Graduate Research

Every graduate student engages in independent research through either a Master's Thesis or Colloquium Project. A sampling of recent colloquium projects and theses are provided to demonstrate the diverse interests, perspectives and talents that our graduate students bring to the Master's program and the expertise and interests of our RMP Faculty that support this research.


Colloquium Projects

Student: Valerie Griffin, M.S., CTRS/L
Advisor: Dr. Janet Sable

This need assessment study addressed a community-based service organization’s desire for a therapeutic recreation program to serve adults and children with developmental disabilities. The organization offered residential and day programs for adults, and early childhood and preschool programs for children with developmental disabilities. The study was conducted to ascertain which therapeutic recreation services represented the greatest need and which interventions would be most useful for its consumers.

Student: Benjamin Thompson
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Patti Craig

Prior research has explored the efficacy of service dogs, companion animals, and animal assisted therapy/activity for people with disabilities. However, less is known about the outcomes of interactive, dog-specific recreational and leisure activities for people with disabilities. This needs assessment study explored perceptions of an adaptive dog-mushing program for manual wheelchair users. The study examined participants’ experience of the human-animal bond, level of satisfaction, perceived barriers to participation, and interest in future participation. The study resulted in a  framework for an adaptive dog-mushing program.

Student: Jennifer Samela, M.S.
Advisor: Dr. Lou Powell

This project focused on the application of accessibility standards in the design of a universal hiking trail and studied the perceived benefits of trail use among individual users with and without mobility impairments.

Student: Jill Gravink, CTRS, M.S.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Janet Sable and Dr. Lou Powell

This project centered on the systematic design and implementation of a plan to legislate licensing of recreation therapists in the state of New Hampshire. The advocacy plan and legislative action of this project came to fruition with the passage of the current New Hampshire law that establishes state licensure for recreational therapists.

Student: David Lee, CTRS, M.S.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Janet Sable

This project involved the design and field test of a prototype "off-road" hiking chair for individuals with a wide range of physical abilities. The Solo Track Hiking Chair requires less assistance by able-bodied hikers than the assistance required for current "off-road" hiking chairs and the Solo Track has less environmental impact than other adaptive hiking equipment.

Student: Candace Shea, M.S.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Janet Sable

An in-depth study of the life of Freeman Tilden, the "father of interpretation". The project entailed a content analysis of significant primary sources and a thematic analysis of interviews of Tilden's colleagues and other stakeholders to explore Tilden's life experiences, values, and underlying philosophies that allowed him to make significant contributions to the National Park Service.

Student: Gisela Ashley, M.S., CTRS/L
Advisor: Dr. Janet Sable

Group programming in long-term care facilities do not offer adequate recreation choices to its residents and serves as few as 10% of the resident’s needs. This study examined whether the P.L.A.C.E.S. Program had an effect on decreasing the frequency of agitated behavior of the residents on a specific residential care unit at an private long term care facility.

Student: Karyn. A. MacNeill, M.S.
Advisors: Dr. Bob Barcelona and Dr. Janet Sable

This project focused on a comprehensive assessment of the public view of current parks and recreation services offered by Manchester-by-the Sea's Parks and Recreation Department and determined specific programming desires of the residents.

Student: Katie Lynch
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Patti Craig

Research suggests that older adults who are provided with opportunities for health, community participation, and security tend to experience an enhanced quality of life and may be better positioned to successfully age in place. This study surveyed older adults who are members of a community-based senior center concerning their perceptions of assets and barriers in their community that affect their ability to successfully age in place. The findings suggest ways in which health practitioners can begin to create age-friendly communities.

Student: Matthew S. Frye, CTRS/L, MS
Advisor: Janet Sable

When leisure opportunities are available to children with disabilities, there continues to be a disconnect between participation and social acceptance.  This project identified the role of membership and its indicators on continued participation in inclusive leisure by youth with Intellectual and / or Developmental Disabilities as reported by the children and their guardians.

Student: Michael Mengers, M.S.
Advisor: Dr. Bob Barcelona and Dr. Janet Sable

The purpose of this study was to better understand the impact of coaching education programs on a coach’s ability to create a task/mastery motivational climate for youth sport participants. The study used the Motivational Climate Scale for Youth Sports (MCSYS) to evaluate the motivational climates that their coaches created. The participants’ perceptions of their coaches who had training in CoachSmartNH were compared to participants’ perceptions of coaches that had not been trained in CoachSmartNH. The aim of the study was to determine the effectiveness of coaching education programs on creating a positive motivational climate for youth sports participants.

Student: Amanda R. Royce,
Advisor: Nate Trauntvein

This project examined the relationship between the Appalachian Trail, trail crew volunteers level of involvement, their motivations to volunteer, satisfaction with previous experiences, and their attachment to the trail.

Student: Deborah Robinson, M.S., CTRS/L

The purpose of this study was to examine the motives and constraints that recreational therapists in New England say impact their volunteering for the New England Therapeutic Recreation Association (NETRA), a regional non-profit professional association.

Master Theses

Student: Scott Butch, M.S.
Chair: Dr. Bob Barcelona

The purpose of this study was to assess organizational culture in campus recreation departments and its links with organizational effectiveness. The competing values theory and subsequent framework was used to determine if there were significant differences in the organizational cultures of campus recreation departments based upon specified dependent variables including their administrative unit, their institutional size, and their institutional control. The results indicated there were no significant patterns or classifications in the organizational culture maps based on the dependent variables. There was one significant difference found in the discriminant analysis in public universities administered under athletics versus student affairs and a follow up study examining this relationship is advised.

Student: Mathew Ott, M.S.
Chair: Dr. Bob Barcelona

The problem of the study was to examine the relationships between service quality, customer satisfaction, value and future intentions within campus recreation using only the performance section of the Centre for Environmental and Recreation Management-Customer Service Quality (CERM-CSQ) instrument. A total of 248 usable surveys were collected from student users of campus recreation services at a university in the Northeastern region of the United States. Results of the study indicated that of the three service quality dimensions measured (core, personnel, peripheral) core was the only dimension exhibiting a significant relationship between satisfaction and value.

Student: Nicholas Pitas. MS
Advisor: Chris Harrist
Chair: Boyd Hegarty

Parent-coaches are individuals who coach their own children (child-athletes) in sports.  This study explored the parent-coach phenomenon in the recreational sports context, from the perspective of parent-coaches and child-athletes.   Nine parent-child dyads took part in the study, focusing on positives, negatives, and the unique nature of the parent-coach and child-athlete relationship.  Inductive analysis, revealed a number of positive and negative themes, many of which were identified by both parent-coaches and child-athletes.  Both parents and children perceived higher expectations for child-athletes, as well as a desire for equal treatment of all athletes on a team.

Student: Kimberly A. Russell, MS
Chair: Boyd Hegarty

This study investigated conflict between recreational trail users in Middlesex Fells Reservation during the winter season, specifically between cross-country skiers, snowshoers/hikers/nature walkers and dog owners.  Conflict in outdoor recreation can be classified as interpersonal, and social values conflict.  Data was collected at five trail heads using quantitative, on-site survey design.  Data was analyzed from respondents in three major activity groups who had previously recreated in Middlesex Fells Reservation.  The findings of the study supported management decisions proposed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, including allocating trail use for cross-country skiers, and increased enforcement of leash and dog-waste cleanup policies.

Student: Sean McLaughlin, M.S.
Chair: Dr. Joshua Carroll

Dichotomies often develop when the concept of federal Wilderness designation arises (e.g., is Wilderness designation perceived as an ecological and societal necessity, or as a waste of natural resources?). Using a pre-post design, this study investigated the effects of knowledge, and a cognitive measurement tool known as integrative complexity, on acceptance of federally designated Wilderness areas. Specifically, the study examined the relationship between increased knowledge about Wilderness designation and integrative complexity, and their effects on acceptability of management actions such as designation of Wilderness areas.

Student: Rebecca Foss, M.S.
Chair: Dr. Bob Barcelona

This study examined how nonprofit human service organizations (NHSO) respond to environmental change and the role of innovation in that process. A total of nine practitioners, managers, and board members participated in the study in order to gain a preliminary understanding of how this sample viewed their organization's capacity for innovation and responsiveness to its environment.  The semi-structured interviews provided a forum for NHSO staff to describe environmental changes faced by their organization, define innovation in the nonprofit sector, and describe the role that the innovation process plays in enhancing the sustainability of their organization.