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The WVU Rural Tourism Design Team is a transdisciplinary team of West Virginia University faculty members that uses the principles of community-based tourism, social design, and participatory planning to support the sustainable development of tourism in West Virginia.

WVU Extension Service 

Community-based tourism is a visitor-host interaction that has meaningful participation by both and generates economic and conservation benefits for local communities and environments. The key rationale underlying the approach and objectives is that community-based tourism through increased intensities of participation can provide widespread economic and other benefits and decision-making power to communities. These economic benefits act as incentives for participants and the means to conserve the natural and cultural resources on which income generation depends.

Appreciative Participatory Planning and Action’s (APPA) objective is to find and emphasize the positive, successes, and strengths as a means to empower communities, groups, and organizations, to plan and manage development and conservation.  The aim of appreciative inquiry is to generate new knowledge that expands “the realm of  the possible”  and helps people  to envision a collectively desired future and to design improved systems and processes that successfully translate their intentions into reality and their beliefs into practice.

In the application of APPA, the “4-D” framework of Discovery, Dream, Design and Delivery has been adapted for the purposes of community planning and action. The Cycle of Discovery, Dream, Design, and Delivery:

  1. Discovery, the act of appreciating – The best of what is, what gives life to this community, group, organization
  2. Dream, envisioning an impact – What might be, creating a positive image of a preferred future
  3. Design, co-constructing the desired future - What should the ideal be, a process of dialogue, consensus and further inquiry
  4. Delivery, sustaining – How to empower, learn, adjust and sustain

The primary aim of participatory strategies is that local people become active subjects of the development effort rather than passive recipients. More specifically, the concept is related to the active involvement of local people in the choice, execution and evaluation of projects and programs designed to raise their living standards. This shift requires devolving political power from centralized systems to smaller units, the purpose being to relocate decision-making, empowering members of local communities and giving them ultimate control over the development process.

The Mountain Institute. (2000).  Community Based Tourism for Conservation and Development: A Resource Kit. Accessed from the Mountain Institute

 Team Members include:

Doug Arbogast

Rural Tourism Specialist
WVU Extension Service Community Resources and Economic Development

Responsible for developing and delivering rural tourism development services and in doing so works collaboratively with the team of Extension professionals and WVU faculty to promote sustainable development of tourism businesses in West Virginia. Duties entail development of proactive applied research, teaching, and service programs in tourism development including planning and managing rural tourism, rural tourism business opportunities, marketing, and economics of tourism.

Research Interests

  • Sustainable Tourism
  • Destination Management
  • Participatory Planning

Daniel Eades

Extension Specialist/Asst. Professor in Rural Economics, WVU Extension Service

Research Interests

  • Community Data Analysis
  • Economic Impact Analysis
  • Rural and Community Economic Development
  • Sustainable Agriculture

Michael Dougherty

Extension Specialist/Asst. Professor in Community Planning, WVU Extension Service

Research Interests

  • Local Government Technical Assistance
  • Community Planning
  • Strategic Planning
  • Comprehensive Planning
  • Citizen Involvement 

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WVU School of Design and Community Development

Participatory design is an approach to design that attempts to actively involve all stakeholders (e.g. employees, partners, customers, citizens, end users) in the design process to help ensure that the product designed meets their needs and is usable. The term is used in a variety of fields as a way of creating environments that are more responsive and appropriate to their inhabitants' and users' cultural, emotional, spiritual and practical needs. The key attribute of participatory design is that it is a process which allows multiple voices to be heard and involved in the design, resulting in outcomes which suit a wider range of users. The participatory design process was employed to develop an outdoor classroom in Wyoming County, WV, the Miners Memorial Park in Everettville, WV, and visioning for the town of Itmann, WV.

 Team Members include:

Peter Butler

Director of Design and Community Development Associate
Professor of Landscape Architecture 
Extension Specialist in Landscape Architecture

Peter’s research interests include cultural landscape research and planning; community design proces s; industrial landscape reclamation and interpretation; and design studio pedagogy. His research projects include cultu ral landscape inventory, analysis and treatment; visualization; brownfields reclamation; land use planning; historic transportation corridor planning; and participatory design methods.

Research Expertise

  • Cultural and Heritage Tourism 
  • Participatory Design 
  • Tourism Asset Mapping 
  • Land Use Planning 

Jacquelyn Strager

Research Coordinator, NRAC

Jacquelyn Strager is a research coordinator with the Natural Resource Analysis Center, in the Davis College. She works on various applied research efforts, including site specific projects in West Virginia and more regional analyses across the Mid-Atlantic Highlands and beyond. Her project work focuses on natural resource, watershed, and environmental issues with a geo-spatial context, making use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and associated technologies.

Research Expertise

  • Spatial Analysis
  • Participatory GIS
  • ARC GIS Online Asset Mapping
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WVU Graphic Design Program

Design is a process of researching and innovating solutions to opportunities identified. It works well in collaboration and its methods can be shared with communities. Design offers aesthetic skills and organization skills, both visual and contextual to help a group track and realize goals. The most basic goal of design is to improve an existing situation, be it environmental, behavioral, or communication. For communities, this could mean devising projects that can improve the life of the community or populations within the community. The School of Graphic Design helped the community of Scotts Run in its first steps toward realizing its vision by developing a history museum and trail, branding an arts and music row, packaging projects that can be proposed to groups, funders and grants organizations to realize more steps. 

Team Members include:

Donald Kent Kerr

Assistant Professor of Graphic Design,  College of Creative Arts School of Art & Design 

Donald “Kent” Kerr began teaching at WVU in 2022. He specializes in branding and identity systems, community-driven design, and commercial production and his research focuses on community identity and development and exploring the role design thinking plays in community engagement.

Through his research and professional practice, Kent focuses on community-driven design research, developing creative placemaking solutions, and helping communities find, visualize, and solve their own unique design and development challenges.  

Research Expertise

  • Community-driven Design

  • Design Education

  • Graphic Design

  • Design Thinking

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WVU Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Resources Program

As a natural resource management-oriented program, the curriculum focuses on social, economic and ecological dimensions of managing natural resources. This program is accredited by the Society of American Foresters and is recognized as a leader in training future managers of recreation resources.

Team Members include:

Dr. Jinyang Deng

Professor of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Resources 

Dr. Deng is Program Coordinator and an Associate Professor in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Resources Program, School of Natural Resources, West Virginia University. He received his Ph.D. in Recreation and Leisure Studies from the University of Alberta, Canada. Dr. Deng’s current research interests focus on ecotourism, tourism planning, rural tourism, and urban forests. He explores subjects such as environmental attitudes and behaviors among ecotourists, GIS applications in recreation and tourism, stakeholders’ attitudes towards rural tourism, and scenic beauty and recreational benefits associated with urban forests.

Research Expertise

  • Sustainable Tourism
  • Destination Management
  • Participatory Planning
  • GIS applications in sustainable tourism development

Dr. David Smaldone

Assistant Professor of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Resources 

Dave Smaldone is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of the Recreation, Parks & Tourism Resources Program in the Division of Forestry & Natural Resources at West Virginia University (WVU) . He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Environmental and Cultural Interpretation, as well as Citizen Science and Natural Resource Management.  He has extensive experience leading interpretive training workshops for a number of state and national organizations. He has conducted interpretive research and evaluation projects for a variety of agencies over the last decade. Prior to his position at WVU, he also worked for the National Park Service for number of years in various interpretive positions. Besides interpretation and environmental education, his other academic interests include nature-based/ecotourism, and studying connections between people and places. He received his Ph.D. in Recreation, Parks Tourism from the University of Idaho.

Research Expertise

  • Personal and Non-Personal Interpretation
  • Interpretive Master Planning, including gathering stakeholder input, visitor use analysis, developing management goals and objectives (as linked to interpretation), developing specific interpretive themes goals and objectives, product and media delivery recommendations, etc.
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WVU Master of Public Administration Program

The mission of the WVU Master of Public Administration Program is to prepare recent college graduates and new professionals to make a difference through careers in public service in a wide array of settings.  

Team Members include:

Dr. Chris Plein

Christopher Plein has been actively engaged in community development efforts in rural West Virginia. He is a founding member of the West Virginia Community Design Team which organizes teams of volunteers that visit and assist rural communities in identifying community development needs and opportunities. Since 1997, this program has made over 30 visits to communities in the state. Dr. Plein has been a member of a team member on a number of these visits and serves on the program’s steering committee. In 2006, Dr Plein’s outreach contributions were recognized by West Virginia University when he was named an Eberly Professor of Outstanding Public Service. In addition to his current faculty positions, he was recently appointed as an Adjunct Specialist to assist the West Virginia University Extension Service in engagement activities relating to health programs and science education.

Research Interests

  • Public participation in planning
  • Facilitation of stakeholder engagement
  • Public administration and community development
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WVU College of Media

Today’s 24/7 digital world demands writers, storytellers and professional communicators who can reach and influence audiences across an ever-changing array of media platforms and devices. The Reed College of Media’s Sports and Adventure Media program puts you on the sidelines of the big game or ziplining through Appalachian tree canopies to share it in a way that puts the audience right there with you.

 Team Members include:

Emily Hughes Corio

Emily Hughes Corio joined the WVU Reed College of Media in August 2011 and teaches courses in audio and video storytelling and special topical reporting courses. In 2014, Corio developed a new course, "Adventure Travel Writing and Photography," that she teaches yearly. This course ultimately led to Corio developing the college's Sports and Adventure Media major that launched in 2018. She was the 2018 recipient of the college's annual Outstanding Teaching Award.

Research Interests

  • Audio and video storytelling
  • Adventure travel writing and photography
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