Cal professor promotes free time through experiential learning

Riley, CalU

Recreation and Youth Development offered in-person for Cal, virtual for Edinboro,

One of the most contentious phrases in modern American culture is “free time.”

If you take a moment to consider the term, you might conjure images of laying on the
couch, sliding and swiping through your phone. You might also view it as sitting idly
in a chair as the world passes you by.

But for Dr. Candice J. Riley, recreation specialist and assistant professor in California
University’s Department of Business, Economics and Enterprise Sciences, this free
time is essential in balancing your analytical mind and creative thinking.

“People just see it as idle time that needs to be filed with some activity,” said
Riley, who manages the Parks and Recreation Management concentration at Cal. “If you
stifle free time, you lose that sense of imagination and creativity that you find
when you’re in a structured environment.”


Riley, who switched from pursuing a career as a medical technician to recreation tourism
management in college, now offers a course in Recreation and Youth Development – designed
to provide historical and modern analysis of youth culture in the U.S. And free time.

“We as Americans and in the western society value ourselves based on busyness,” Riley
said. “Free time – with a sense of structure – can give us purpose and meaning with
measurable learning outcomes.”

The course, REC225, is offered in person at the California campus and virtually for students at Clarion
and Edinboro universities. Students examine the role of recreation in shaping youth
culture and develop an understanding of free-time settings that can offer youth the
supports, opportunities, programs and settings needed to successfully transition into

“We talk about the needs, resilience and tools among youth for positive development
– depending on the ages you’re working with,” she said. “We also look at youth culture,
particularly how youth were viewed in the past versus now.”

During the course, Riley also takes an in-depth look at recreation from the lens of
individuals with special needs and LGBTQIA+ youth.

“There’s a sense of representation that is so needed,” said Riley, who’s been a member
of the Cal faculty since 2014. “There’s a push and increased efforts in doing so with
parks and recreation programs. There’s not a lot of diversity, and you need that diversity
to take to future generations.”

In addition to her areas of interest in the history and philosophy of recreation and
leisure, commercial recreation and tourism and social equity in parks and recreation,
she has researched topics related to recreation, including policy administration,
off-highway crowding and coping behaviors and recreation management tactics.

Riley received a Bachelor of Science in Tourism Management from Concord University.
From there, she obtained a master’s degree in Parks and Tourism Management and Ph.D.
in Forest Resource Science – both from West Virginia University.

After developing a love for travel through field trips and experiential learning,
Riley discovered her passion for her field in grad school, researching tourism trends
with the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon’s Siuslaw National Forest.

“I was interviewing people out on their dune buggies and dirt bikes and looking for
trends of the visitors to the park,” she said.

Now she’s interested in how the COVID-19 pandemic has piqued interest in returning
to state, regional and national parks.

“People were running out to the parks because they wanted things to do,” Riley said.
“There weren’t too many opportunities to be involved in an organization without having
to work with some specific structure.”

The parks and recreation management (PRM) program at California University of Pennsylvania
is dedicated to improving the quality of life for citizens and our communities. Students
who seek to earn a Parks and Recreation Management concentration will develop qualified
and professional leadership skills to promote individual and family leisure lifestyles
that enrich people and their communities.

For more information about the Parks and Recreation Management program, contact Dr.
Riley at [email protected].