Leisure research is serious work 

By Karen Herland

Shannon Hebblethwaite joined the Applied Human Sciences Department in January. Magnifying glass

Shannon Hebblethwaite joined the Applied Human Sciences Department in January.

Earlier this month, the Loyola campus was the site of the 12th Canadian Congress on Leisure Research. If you’re surprised that Leisure Sciences has produced a dozen conferences, consider that they only happen every three years and we’re about to enter the fourth decade of research.

“The first one was held in 1975, and I’ve only missed a couple since 1978,” said Applied Human Sciences (AHSC) professor Randy Swedburg. He chaired the 10-member organizing committee, which included all Leisure Sciences professors, a graduate of the program and a student volunteer coordinator.

There were more than 140 presenters from Canada, the U.S., Asia, Australia and Europe. Department chair Lisa Ostiguy said that the decision to host the conference here was partly due to an influx of new faculty who could help organize a weeklong event of this scale.

It was also based on a desire to show off the research in leisure sciences coming out of Concordia as the department prepares a proposal for a graduate program.

“We wanted to put Concordia on the research map, so that people would realize we are not just a service department,” said Ostiguy, adding that the reviews of the conference were very positive. She hopes the graduate program will be running by 2010.

Swedburg said that one-third of the presenters were graduate students, demonstrating the growing importance the field has for young researchers.
“We all know that leisure is important, but there is still more research focus on work and family,” said Shannon Hebble-thwaite, who joined the faculty in January 2008. Her presentation on the leisure relationship between grandparents and their adult grandchildren is unique in dealing with adults and addressing the occasional ambivalence in these connections.

Swedburg said that leisure sciences used to focus on physical activities, like the Participaction campaign in Canada several decades ago. Now it encompasses all areas of human activity, “things like tourism, arts and crafts, the arts generally. In fact, with something like painting, it could involve doing it or visiting a gallery,” said Swedburg.

The theme of this year’s conference was diversity. That was reflected in the dozens of panels, but also during the leisure experiences built into the conference, including an opening night concert offered by the Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra.


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