Meet the Faculty: Department Head and Professor Rasul Mowatt
Rasul Mowatt, a renowned professor and researcher who studies social justice and the geographies of race, was recently named head of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at NC State’s College of Natural Resources. His appointment began on December 1, 2020.
Before joining NC State, Mowatt served on Indiana University’s faculty for 15 years and previously taught at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is president of The Academy of Leisure Sciences, co-editor of Leisure Sciences, and founding editor of Recreation, Parks and Tourism in Public Health.
Mowatt is also an editorial board member of the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geographers and served on the Commission on Race and Gender Fairness for the Indiana Supreme Court. He recently published a book titled, “The Geographies of Threat and the Production of Violence: The State and the City Between Us.”
In addition to his appointment with the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Mowatt also holds the position of affiliate professor with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at NC State.
Myron Floyd, dean of NC State’s College of Natural Resources, said Mowatt’s “background in american studies and geography, specifically the study of injustice and violence and urban geography, will bring an interdisciplinary perspective to our College and the Department.”
“We are extremely excited about the experience and vision he has for the future of the Department and how it will prepare leaders to ensure access to and inclusivity in all forms of leisure and recreation,” Floyd added.
In the Q&A below, Mowatt discusses why he joined NC State, his vision for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, and more.
Can you tell us what you envision for the Department in this new role?
Rasul Mowatt: I always temper excitement for positions of leadership because the reality is that while you are able to be a part of some wonderful opportunities, you are still also responsible for, at times, delivering news of the unpleasant. After all, administration is crucially about people and the management of the lives they live within their spaces of work within a larger society. With that said, my task and service to the Department and College is to bring a critical lens to the curriculum, individual and collaborative research endeavors, and engagement opportunities and partnerships with the community beyond the campus. Seeking answers to questions to:
- What type of students do we want to produce and our role in fostering that development?
- What is the relevance of our research to the questions of the day and our current climate?
- How can we engage communities beyond industry and formal long-standing institutions?
What excited you about this new role?
Mowatt: The simple opportunity to serve a Department that is already grounded and headed in a solid direction coupled with the leadership of one of the most noted scholars, Dean Myron Floyd, in the field of leisure studies (sports, tourism, parks and recreation, outdoor recreation, etc.) were the sole two reasons that brought me to NC State to become their Department Head.
What is the focus of your research and/or teaching?
Mowatt: My focus centers on the production and restructuring of urban space, primarily within cities, and how that impacts what we understand to be the function of race, gender and class in a society. I have taught most recently classes using the legendary HBO show “The Wire” to understand city governance, the myths of criminality, and the adverse impacts on social policy. My most recently completed research project involved an analysis of a multitude of cities over the span of history and the insight that can be gleaned from that on how our contemporary cities are influenced by this history (in regards to gentrification, crime, violence, and poverty). Both my teaching and research culminated in the book, “The Geographies of Threat and the Production of Violence: The State and the City Between Us,” published by Routledge press in 2021.
What do you see as key strengths of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at NC State?
Mowatt: The faculty of strong researchers alongside strong teachers that are joined by a staff that bring institutional knowledge and formidable skills in advising, fiscal management, and extension services are and will continue to be the strengths of the Department. Having these two assets can only bring out the best from an undergraduate and graduate student body wishing to make a meaningful impact in the world they inhabit.
What directions do you see in the foreseeable future, both in terms of your own research and for the Department?
Mowatt: The questions that spring from analyzing cities do not stop as we continue to dwell in them, as new cities are being built (like Egypt’s new and almost completed capital), and as they continue to expand due to social and economic forces of migrancy and population surplus (borders, job shortages). I hope to continue this research through my affiliate status with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at NC State. While the questions of the city have resonance for the Department, as well. The expanding impact of Green Gentrification (displacement initiated by sustainable infrastructure improvements) only highlights ways that parks can be problems and solutions, and it all depends on the moral imagination of those who wield the power of planning, programming, and management.
What do you do for fun?
Mowatt: I have long since operated in my social life as a DJ and I look forward to making connections in Raleigh, Durham, Ashville, or Charlotte for nearby opportunities to return to this pastime of mine. Time will only tell.
Do you have a favorite quote?
Mowatt: From the character of Grace Sampson, a seasoned public teacher featured on the fourth season of The Wire to newly retired cop turned public school teacher, Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski, as he just noticed the similarities of policing, city policy, teaching and state mandates in a summer teacher training:
Prez: “I don’t get it. All this so we score higher on the state tests? If we’re teaching the kids the test questions, what is it assessing in them?”
Grace: “Nothing. It assesses us. The test scores go up, they can say the schools are improving. The scores stay down, they can’t.”
Prez: “Juking the stats.”
Grace: “Excuse me?”
Prez: “Making robberies into larcenies. Making other crimes disappear. You juke the stats, and majors become colonels. I’ve been here before.”
Grace responds with the quotable: “Wherever you go, there you are.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Mowatt: The future is ours.