Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, Penn State
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.
How do we fund, build, and manage parks equitably?
In addition to completing my dissertation, I am currently part of a research team, including faculty and graduate students from Penn State main campus, Penn State Abington, and University of North Carolina Greensboro, evaluating three capital investments in Philadelphia — Bartram's Mile, the Rail Park, and West Fairmount Park. 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. We are evaluating the extent to which these investments are meeting these goals, with an eye toward signs of gentrification, people’s perceptions of park ownership, and park users’ sense of belonging. We are also looking at the extent to which surrounding communities engage with park managers.
In addition to ongoing projects in Philadelphia, I have developed an instrument to measure people’s gentrification beliefs and have used it to assess relationships between people’s gentrification “worldview” and their support of park development. Other projects have included studying the impact of capital spending on parks and recreation on the racial makeup of cities across the country; and demonstrating 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 and financing of public space development, especially the role of nonprofits/philanthropy.
I have taught an undergraduate course in nonprofit management of parks and recreation and this summer I am teaching an online section of our department’s introductory general education course.
In the nonprofit course I used examples from my research with nonprofits in Philadelphia to help 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. I believe keeping research and teaching closely tied helps students become more compassionate and engaged professionals.