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W. Thomas Means

Pronouns: He/Him/His
Assistant Professor
Recreation Management & Recreation Therapy
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

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Specialty area(s)

-Philosophy of Science, Paradigms, and Epistemological Anarchy

-Constructive Developmental Theory

-Meaning Making and Leisure

-Developmental Disability and Camp

Current courses at UWL

RTH 701 - Philosophical Foundations of Leisure, Play and Recreation

RTH 494 - Research Methods and Program Evaluation in Recreational Therapy

RTH 476/576 - Assessment and Treatment Planning-Therapeutic Recreation

MIND 110 - Introduction to Mindfulness 

REC 150 - Leisure, Quality of Life, and Well-Being 


Ph.D. Indiana University, 2021

Leisure Behavior - Department of Health and Wellness Design

Minor: College Pedagogy

Dissertation Title: Philosophy of Science and Leisure: A Paradigmatic and Methodological Analysis of Leisure Studies


M.S. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 2015

Therapeutic Recreation - Department of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation

Thesis Title: Therapeutic Recreation at Camp: A Delphi Study Identifying Important Elements 


B.S. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, 2012

Kinesiology - Department of Kinesiology


Teaching history

RTH 720 - Research Methods for Recreation, Parks, and Leisure

RTH 498 - Internship Supervision

RTH 493/593 - Therapeutic Recreation Trends and Issues 

RTH 491 - Therapeutic Recreation & Development Disability/Intellectual Disability

RTH 480/580 - Leisure Education

RTH 325 - Inclusive Recreation

RTH 326 - Therapeutic Recreation Populations I     

RTH 252 - Innovative Activities in Therapeutic Recreation

REC 200 - Program Leadership of Recreational Activities

REC 202 - Leisure, Nature, and the Contemplative Experience

REC 302 - Recreation Supervision and Human Resource Management

REC 415/515 - Camp Administration 

Research and publishing

Publications in Progress 

Means W.T., Taylor J., & Delong T. (In Progress).  Answering the Call of Evidence-Based Curriculum  in Recreational Therapy. 

Means W.T. (In Progress). Meaning Making in Leisure: Integrating a Constructive-Development Theoretical Framework. 

Select Publications

Means W.T., Mowatt R., (2023). Philosophy of Science and Leisure Research: An Exploratory Analysis of Research Paradigms. Leisure/Loisir.

Edel, B, & Means W.T., (2022). Mindfully strong evidence-based curriculum:
A therapeutic recreation concept design. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 21(2), 42-48.

Means, W. T., & McIntire, J. (2019). Veterans and Hope: Lessons Learned from the Ladder UPP Program. American Therapeutic Recreation Association Research Institute.

Knee, E., & Means, W. T. (2018). Out of the Stands and onto the Court: A Signature Pedagogy for the Recreation Field. SCHOLE: A Journal of Leisure Studies and Recreation Education33(2), 70-86.

Means, W.T. (2018). Meaning and adventure: Constructive development theory and outdoor adventure outcomes. In: Proceedings of the 2018 Symposium on Experiential Education Research. Orlando, FL.  Association of Experiential Education.

Newman, S.B., Herman, D.C., Naaman, K.B., Means, W.T., Tysor, D.A., Berman, R.J., Walter A.A., Robledo, M., & Oliphant, E. (2018). Social and integrative approaches to health in Zion National Park. The George Wright Forum, 35(2).

Means, W. T., & McIntire, J. (2017). Fun for everyone: Adapting activities for campers of all abilities. Camping Magazine.

Means, W. T., & Simpson, S. (2016). Therapeutic recreation at camp: A Delphi study identifying important elements. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 15(2), 7-12.



W. Thomas Means, Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation, was named At-Large member of The Academy of Leisure Sciences Board of Directors for TALS on Monday, Sept. 25. The central purpose of the academy is the intellectual advancement of leisure sciences. This purpose is carried out in three ways: First, the organization invites all interested individuals to become members of the academy by joining a network that promotes the intellectual advancement of leisure sciences. Second, through meetings, scholarship, and other activities, the academy establishes forums for exchanging knowledge and ideas to advance the intellectual understanding of leisure. Third, by the activities of committees, individual members, and Fellows, the academy encourages and promotes the scholarly study of leisure among those who have demonstrated interest, potential, and competence. Congratulations, Dr. Means, for this honor!

Submitted on: Sept. 25



W. Thomas Means, Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation, presented "MIND 110: Reflections and Outcomes from Introduction to Mindfulness" at 24th Annual UWL Conference on Teaching and Learning on Aug. 29 in La Crosse, WI. This poster reported outcomes of the Gen Ed course MIND110: Introduction to Mindfulness. Outcomes indicated positive results on 3 pre/post assessments collected over two semesters (n=42): (1) Increases on Self-Compassion Scale, (2) Decreases on Perceived Stress Scale, and (3) Increases on Mindful Attention Awareness Scales. Outcomes were also reported from the Mindfulness Impact Project and the 1-on-1 student meetings.

Submitted on: Sept. 1



W. Thomas Means, Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation, authored the article "Philosophy of science and leisure research: an exploratory analysis of research paradigms" in Leisure/Loisir: Journal of the Canadian Association for Leisure Studies published on March 8 by Taylor & Francis Group.

Submitted on: Mar. 9



Tara Delong, Jennifer Taylor and W. Thomas Means, all Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation, presented "Pedagogy to Practitioner: Developing an Open-Access Evidence Based Recreational Therapy Curriculum Website" at The Academy of Leisure Science Conference; Theme: Leisure and Rights on Feb. 9 in New Orleans. This presentation provided a brief overview of the lack of evidence-based curriculum within the literature of therapeutic recreation and how this serves as a threat to the field as an allied healthcare profession. It further described the integrated curriculum for our therapeutic recreation dual degree students and the benchmarks for completion of an evidenced-based curriculum capstone, and provided a demo of the open-access website designed to share evidence-based work with practitioners in the field.

Submitted on: Feb. 13



Brian Kumm-Schaley and W. Thomas Means, both Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation, presented "Mindfulness, Leisure, and Higher Education: Negotiating Pitfalls, Navigating Benefits" at The Academy of Leisure Sciences Annual Conference on Feb. 8 in New Orleans. The goal of the presentation was to elevate awareness of, and open dialogue related to, the pitfalls of cultural misappropriation as it pertains to mindfulness and contemplative practices while also leveraging those concerns to better design courses that actualize the benefits of such practices.

Submitted on: Feb. 12



Becca Edel, Therapeutic Recreation and W. Thomas Means, Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation, co-authored the article "Mindfully Strong Evidence-Based Curriculum: A Therapeutic Recreation Concept Design " in American Journal of Recreation Therapy published on June 14 by Open Journal Systems. This article examines the possible benefits of a mindfulness evidence-based curriculum and its potential to decrease symptoms of depression in patients with TBIs and increase the use of evidence-based practice in the field of therapeutic recreation. This article also provides a feasible concept design for the development of the Mindfully Strong Curriculum. All session protocols, theoretical foundation, and assessments can be found in the fidelity manual that is open access on the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse therapeutic recreation webpage.

Submitted on: Sept. 8, 2022



W. Thomas Means, Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation, presented "Meaning Making in Leisure: Integrating a Constructive-Development Theoretical Framework" at the Leisure Studies Association Conference on July 13 online. The conference theme was In Pursuit of Leisure: Inequality, Storytelling, and the Meanings of Place. The purpose of Dr. Means' integrative review was to examine and synthesize current and salient literature on meaning making in leisure and to propose Constructive-Developmental Theory (CDT) as a theoretical framework to better understand meaning making in leisure. This work aims to better understand how developmental stage, based on CDT, may be a moderating variable in outcomes based research as it relates to Therapeutic Recreation and Outdoor Adventure research.

Submitted on: July 18, 2022



W. Thomas Means, Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation, presented "To Know, Understand, or Liberate? How Paradigms Influence the Pursuit of Social Justice " at UWL's Social Justice Week, Collective Liberation in the Service of Social Justice Panel Session on April 7 at UWL. As we navigate the world around us, whether we know it or not, we are interpreting and organizing our experience through a worldview - or paradigm. Our paradigm guides us in what we can know and how we can know. In this session, work was presented on how different paradigms have impacted research in the field of leisure studies followed by a demonstration of how the use of critical paradigms (such as critical disability theory, critical race theory, and feminist theory) are imperative for scholars and practitioners to do the work of Social Justice and Collective Liberation.

Submitted on: April 10, 2022



Tara Delong, Lindsey Kirschbaum, Lisa Savarese, Jennifer Taylor and W. Thomas Means, all Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation, were awarded a Curriculum Redesign Grant from UWL. This team of Therapeutic Recreation faculty will engage in a series of active workshops, curricular analysis, and assessment to redesign the TR curriculum over the course of the upcoming academic year.

Submitted on: April 4, 2022



W. Thomas Means, Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation, presented "Philosophy of Science and Leisure Research: An Exploratory Paradigmatic Analysis " at The Academic of Leisure Sciences Annual Conference (Theme: Critical Realities - Culture at the Crossroads) on March 1 online. This session presented on a study that systematically analyzed leisure research to examine evidence of a dominant paradigm or paradigmatic pluralism and trends. Results prompted discussions related to the fields transition from a dominant postivistic field toward paradigmatic pluralism, Laudaun's philosophy of science and research traditions, Paul Feyerabend's epistimological anarchy, and paradigmatic reflexivity within leisure research.

Submitted on: Mar. 2, 2022