Park and Recreation’s Big Picture Issues

a starting discussion to improve our industry’s comprehensive benefits.


hikingThe park and recreation profession is a diverse and comprehensive industry that improves personal, social, environmental, and economic health; promotes unifying and comprehensive solutions to societal issues; and advances standards of living wherever its unique contributions are sought and valued.

In preparation for developing a series of statewide issue-based strategic plans, I am enlisting help to articulate the big-picture issues that continue to restrict the industry’s full potential.

These issues, here in draft form, but when objectively presented and referenced, may then serve as a starting point to build political and operational strategies to improve the overall capability of the industry’s delivery of comprehensive benefits.

Please add your suggestions below to clarify or refute these issues or identify others, as well as for supporting references and strategies; or send them by September 30 to

1. Universal Value Recognition

A) Most governmental agencies and public service organizations do not readily recognize or identify a positive contributory role within their purview for parks and recreation as a go-to industry to help meet modern social issues (i.e. health, social services, public works, community development, etc.); and B) While the profession is an essential community service and problem-solver, and one of the highest enablers of wellness and life satisfaction, many professionals and volunteers don’t sufficiently engage in their responsibilities to evidence that belief.

2. Effective Business and Leadership Modeling

The traditional business model of park and recreation services is outmoded and ineffectual, as is the paradigm of autocratic leadership in a pluralist society. Many agencies lack the abilities to assimilate best management and leadership practices from nongovernmental applications, and to create publicly responsive and relevant value propositions, a performance-driven organization, sustainable funding, and compelling community leadership.

3. Sufficient and Sustainable Funding

Lack of adequate funding prolongs and exacerbates social inequities, environmental harm, and unsafe and poorly maintained facilities. It stifles economic prospects, innovative solutions, new opportunities, and responsive services, as well as the vocational appeal to new careerists.

4. Industry-wide Integration

The comprehensive park and recreation industry includes many diverse disciplines and related fields, but a lack of full and continual interagency and interdisciplinary awareness, cooperation and integrated services impedes the highest effectiveness and influence of the entire profession.

5. Professional development

Many routes lead into the dynamic industry in a changing society, but many professionals do not actively develop leadership and maintain adequate training in all competencies. Many do not seek further training after their formal educations, keep up with changes and trends in the profession, or sustain their own active learning or self-improvement plans, which effectively and continually diminish their own capabilities and influence.

6. Community Resilience

Cities and communities everywhere are facing unprecedented environmental, social, and economic challenges, which in turn make them more vulnerable to degradation and less able to restore, let alone improve, complex services and systems that meet high livability standards. In its unique central role, the park and recreation profession unites people across social, racial, and economic divides, and can be a catalyst to help communities become more resilient and better adapted to thrive.

7. State and National Leadership

While the National Recreation and Park Association provides leadership in many national issues, it remains a challenge for statewide professional associations to rise to a similar position of influence in state and regional matters. Without establishing the state association as a readily recognized industry leader and trusted change agent, interpreter of societal trends, and advocate of public policy, it cannot achieve its fullest potential in relevant capacity and profound influence for its members, profession and public.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful response!

Short course on soft skills for future interns

College students learn crucial interpersonal skills.

gray-team1Several years ago, Penn State’s department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management conducted a survey of alumni and other professionals and asked “how are we doing?” We asked respondents to reflect on the skills and competencies that our students have demonstrated on the job. Our goal was to make sure our curriculum is offering what is required for the entry level professional to be successful in our field. The results were interesting.

We learned that our students are doing great with hard skills and the theoretical foundation to contribute to their agencies and to the field at large. We also heard that today’s student is falling short on soft skills.  Other research supports our findings. Skills such as interpersonal skills, technology etiquette, etc. that many of us old timers consider to be key to professional success are lacking for many of this generation.

For example, this summer, an agency supervisor reflected on the performance evaluation of the intern at his agency. “He’s doing a good job for us. We just can’t get him to put down his phone.” Over the years, I observed students having an increasingly more difficult time with things like picking up the phone and actually talking with someone to set up a meeting time; they want to do everything over email. Group projects are no longer about trying to find a time in between classes and work meet in person. They are using apps like “GroupME” and in place of sitting around a table and working things out.

In response, RPTM developed a short course that addresses the skills that are crucial in our field and the many others that work with people.

We start with the “elevator pitch” and how to make a great first impression. Eye contact.  A firm handshake. The cell phone neatly tucked away in one’s purse or pocket. Professional dress that is suitable for the work environment.

The students develop a “script” for making calls to potential internship agencies or pretend customers and we discuss what needs to be in a phone message if the person doesn’t answer.

We discuss how to effectively use the subject line to get the attention of the intended receiver and the use of salutations and grammar and eliminating text language in emails. We even cover the concept of business hours. I can’t tell you how many times a student has emailed me in the evening – after this not so young professional has gone to bed – expecting a response about an appoint or a class early the next morning.

The early results have been promising. Students talk about the course assignments as being “fun.” They report that they are gaining confidence that will hopefully transfer to successful interactions when they arrive at their internship sites.

Our collaboration with our industry partners is a crucial part of the education process.  The faculty and staff in RPTM at Penn State values your willingness to support our program and our students.  Continue to let us know how we are doing.

by Patty Kleban
Undergraduate Coordinator, Senior Instructor
Penn State University Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management

Introducing the new PRPS brand!

Introducing the new PRPS brand identity

Pennsylvania Recreation and Park SocietyAnd welcome to the new PRPS website and online headquarters!

We are very pleased to introduce the new PRPS brand identity. Please see the Brand Study Communications Plan and Brand Guidelines for brief outlines of the rationale that produced it and a glimpse of the new unified logos for our Society, Branches and Districts.

The process began last year when PRPS hired SWELL to conduct a Brand Study for PRPS, which was presented to the Board of Directors in its March meeting.

Based on the study, the professional design team developed three distinct concepts, which were reviewed by the Board and a select team of PRPS members. At each stage of its evolutionary progress, we solicited new input, and a clear choice emerged to become our new logo.

The process was deliberate to embrace expert design advice while incorporating the desires of the PRPS stakeholders.

We now have a new identity that does all of the following:

•  “owns” the PRPS acronym that everyone uses

•  freshens and updates our image for contemporary use and popular recognition

•  balances the fun in our delivery with the essentials of our purpose

•  brings a bold corporate image for a relevant and influential professional association

•  unites our Districts and Branches into an easily comprehensible and cohesive whole

Beyond the logo, we are also pleased to launch this brand-new website with more clarity and functions than our former site. While you’re here, please take a few minutes to poke around and check out the various pages and features. In particular, check out the SANDBOX, our interactive zone for:

•  The Scoop – a link to the most current weekly edition of our eNewsletter, now updated with a fresh title and format.

•  Dig It! Blog – an interactive forum to explore park and recreation issues, share resources and best practices, and advance innovative solutions. Look for regular posts on the 5th, 15th and 25th of each month from our team of thought leaders.

•  Groups – a series of interactive meeting places for our Districts, Branches, Committees, and other organized groups.

•  Job Center – for posting and reviewing employment opportunities.

We’ve made it easier and more intuitive for you to renew your membership, explore upcoming training opportunities, register for a program, learn more of our partners, and download resources.

(Because this has been a huge undertaking, there might be some glitches. If you find any, please let us know so we can fix them as soon as possible! We’ll appreciate both your understanding and your patience.)

The PRPS Board and staff urge you to review our new Brand Study Communications Plan and Brand Guidelines, and embrace the new identity of PRPS and all it means for our future together!
Continue reading “Introducing the new PRPS brand!”