University of Vermont

Associate Professor Walt Kuentzel Elected Fellow of Academy of Leisure Sciences

Faculty profile

Associate Professor Walt Kuentzel
Associate Professor Walt Kuentzel

Associate Professor Walter Kuentzel, chair of the Rubenstein School’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism undergraduate program, was elected Fellow of the Academy of Leisure Sciences (ALS) in August 2013.  The ALS, with just over 100 fellows, was founded in 1980 to honor scholars who have made significant contributions, through research and writings, to the field of leisure sciences.  Walt was inducted into the Academy at an October 9th Fellows Luncheon during the National Recreation and Park Association Congress in Houston, Texas.

As a natural resources sociologist, Walt applies sociological concepts and theories to natural resource issues, involving outdoor recreation, rural communities, human dimensions of wildlife, and international contexts.  He regularly teaches PRT 1 Introduction to Recreation and Tourism and PRT 230 Ecotourism.  In addition, Walt is entering his 15th year teaching travel abroad courses.  With former graduate student Dave Kestenbaum (NRP ’02) of UVM Extension, Walt teaches two popular travel courses:  the winter break Costa Rica: Sustainable Development and Ecotourism and spring break’s Costa Rica: Communities, Conservation and Development.

“We’ve built somewhat of a name brand for ourselves around these courses,” admits Walt.  “They fill up quickly.”  As of September, the winter course had almost reached its maximum enrollment of 16 students.

In past years, Walt has led students on course trips to Tanzania, Ireland, and China.  Each of his travel courses focuses on ecotourism, sustainability, and rural development.

Walt has recently been teaching the RSENR core course NR 2 Nature and Culture, and every three years, he instructs WFB 175 Wildlife and Society.  He also teaches the graduate-level courses NR 360 Environmental Sociology and NR 285 Environment and Human Behavior.

Currently, he is busy finishing up a research paper on public hunting, fishing, and recreational access to private land in the Northern Forest region and focusing on the public’s understanding of liability laws and statutes.  With research funding from the Northeastern States Research Cooperative, Walt, colleague Lisa Chase of UVM Extension, and co-investigators from New York, New Hampshire, and Maine gathered public input regarding land ownership change, recreational access, landowner liability, and changes within Northern Forest communities.

The researchers discovered that despite high levels of access allowed by landowners, there remains public perception that access has diminished over recent years.  Results also suggest that many smaller private landowners are not well-informed about liability protection offered them by state statutes.  The research team held workshops in each state as starting points to improve communication among Northern Forest landowners, planners, natural resource agencies, and recreational interests.

Walt is also involved in a 34-year study of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore along Lake Superior in Wisconsin.  He is examining changes in visitation over time and perceived crowding by visitors.  Interestingly, notes Walt, “From 1975 to 1985, visitation doubled, but perceived crowding by visitors decreased.”  Walt is investigating why recreation use patterns and norms for encounters change over time in response to changing demographics and social trends.

He recently completed a three-year term as co-editor of Leisure Sciences, one of the leading journals in the field.  He has also served as associate editor for Leisure Sciences, the Journal of Leisure Research, and Human Dimensions of Wildlife.  Walt received appointments as visiting lecturer at the World Leisure International Center of Excellence at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and visiting lecturer and research fellow at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

He is excited about his sabbatical leave to Ireland in 2014.  Walt will explore holiday home development along the west coast of Ireland, including County Donegal.  “It makes for a particularly interesting study site,” he explains, “because Northern Ireland residents use it as an escape from the disturbances that occur each year during the July marching (sectarian parade) season.”  Walt’s research is part of a broader European study with RSENR Associate Professor Patricia Stokowski and their European colleagues to investigate second home development for European holiday destinations.

Walt has “rendered substantial and significant service to the leisure sciences field,” writes colleague RSENR Professor Bob Manning in his nomination of Walt to the ALS.  Among other contributions, Bob mentions, “Walt has also played a leadership role in the Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium, a highly successful scholarly conference that celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. Walt has served on the organizing committee for many years, administered the symposium one year, served as editor of the proceedings one year, and was recently selected to present the 'founders lecture' at the symposium.”

Walt lives in South Burlington, Vermont with his wife Valerie.  He enjoys hiking the Adirondack Mountains and southern Utah and paddling the boundary waters of the U.S. and Canada.