Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, Penn State

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I am a Ph.D. candidate at Penn State in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management. My research focuses on social equity and environmental justice issues related to urban parks and public spaces. Within this broad arena, I have studied national trends in urban park investments, environmental gentrification, and the role of public parks in the neighborhood social environment.


Research Overview

How do we fund, build, and manage parks equitably?

Currently, I am part of a team of researchers evaluating three capital investments in Philadelphia -- Bartram's Mile, the Rail Park, and Centennial Commons. These three parks are part of the city's initiative to reconnect residents to their public spaces, with the hope of fostering social cohesion, civic engagement, trust, and socioeconomic integration. Our studies are evaluating the extent to which these investments are meeting these goals, with an eye toward signs of gentrification, perceptions of park ownership, and social interactions among visitors. We are also looking at the extent to which surrounding communities engage with the organizations and agencies that plan and manage them. 

In addition to ongoing projects in Philadelphia, I have developed a survey instrument to measure gentrification worldview and used it to assess its relationship to people’s support of park development; studied the impact of capital spending on parks and recreation on the racial makeup of cities across the country; and shown how community engagement with a park nonprofit influences community-level perceived park ownership following a significant investment. Future projects in this line of research will examine the ethics of the public space development process, especially the role of nonprofits.

Teaching Overview

I have taught an undergraduate course in nonprofit management of parks and recreation and this summer will be teaching an online section of our department’s introductory general education course. Using examples from my research with nonprofits in Philadelphia, students gain a better understanding of how to manage park systems, in the ways of fundraising, budgeting, marketing, human resources, and incorporating social equity into organization practices.

Core to my teaching is helping students develop an understanding of the social impacts of parks and recreation on communities. Lessons focus on bringing current research into the classroom to expose students to cutting-edge knowledge while giving them practical skills they can use when they graduate. I believe keeping research and teaching closely tied helps students become more compassionate professionals.

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