Laurie Harmon profile photo

Laurie Harmon

Specialty area(s)

My primary areas of research are social-psychological outcomes of nature-based recreation, technology and the outdoors, and the scholarship of teaching & learning.

Brief biography

I am a Landscape Architect who has morphed into academics. After designing golf courses in Michigan for 7 years. I returned to complete a Master's Degree at Michigan State University. During that time, I also raised a Leader Dog for the Blind - what a great way to engage with students & faculty! I completed my PhD in Leisure Studies at The Pennsylvania State University and have been teaching in Recreation since 2004. After some excellent teaching opportunities in the greater Washington DC area, I arrived at UW-La Crosse in 2012 and am very happy with the decision to be part of the Recreation Management faculty - we have a great team of individuals here.

In terms of research, I am interested in how we become connected to the natural places in our world and how they affect our cognitive, psychological, and emotional development. My work is conducted in a variety of National Parks (Sequoia & Kings Canyon, The National Mall, Isle Royale) as well as local natural Playscapes. I am also interested in how technology affects our place interactions. With my Michigan colleagues, I have used underwater robots, for example, to help youth engage with a variety of aquatic environments.

Essentially, I am interested in anything that gets people outdoors and enjoying the natural environment is a way that allows that environment to flourish and be available for future generations. Please feel free to e-mail or drop by any time.

Current courses at UWL

REC 306 - Environmental Ethics, Outdoor Recreation, & Natural Resources
REC 400 - Recreation Facility Planning
REC 500 - Recreation Facility Planning (graduate level)
REC 401 - Leisure Services Management
REC 711 - Leisure Services Management (graduate level)
REC 740 - Outdoor Education (graduate level)


The Pennsylvania State University
Doctor of Philosophy in Leisure Studies
Dissertation: Place attachment and visitors to Isle Royale N.P.
Minor: Social Psychology

Michigan State University
Master of Science in Park, Recreation, and Tourism Resources
Bachelor of Landscape Architecture

Teaching history

Rather than a history, here is my teaching philosophy:

As an educator, my goal is to create a learning environment which emphasizes four basic components: 1) creating a space for learning which is engaging and fosters critical thinking; 2) encouraging students to examine the “self as learner”; 3) developing mutual respect for differences; and, 4) empowering individuals. Within this context, I foster a collaborative and constructive learning environment while encouraging students to develop professionally relevant skills such as initiative, confidence, and critical thinking.

Research and publishing

Publications include the following:

Harmon, L.K. (in press). Place Perceptions. In Bricker, K. & Nickerson, N. (Eds.). Demystifying Theories in Tourism. CABI Publishing.

Harmon, L.K. & Haas, G. (in press). Planning and Decision Making. In Baas, J. & Burns, R. (Eds). Best Practices in Recreation Resources Planning: A Resource Guide for Planners. Venture Publishing: State College, PA.

Samaras, A. P., Karczmarczyk, D. Smith, L., Woodville, L., Harmon, L., Nasser, I., Parsons, S., Smith, T., Borne, K., Constantine, L., Roman-Mendoza, E., Suh, J., Swanson, R. (Book chapter under final review). The shark in the vitrine: Experiencing our practice from the inside out with cross-disciplinary lenses. In Pithouse, K, Mitchell, C., & Pillay, D. (Eds.). The inward I”: Enacting reflexivity in Higher Education research. Human Sciences Research Council Press.

Daniels, M. J., Park, M., Harmon, L.K. & Brayley, R.E. (in press). Risk management realized: The National Mall & Memorial Parks. Manuscript accepted for publication to International Journal of Culture, Tourism & Hospitality Research.

Paden, R., Harmon, L. & Milling C. (2013). Philosophical Histories of the Aesthetics of Nature. Environmental Ethics. 1-17. Vol.35.

Samaras, A. P., Smith, L., Harmon, L., Nasser, I., Smith, T., Borne, K., Parsons, S., Woodville,L., Constantine, L., Roman-Mendoza, E., Suh, J., Swanson, R., & Karczmarczyk, D. (2012). Reforming in the first person plural: Explorations of a faculty self-study collaborative. In J.R. Young, L.B., Erickson & S. Pinnegar (Eds.). Extending inquiry communities: Illuminating teacher education through self-study. Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on the Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices, East Sussex, England (pp. 251-255). Provo, UT: Brigham Young University.

Paden, R., Harmon, L. & Milling C. (2012). Ecology, Evolution and Aesthetics: Darwinian Arguments Against Positive Aesthetics. British Journal of Aesthetics. 1-17. doi:10.1093/aesthj/ays001.

Harmon, L.K. & Johnson, S. (2012). The future of outdoor recreation administration. In M. Erpelding & G. Harrison (Eds.). Outdoor Program Administration: Essentials for the Professional. Human Kinetics.

Harmon, L.K., Daniels, M. J., Brayley, R.E. & Park, M. (2011). Is a nation's front yard becoming a dumping ground? A critical analysis of greenspace within the United States National Mall & Memorial Parks. Special Issue of Journal of Tourism and Leisure Studies, 17(2), 269-292.

Harmon, L.K. & Harrington, L. (2010). Building a Community Garden in Your Park: Opportunities for Health, Community and Recreation. Virginia: National Recreation and Park Association. Available at

Park, M., Daniels, M.J., Brayley, R. & Harmon, L.K. (2010). An analysis of service provision and visitor impacts using participant observation and photographic documentation: The National Cherry Blossom Festival. Event Management, 14, 167-182.

Harmon, L.K. & Gleason, M. (2009). Underwater explorers: Using underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to engage youth with underwater environments. Children, Youth and Environments. 19 (1), 125-143.

Daniels, M. J., Harmon, L.K., Park, M., & Brayley, R.E. (2009). National Mall & Memorial Parks: Past, present, future. In W. Frost & C. M. Hall (Eds.), Tourism and national parks: International perspectives on development, histories and change (pp.282-297). Oxford: Routledge.