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Winter 2014 Newsletter Extended: Keri Schwab

Live It, Protect It, Explore It!

The Report, a newsletter for Recreation, Parks, & Tourism Administration, alumni, students and friends

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By: Heidi Reighard (RPTA ’14), Staff Writer

Dr. Schwab cross country skiing in UtahWhen asked what her best advice to students would be, new hire Dr. Keri Schwab said, “Be open to your opportunities; don’t try to plan every aspect of your life.” Further inquiry showed that she has benefited from following her own advice. Dr. Schwab completed her undergraduate education at James Madison University was a degree in Media Arts/Journalism and minors in French and Art History. She worked on the two minors while studying abroad in both Paris, France and Florence, Italy, experiences she values for what she learned about and living in and working through new or uncomfortable situations.

After graduation, Dr. Schwab went on to work as a news reporter in Virginia for two years, writing about local events, politics, and court cases. With more of an interest in people, places, and the culture, interactions, and events that shape families and community, Dr. Schwab left reporting for a position as an early intervention case manager for a community services board. It was through this work that she realized how lives could be positively impacted through recreation. She witnessed first-hand how children, youth, and parents could find new physical, social, and emotional possibilities and grow through healthy recreation activities and school programs.

Dr. Schwab poses in a narrow canyonThese observations convinced Dr. Schwab to pursue a master’s degree and ultimately a PhD in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism at the University of Utah. While earning her master’s degree, she also worked as a preschool dance and movement instructor, taught basic computer skills at a recreation center, worked during the summer on a ropes course, and worked for almost two years in an afterschool recreation program for elementary and middle school students. Working there, she was able to apply many of the theoretical concepts and practical ideas she was learning in her MS program. It was during that experience that she really solidified her belief in positive youth development as an important framework in recreation programming. She also watched parents and children interact, and further understood the importance of family recreation and leisure in strengthening family bonds, improving communication, and teaching values. This ultimately became the topic for her dissertation, which she completed in 2011. During her years in the PhD program she worked as a teaching assistant and eventually an instructor in classes such as programming and leadership, evaluation and assessment, and diversity in parks, recreation, and tourism.

Not forgetting her journalism undergraduate degree and love of writing,  Dr. Schwab also published numerous articles and co-edited two books while completing her doctorate. Working in a college of health at the University of Utah, she had an opportunity to explore how parks, recreation, and tourism contribute to health in a social-ecological and holistic manner. She and her graduate advisor explored this topic in more than one article, and presented on it at national and international conferences. Schwab poses on mountain biking trip.Dr. Schwab also worked on articles related to youth sports as well as teaching and learning in higher education. She helped edit a book of essays on social and environmental justice in parks, recreation, and tourism, and is putting the final edits on a textbook that explores career opportunities in the field. Taking time to finish her dissertation, she took a one-year break from being a full-time graduate student to work at Head Start as a grant writer. This position was perfect for her as she was able to use her love of writing and her understanding of human health form a holistic perspective, to help make real change in her community. After a year, though, having successfully defending her dissertation, academia called, and Dr. Schwab returned to the “U” to teach a basic course and continue writing and presenting on various topics.

Her love for teaching stems from the enjoyment she receives working with students and seeing them progress through their academic careers. The first class she taught at Cal Poly was RPTA 360 (Assessment and Evaluation), and she was excited for the opportunity to work with a new group of students. In her view, one way teaching at Cal Poly is different from the University of Utah is that the student body here is a much younger population. Students in Utah were more established in their careers and in their lives, whereas she finds Cal Poly students to be more open to new experiences and willing to explore new subjects. Her career here is just beginning, and she will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable resource to students now and in the future. The department is truly lucky to have her!


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