Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Group photo of TR faculty

Research at the UI on play, leisure and recreation traces its beginnings back to the 1970s. Professor John Nesbitt secured significant grant funding during those years to support graduate students, many of whom completed theses, presented research at conferences and published their work in scholarly journals. Among the other faculty who contributed measurably to the research on play, leisure and recreation at Iowa were Seppo Iso-Ahola, noted for his research on the social-psychology of leisure applied to TR, Richard MacNeil, whose specialty was the intersection between gerontology and recreation, and Judith Voelkl who secured grant funding to complete important research on leisure among older adults with chronic conditions.  Professor Ken Mobily, who arrived as a graduate student in the mid-1970s, was mentored by the faculty and has spent most of his career researching well and disabled older adults, their recreation and exercise habits. Mobily and MacNeil co-authored a book, “TR and the Nature of Disability” and served as co-editors of the Therapeutic Recreation Journal for six years.

That tradition of research continues today in the Therapeutic Recreation/Child Life Program. The current faculty are active in presenting action research at various TR and CL conferences locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Adrienne Johnson, TR Lecturer, is involved with the International Network on Inclusive Recreation (INIR) to interface with academicians and practitioners in other countries to conduct research on inclusion. INIR has recently submitted an international grant to support inclusive community programs in countries throughout the world and includes proposed funding for a project in Iowa City.  Emily Mozena, TR & CL faculty member, has been appointed to the editorial board of the new Journal of Child Life: Psychosocial Theory and Practice.

To further enhance research and teaching, the TR & CL programs look forward to constructing a play behavior laboratory in the near future. The lab will be dedicated to research on working with children with acute illness or disabilities. We also foresee research on intergenerational play between grandparents and grandchildren and research on how parents play with their children. Technological support will allow us to gather behavioral data to describe and explain play behavior and the factors which influence play behavior.

If you are interested in donating to the play behavior laboratory or any of HHP's initiatives, please visit the UI's Center for Advancement page here.