Penn State graduate wins dissertation award for work on managing national parks

January 11, 2021

Will Rice, assistant professor of society & conservation at the University of Montana and former Penn State graduate student, recently received the Best Dissertation Award from the American Academy for Park & Recreation Administration for his thesis, “Three Measures of Recreational Ecosystem Services in Protected Areas: Studies from U.S. National Parks.”

“I am incredibly humbled to receive this award from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration," said Rice. "It is an extraordinary honor to be in the company of those researchers who have previously received it.”

Rice’s dissertation examines new methods that national parks can use to make decisions that balance competing needs, like environmental protections versus public access in ecologically sensitive areas.

In announcing the dissertation award, Andrew Mowen, Best Paper Committee chair for the American Academy for Park & Recreation Administration and professor of recreation, park, and tourism management at Penn State, said, “We had a very strong pool of dissertations this year. I’m proud of science being produced by our early-career scholars. In particular, Rice’s winning dissertation utilized innovative tools and modeling to improve managerial decision-making at our National Parks.”

Criteria for the award include the dissertation’s relationship to park and recreation administration, creativity in problem solving, usefulness and applicability, and quality of presentation.

Rice’s co-advisers for his dissertation were B. Derrick Taff, assistant professor of recreation, park, and tourism management; and Peter Newman, professor of recreation, park, and tourism management and head of the department.

“We are so proud of Will,” said Newman. “He contributed to our community both as a leader and scholar, as a scientist who will build a conservation legacy that will protect our national parks, and as a colleague who will help inspire the next generation of park scientists. Will’s passion for the national parks is evident in all parts of his life, and his dissertation speaks of the value of the many benefits that national parks contribute to making the world a better place.”

The American Academy for Park & Recreation Administration, founded in 1980, is an organization of distinguished practitioners and scholars committed to the advancement of the park and recreation field. The American Academy for Park & Recreation Administration focuses on encouraging scholarly efforts both by practitioners and educators to enhance the practice of public parks and recreation administration.

Last Updated January 11, 2021