If you want to be encouraged by the future of park and recreation research, look no further than Anna Pechenik Mausolf. The 30-year-old doctoral student in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University lives her passion for recreation and inspires her students to do the same. Winner of NRPA’s 2012 Outstanding Graduate Student Award, Mausolf is highly involved with NRPA’s Young Professionals Network and augments her bachelor’s degree in earth science and outdoor and environmental recreation as well as her master’s degree in park and recreation management with a variety of professional experiences from the field. We took time to chat with her at the 2014 NRPA Congress to discuss her professional travels, academic aspirations and coaching experiences for the association’s Park and Recreation Student Quiz Bowl.
Parks & Recreation Magazine: Your professional experiences have taken you to some interesting corners of the globe. Tell us about some highlights.
Anna Pechenik Mausolf: Recreation is such an amazing career field because you can work with so many different populations across the globe. One of my favorite experiences was in February 2009 with the Red Cross in Victoria, Australia. Immense bushfires had recently burned many towns, causing school closures across the region. Because local children were not in class, we provided recreational experiences as a welcome break from the profound stress these families were facing while rebuilding their lives. The ability to facilitate joy in the midst of tragedy reminded me why I love this field.
P&R: How do you plan to focus your future research?
Mausolf: From a research perspective, the relationship between outdoor recreation and health outcomes is challenging to measure in a scientifically meaningful way. I intend to spend my academic career conducting objective, quality research that investigates the nature of the relationship between participation in outdoor recreation activities and personal health. If our field wants primary care physicians and health insurance providers as allies, we must have unbiased scientific evidence to support our claims.
P&R: You’ve been a member of NRPA since you were in your master’s program at the University of Mississippi. Why did you decide to join the association, and what benefits have you most enjoyed from your membership?
Mausolf: Dr. Kim Beason, CPRP, was a wonderful mentor [at Ole Miss]. He is a true advocate of the researcher-practitioner partnership as he helped me to understand the role of the university system in preparing the future of our field. By obtaining and maintaining his CPRP, Dr. Beason is a model of dedication to both the practice and research of recreation. That in turn led me to approach the field on similar terms. As a future academic, joining NRPA and earning my CPRP certification were both smart moves as they’ve helped me to meet like-minded individuals and establish a network of fellow recreators, and it has inspired innovative research questions and opportunities that are both timely and relevant.
P&R: You’ve served as a Quiz Bowl coach at three NRPA Congresses. Tell us about this experience and how it helped your students.
Mausolf: I absolutely love coaching these extroverted, high-achieving students. I think that academically strong students deserve this external reward and recognition for their efforts. Texas A&M University is a strong supporter of NRPA, and its COAPRT accreditation is one of the reasons I chose to apply here for my doctoral studies. It is great to be a part of this push toward academic excellence, backed by the fundamental support of our department head, Dr. Gary Ellis, and our generous financial donors who have sponsored an undergraduate quiz bowl team for every year of the competition. I hope that the student quiz bowl continues to grow in size and popularity, as it is such a fun, friendly way to cheer on the future leaders in our field!
Mausolf, her husband Adam and their pit bull, Athena, live in College Station, Texas, and enjoy taking advantage of local and international outdoor recreation opportunities.
Danielle Taylor is the Executive Editor of Parks & Recreation Magazine.