News and Events

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 >>

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