The Search for Knowledge
Why do people seek out nature and wild places? What motivates recreation behavior? What sorts of experiences are people hoping to find? What is the relationship between the nature of the setting and the type of experiences people find? How do we evaluate the quality of those experiences? What role do these experiences play in shaping the meanings and values people come to hold for nature, for wildlife, for wilderness?
The Use of Knowledge
Can answers to the question explored above be used by recreational professionals to:
Recreation behavior courses have been a central part of recreation and tourism degrees in forestry and natural resource programs since the 1970’s. Traditionally these courses have been built on theoretical foundations from social psychology, environmental psychology, and sociology. Theoretical foundations from these academic disciplines remain important components shaping the nature of this course.
But the cautionary saying that “what works in theory doesn’t necessarily work in practice” is a central influence on the design of the course as well. Nature-based tourism and wildland recreation management are professional practices that operate in the interface of complex institutional, socio-political, and legal systems. These systems are important influences on “what works in theory” versus “what works in practice.” For this reason, this course explores theories of recreation behavior, not in isolation but in relation to other realms underlying tourism and recreation as a professional practice.
Most of our students enter the profession with an undergraduate degree. A knowledge of recreation behavior is an important part of professional practice. For example, tourism providers need to position themselves in the market relative to the types of experiences, meanings, and values their customers demand. Managers of public recreational lands need to address conflicts that can arise between visitors who seek different types of experiences or hold different values and meanings for places. And both private and publicly provided recreational experiences are important factors in shaping the values and meanings individuals hold for wildlands, wildlife, environmental ethics, and conservation.
So, despite its theoretical element, this course helps prepare students to for a professional career. It provides a managerially relevant understanding of theory and of the interface of the scientific, managerial, and socio-political realms. It promotes critical thinking and effective communication about issues such as scientific credibility, managerial utility, and legal viability that are central to life as a manager.
A portion of our students also choose to go on to pursue a Master of Science degree in recreation or broader social science fields either immediately after graduation or a few years into their professional career. This course provides a strong foundation in theory, science, and application and the type of critical thinking that help prepare students for success at the graduate level.