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New Karla A. Henderson Distinguished Professor Named

The College of Natural Resources is pleased to announce that Corey Johnson has been selected as the new Karla A. Henderson Distinguished Professor, the first funded distinguished professorship in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at NC State’s College of Natural Resources.

Johnson comes to NC State from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, where he is a professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies. He teaches courses on inclusive social justice, recreation, gender and sexuality, qualitative research methods, and the philosophy of science.

During his time at the University of Waterloo, Johnson has coordinated several regional and international qualitative inquiry-focused workshops and retreats. He most recently appeared on the 42nd episode of the official NVivo podcast to discuss his book, “Fostering Social Justice Through Qualitative Inquiry.”

Dr. Corey Johnson smiles at camera in plaid blazer and purple shirt
Dr. Corey Johnson named the inaugural Karla A. Henderson Distinguished Professor.

His research focuses on the power relations between dominant (white, male, heterosexual, etc.) and non-dominant populations in the cultural contexts of leisure. Johnson’s work provides important insight into both the privileging and discriminatory practices that occur in contemporary leisure settings and is complementary to both classroom instruction and professional service. He uses anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-heteronormative advocacy, activism and community partnerships to foster equity for individuals and decrease systematic oppression in institutions. 

The associate editor and former editor-in-chief of the journal Leisure Science, Johnson’s research has been published in the Journal of Leisure Research, Leisure Sciences, Journal of Homosexuality, Qualitative Social Work, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Sport and Gender Identities, and more. 

Johnson is an Academy of Leisure Sciences Fellow and has received numerous awards and distinctions throughout his career, including The Academy of Leisure Sciences Distinguished Researcher Award (2021), University of Waterloo Faculty Association Equity and Inclusivity Award (2019), Society for Park and Recreation Educators Innovation in Teaching Award (2018), University of Waterloo Outstanding Faculty Performance Award (2017), and The Academy of Leisure Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award (2016). 

Prior to joining the University of Waterloo, Johnson spent nine years at the University of Georgia and three years at California State University, Long Beach. After earning his Bachelor of Science in Education from Bowling Green State University, Johnson earned a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. in Leisure Studies from the University of Georgia. While in Georgia, Johnson was instrumental in founding the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition, which focused on the prevention of bullying and other harms toward queer youth, youth of color, youth experiencing homelessness, and other youth whose identity and difference made them targets of assault and harassment. 

“The Karla A. Henderson Distinguished Professorship is the first of its kind in the field of leisure studies as well as related fields of tourism, recreational sport, outdoor recreation, conservation, and parks and recreation at NC State. Embodying the spirit of Dr. Henderson and her commitment to social justice, this professorship advances a shared integration of leisure studies, social justice and community engagement. The scholar with this title is to be a leader within the department, the College of Natural Resources, the campus of NC State, and beyond. Through sheer breadth of research, conscientious teaching, and responsible community work, Johnson is truly deserving of this distinction and worthy of serving as the first such person to receive this named honor,” said Rasul Mowatt, department head of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management.  

A Lasting Legacy

This new distinguished professorship was created through a generous gift from Karla Henderson, professor emeritus in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, to support a faculty member with active research programs that contribute to social justice related to recreation and leisure in communities and/or in the outdoors. Awards from the fund may also be used to provide funding for undergraduates, graduate students or faculty working with the professor, professional development, research materials, travel and scholarly publications.

By funding the Karla A. Henderson Distinguished Professorship, Henderson is continuing her legacy of advancing critical issues facing our communities. Throughout her distinguished career, Henderson elevated gender issues and social justice, fostered a new understanding of how people experience leisure, and highlighted the perspective of women and the barriers they face in accessing enjoyable leisure.

Henderson was instrumental in creating the first concepts and hypotheses in these areas and was a pioneer in bringing social justice to the center of scholarly inquiry in parks, recreation and tourism literature. She laid the groundwork for much of today’s conversation around race, gender, equity and environmental justice and ushered in a new sub-field that brought about different ways to theorize leisure context, behavior and experience.

“Just as she increased visibility for women and social justice in parks, recreation and leisure studies, Henderson is now increasing the visibility of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, elevating its work on equity and social justice, and bestowing a great honor upon Johnson as the inaugural Karla A. Henderson Distinguished Professor. She is ensuring that both the next generation of students and faculty scholars continue to ask vital questions about access, equity and social justice,” said Myron Floyd, dean of the College of Natural Resources. 

Henderson’s accomplishments also include hundreds of presentations, workshops and keynotes given in dozens of countries on every continent except Antarctica. She has published more than 160 scientific articles, 68 book chapters and authored or co-edited 18 books, including “Leisure From International Voices”; “Evaluating Recreation Services: Making Enlightened Decisions”; “Leisure, Women, and Gender”; and “The Noble Experiment: A History of National Recreation and Park Association.” 

Henderson is an elected fellow in both the Academy of Leisure Sciences and the American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration. She received countless national and international awards and honors throughout her career, including the American Camp Association Distinguished Service Award, the National Recreation and Park Association Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt Award for Research Excellence, and the American Association of Park and Recreation Administrators Legend Selection.  

Prior to joining NC State, Henderson served as faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Texas Woman’s University, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This post was originally published in College of Natural Resources News.