The Nature and Extent of Collaboration Between Park and Recreation Agencies and Higher Education Institutions


  • Bob Barcelona
  • Jason Bocarro


Collaboration, park and recreation departments, higher education institutions, engagement, partnerships.


It has long been recognized that collaboration between higher education institutions and community organization has the potential to create win-win situations with both accruing significant benefits. The park and recreation field seems to be particularly well-suited to take advantage of collaborative benefits given the proliferation of academic programs over the past 20 years, along with a subsequent increase in curricula-based field work such as practical, service learning based courses, and student internships. However, despite these potential benefits, collaboration is often viewed as time consuming and difficult to maintain.This paper explores the nature and extent of university-community collaboration in the park and recreation field. A total of 800 recreation practitioners and 411 faculty were asked to rate the importance of 31 areas of collaboration for the field. For each area, subjects were asked whether they were actively collaborating with practitioners or faculty. Respondents to the survey included 307 practitioners (39%) and 174 faculty (42%), for an overall response rate of 40%. Results indicated that 24 of the 31 areas of collaboration were rated at least “somewhat important” for the field of park and recreation. Collaboration on internships, pre-internships, and service learning were the most important areas, as was interaction at conferences and professional workshops. Using park and recreation agencies for field-based research, using practitioners as guest speakers in academic classes, offering/taking advantage of continuing education/professional development opportunities at colleges and universities, and using the park and recreation agency to enhance teaching opportunities were also rated as important for the field. More than half of the subjects in this study reported actively collaborating in these areas. Results revealed that past collaboration was a significant predictor of future intent to collaborate (p<0.0001). There were no significant differences between ratings of importance and performance for any of the 31 areas of collaboration listed. However, less than half of the respondents reported that they were actively collaborating on specific research and evaluation projects, even while reporting that these types of collaborations were somewhat important for the field as a whole. Finally, faculty generally rated collaboration as more important than practitioners, with 17 of the 31 areas of collaboration showing significant differences between the groups (p<0.05).