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Newly merged Patton College department fosters interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation

Published: August 18, 2021 Author: Kim Barlag

Imagine the Olympics and all that is associated with this international biennial event — the hotels, restaurants, vendors, retail outlets, recreational activities, and, of course, the competitions. Think about all of the people involved in each — hospitality managers/staff, chefs, customer service representatives, fashion designers and merchandisers, event planners, coaches, trainers, athletes. Every one of those people could be an alumnus of the programs within The Patton College’s newly merged Department of Recreation, Sport Pedagogy, and Consumer Sciences.

While the merger of the Department of Recreation and Sport Pedagogy and the Department of Human and Consumer Sciences was official July 1, the idea had been entertained among faculty members from both departments in previous years as a way to create greater opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and curricular innovation among programs in the two departments. The merger also provides greater operational efficiencies within the college.

“Although perhaps not readily evident, all of the programs in these two departments shared areas of common disciplinary interest in the experience economy,” said Bruce Martin, professor and chair of the new department. “We saw the possibilities that the intersection of these disciplines could inspire.”

The new department includes undergraduate and graduate degrees in the following program areas: 

  • Coaching, Health & Physical Education 
  • Customer Service Leadership (online)
  • Family & Consumer Sciences Education
  • Equine Studies 
  • Parks, Recreation & Leisure Studies
  • Restaurant, Hotel & Tourism 
  • Retail & Fashion Merchandising
  • Sport & Lifestyle Studies 

The department also includes stand-alone certificate programs in Ecotourism and in Festival, Event & Entertainment Management (offered in collaboration with the College of Business). In addition, the department includes an auxiliary Physical Activity & Wellness program that offers a variety of activity-based courses intended to promote health and wellness through participation in physical activity and recreational sport. 

“The merger of the two departments enhances the college’s commitment to experiential education and its mission to prepare graduates to meet diverse human and social needs,” said Sara Helfrich, interim dean of The Patton College of Education. “Faculty already have excellent ideas for collaboration, and their creativity and cooperation will enhance the experience of our students and make them exceptional career-ready candidates.”

Martin reinforced the opportunity that students will have to work across disciplines by sharing ideas the department is exploring.

“We could soon see a disciplinary niche focused on sport apparel development through collaboration of the Retail & Fashion Merchandising; Coaching, Health & Physical Education; and Parks, Recreation & Leisure Studies programs, or a disciplinary niche focused on rural tourism development through collaboration of the Restaurant, Hotel & Tourism and Parks, Recreation & Leisure Studies programs,” Martin said.

As with the Olympics, the possibilities are endless.