Fresno State will launch 19 new courses as part of the Sustainable Parks and Recreation Community Initiative program, led by the Department of Recreation Administration at Fresno State. The program will introduce a new partnership with the City of Fresno Department of Parks, After School, Recreation and Community Services (PARCS).

The Sustainable Parks and Recreation Community Initiative (SPARCI) program allows students and faculty to connect with local agencies and engage in community projects that will contribute to quality of life in the Valley. Community projects are partner-directed and address key sustainability challenges related to parks and recreation.

“With over 49 city and special park and recreation districts in the San Joaquin Valley, the need for assistance from our faculty and students is significant,” said Dr. Sam Lankford, professor and chair of the Department of Recreation Administration. “This new program will help give students an opportunity to provide solutions to meet the needs of our diverse communities.”

Lankford and faculty from Department of Recreation Administration meet with PARCS officials. November 2015.

The initiative will promote student success by providing recreation administration classes with opportunities for applied learning, service in local communities and research, Lankford said. Students acquire skills and experiences they can list on their resumes, and they develop a professional network. Faculty interactions in the community allow for alignment of classroom activities with real-world issues.

The goal of initiative is to determine if Valley communities are interested in engaging the broader University community in idea generation and problem solving. Faculty will develop assignments and field experience in existing courses, based on projects identified by partner cities, counties or special districts. A coordinator from the partner agency or organization will work with a faculty coordinator to oversee management of the projects.

In its pilot semester, 16 faculty members and about 200 students are expected to join the program. They will accrue thousands of hours of community service toward building a more sustainable future for parks and recreation in Fresno.

“Achieving sustainability can be challenging, especially for cities, counties and special districts in the San Joaquin Valley who often grapple with tight budgets to meet community needs,” said Jenna Chilingerian, program coordinator of the Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State. “The SPARCI program will serve as a timely example of how the University community can address sustainability issues by broadening its reach and extending its resources — data, research, connections — into Valley communities through meaningful projects.”

Projects fall under three categories: parks, urban landscape and trails; community programming and program development; and management, marketing and research. Projects range from research of at-risk youth programs and efficiency of after-school programming, to analysis of trail development.

Director of Fresno PARCS, Manuel Mollinedo, spoke with R.A. students last semester.

In addition to the Department of Recreation Administration, other faculty involved in the program include those from the departments of Mass Communication and Journalism; Child, Family and Consumer Sciences; Psychology; Engineering; Earth and Environmental Sciences; Art and Design; and the Office of Community and Economic Development.

A coordinator will be hired to oversee the initiative. Organizations and agencies taking part will be charged a fee to cover costs of the coordinator, and pay for travel expenses for students and faculty. Projects are selected based upon scope, student learning and feasibility.

Fresno State’s program is based on the Sustainable City Initiative at the University of Oregon. Twenty other universities and colleges in the U.S. have developed similar models.

The Department of Recreation Administration also recently launched its Recreation Research and Service program, which also involves students and faculty providing planning and research for various parks and recreation agencies.

For more information, contact Sam Lankford at 559.278.2624 or Jenna Chilingerian at 559.278.6119.

View original Fresno State press release.

The Department of Recreation Administration encourages its student to engage in service learning and community engagement.