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College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences

Faculty and Staff Profile

Mariela Fernandez

Assistant Professor

Office: 286 Lehotsky Hall

Phone: 864-656-2389


Educational Background

Ph.D. Recreation, Sport and Tourism
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 2015

M.S. Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences
Texas A&M University 2011

B.S. Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences
Texas A&M University 2009

Courses Taught

Advanced Programming
Recreation Administration
Research Methods
Philosophy of Parks, Recreation and Tourism


Dr. Mariela Fernandez’s research interests center on the lack of access to green spaces in Latino(a) communities. Other research activities have included projects focused on the programmatic aspects limiting Latino(a) participation at a recreation center, the development of life skills in Latino(a) youth, and the cultural competence youth leaders need in order to address challenges arising from an increasingly diverse society. Mariela’s dissertation focused on how the nonprofit sector can be mobilized to increase access to open green space in an urban Latino(a) community, and her future work will focus on the health and well-being of Latino(a)s in rural communities.

Research Interests

Park disparities in Latino communities
Community involvement in the park planning process
Health and well-being
Ethnic studies in leisure
Youth development

Research Publications

Gutierrez, V., Larson, R. W., Raffaelli, M., Fernandez, M., & Guzman, S. (in press). How staff of youth programs respond to cultural incidents: Non-engagement vs. ‘full-right in.’ Journal of Adolescent Research, Special Issue.

Raffaelli, M., Iturbide, M., & Fernandez, M. (2016). Rural Latino youth: Research findings and methodological aspects. In L. J. Crockett & G. Carlo (Eds.), Rural ethnic minority youth and families in the United States: Theory, research, and applications.

Fernandez, M., Shinew, K. J., & Stodolska, M. (2015). The effects of acculturation and access on recreation participation among Latinos. Leisure Sciences, 37(3), 210-231.

Fernandez, M., & Witt, P. A. (2013). Attracting Hispanics to an African American recreation center: Examining attitudes and historical factors. Journal of Leisure Research, 45(4), 423-444.

Schneider, I. E., Shinew, K. J., & Fernandez, M. (2013). Constraints for racial and ethnic groups. In M. Stodolska, K.J. Shinew, M. Floyd, G. Walker. Race, ethnicity, and leisure. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Duerden, M. D., Witt, P. A., Fernandez, M., Jolliff, M., & Theriault, D. (2012). Measuring life skills: Standardizing the assessment of youth development indicators. Journal of Youth Development: Bridging Research and Practice, 7(1), 99-117. Retrieved from

College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences | 116 Edwards Hall