watson.

Carter Hunt gives talks at Zhejiang University in China

Carter Hunt, assistant professor of recreation, park and tourism management (RPTM), gave two guest lectures in October at theAsia Pacific Center for the Study of Leisure (APCL) at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. The lectures focused on Hunt's field-based research in Latin America and his work on word cloud analysis of tourism journal article titles and keywords. Read more about Carter Hunt's talks in China.

Alan Graefe receives national park and recreation award

Alan Graefe, professor of recreation, park and tourism management at Penn State, has been selected by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) to receive the 2013 Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research. NRPA will present the award to Graefe at a special reception at the association’s 2013 Congress & Exposition in Houston on Wednesday, Oct. 9. Read more about Alan Graefe receiving the 2013 Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research.

Peter Newman named head of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management

Peter Newman, the former associate dean of academic affairs in the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, has assumed the role of head of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management at Penn State. He is replacing Garry Chick, who served as head of the department for four years. Read more about Peter Newman.

Alumnus ensures 2013 U.S. Open goes off without a hitch

As did most fledgling golfers in the mid-1990s, Penn State alumnus Sean Palmer grew up admiring Tiger Woods, one of the most successful golfers in the history of the sport. So when, decades later, Woods arrived at the Merion Golf Club on the outskirts of Philadelphia to practice for the U.S. Open (set to take place at the club from June 13 to 16), Palmer -- now a first assistant golf professional -- was more than pleased. Read more about Sean Palmer and the 2013 U.S. Open.

Neighborhood park renovations enhance visitor behaviors and experiences

Renovating public parks enhances visitor behaviors and experiences, according to researchers at Penn State, who surveyed park visitors in Allentown, Pa., about their use of a neighborhood park after it was renovated.

"It may seem obvious that park renovations benefit communities, but funders are increasingly demanding more scientific evidence, beyond anecdotal stories, that demonstrate the impact of park renovations," said Andrew Mowen, associate professor of recreation, park and tourism management. "Such information can help state and local government agencies assess the value of their financial investments in parks."

Bridge before and after

The researchers examined visitor perceptions of a major capital renovation that was completed at Allentown's 110-acre Cedar Creek Parkway in 2010. Renovations to this park included building a 25,000-square-foot destination playground, paving the multi-purpose trails, installing new exercise stations, refurbishing the flower garden, upgrading picnic areas and improving stream quality with a riparian buffer.

Read the full story, Neighborhood park renovations enhance visitor behaviors and experiences.

Coming to America: Understanding Cultural Adjustment Among Immigrants

When Svitlana Iarmolenko first came to the United States in 2008 to attend a master's degree program at East Carolina University, she figured she'd make new friends just as easily as she'd done back home in Ukraine. But rather than drawing in potential pals, she seemed to be pushing them away. more >>

Playfulness may help adults attract mates, study finds

Why do adults continue to play throughout their lives while most other mature mammals cease such behavior? According to researchers at Penn State, playfulness may serve an evolutionary role in human mating preferences by signaling positive qualities to potential long-term mates. "Humans and other animals exhibit a variety of signals as to their value as mates," said Garry Chick, professor and head of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management. "Just as birds display bright plumage or coloration, men may attract women by showing off expensive cars or clothing. In the same vein, playfulness in a male may signal to females that he is nonaggressive and less likely to harm them or their offspring. A woman's playfulness, on the other hand, may signal her youth and fertility." more >>

Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management APG Builds New Board

The Recreation, Park and Tourism Management Affiliate Program Group (RPTM APG) has a new board of directors that is working to reinvigorate existing programs and develop new ones that both connect RPTM alumni with each other and with the RPTM department. Read more about the RPTM APG Board.

Americans fall short of federal exercise recommendations

Americans spend, on average, only about two hours each week participating in sports and fitness activities, according to researchers at Penn State and the University of Maryland who examined U.S. government data from the American Time Use Study. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults aged 18 to 64 get about four hours of physical activity each week by exercising moderately for 2.5 hours per week and engaging in a vigorous activity, such as running and muscle strengthening, for an hour and fifteen minutes per week. "The United States is the fattest country in the world," said Geoffrey Godbey, professor emeritus of recreation, park and tourism management, Penn State. "The amount of exercise Americans get has become a major concern." more >>

The RPTM Newsletter is typically distributed once a year.RPTM Newsletters

Department News from Penn State News

The Resort and Commercial Recreation Association (RCRA) presented the 2015 Outstanding Student Award to Penn State student Lisa Halat, a senior studying recreation, park, and tourism management at Penn State, at the Resort and Commercial Recreation Association’s annual conference. The RCRA Outstanding Student Award recognizes the student or intern member who has worked to make a positive contribution to the association, his or her property, or university/college.

Students studying recreation, park, and tourism management at Penn State spent a week in Orlando this fall, but not as a vacation; instead it was to gain real world, hands-on experience in resort management. The Resort Recreation Practicum, offered for the first time this fall, provided students with hands-on exposure to resort recreation management at a major tourism destination.

Graduates of the Penn State PGA Professional Golf Management program returned to the University in November for the 15th Annual PGM Alumni Panel Discussion as an opportunity to give back to current students.

Golf professionals and enthusiasts around the world now have unprecedented access to advanced technologies available at the Penn State Golf Teaching and Research Center through a new online course offered by the PGA Professional Golf Management program.

The controversial development of a canal through Nicaragua, estimated to be the largest infrastructure project in history — and one experts say will have dramatic social and environmental consequences for Nicaraguans — will be the topic of a talk by a Penn State researcher at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association.

Students from Recreation, Park and Tourism Management 356 will be hosting a Throwback Thursday event at the Penn State All-Sports Museum from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 12 with ’90s-themed games, prizes, trivia, photo booths, pizza and T-shirts for all who attend. The event is free to all Penn State students with a valid ID.

The College of Health and Human Development announced recipients of its Faculty and Staff Awards for 2015. A reception honoring the awardees will be held Nov. 10 at the Bennett Pierce Living Center in Henderson Building on the University Park campus.

The College of Health and Human Development Society honored its 2015 award winners at the Nov. 6 College of Health and Human Development Alumni Society Board Awards Dinner. All recipients are graduates of the College of Health and Human Development and have distinguished themselves in their careers and service.

While Costa Rica is a popular vacation spot known for its beaches and biodiversity, many residents of the small Central American nation struggle to see economic growth. Carter Hunt, assistant professor of recreation, park, and tourism management at Penn State, working with researchers at Stanford University, studies the factors associated with delayed development in certain regions of Costa Rica in order to identify solutions for local residents who face poverty, wealth disparity and environmental degradation.

The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts elected new officers and members of the board of directors at its annual meeting on Oct. 20. The new officers are: Steve Watson, board president; Amy Caputo, vice-president; Bob Hicks, treasurer; and Sue Haug, secretary. The 50th Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts will be held July 13-17, 2016.