Andrew Lepp, Ph.D.

Twenty-nine Kent State faculty members have been named to be in the top 2% of scientists in the world based on a recent study published by Stanford University scholars.

The report, published in the PLOS Biology Journal, evaluated more than six million scientists across 22 different fields and 176 sub-fields from 1996 until 2019. The top 2% list is made up of more than 100,000 most-cited scientists who have authored at least five scientific papers.

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I always tell students to follow their passions, to be curious, to ask many questions, and to step outside their comfort zones when searching for answers and solutions. Doing so is the path to an adventure.


Questions & Answers

Why did you decide to pursue your field of research?

My research seeks to better understand the many interactions between humans' leisure behavior and mental health, physical health and also environmental health. This is something that I've always been passionate about. Before becoming a researcher I worked for the US National Park Service. With the National Park Service, I could see firsthand the many benefits of leisure. These benefits, such as stress relief and environmental learning, are perhaps more relevant and necessary today than ever before. On the other hand, I am also interested in the potential costs of some common leisure behaviors, such as the distress that is sometimes associated with prolonged social media use. At Kent State, I enjoy researching these topics and sharing what I learn with students, colleagues and professionals. It is very rewarding to create new knowledge that people find useful. That joy keeps me motivated.

What would you tell a student at the beginning of their academic career?

I teach in Kent State's Recreation, Park and Tourism Management program. I also have worked with many students from Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies. Students in these fields tend to be very passionate. I always tell these students to follow their passions, to be curious, to ask many questions, and to step outside their comfort zones when searching for answers and solutions. Doing so is the path to an adventure. I use my life as an example. I am a kid from Akron, Ohio and a graduate of Firestone High School. But this broad field (parks, tourism, conservation) has taken me across the country and around the world. I have worked across the US from Alaska to Florida and also for several years in Uganda, East Africa. Eventually, this field brought me back home to NE Ohio! Considering my own experience, I encourage students to recognize their educational and professional journeys as an adventure. I have found that students get excited by this idea. 

Tell us a little about your research:

One of the most time consuming leisure behaviors of the last decade is smartphone use and everything that this includes (e.g., social media, surfing the internet, fitness tracking, streaming videos, etc.). Along with outstanding KSU colleagues, I research the impacts of smartphone use on a number of mental and physical health related variables such as anxiety, boredom, happiness, sedentary behavior, physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness. People around the world have found this research interesting and useful, largely because most people have smartphones within reach at all times and tend to use them impulsively during free time. From what I've seen, this research has inspired students and professionals to think about how smartphones might enhance our experience of leisure and also detract from our experience of leisure. 

I also conduct research examining motivations and benefits associated with different outdoor recreation activities including kayaking and backpacking. Some of this research has been used by park managers in NE Ohio to develop opportunities for kayaking along the Cuyahoga River. 

I conduct research examining many issues important to the management of international tourism. Some of this research has been useful in segmenting the international tourist market based on tourist psychology and behavior. Some of this research has been useful in the design of tourism destination marketing websites. And some of this research has been useful in extending the economic benefits of international tourism to rural development initiatives as well as natural resource conservation initiatives.    

All in all, research is a fun way for me to address my curiosities and to learn more about topics that interest me.

What are you hoping to accomplish?

I simply want to create knowledge that people find interesting and useful. Specifically, I try to create knowledge that everyday people can use to improve their health and well being. Likewise, I try to create knowledge that professionals across many park, recreation and tourism related agencies can use to improve the leisure services they provide. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

An old friend in the National Park Service once told me, "find a job that you love and you won't feel like you're working." That's pretty good advice. And it is what led me to a career focused on parks, recreation, natural resource conservation and tourism. It’s why I am able to be a productive researcher - it's fun. It’s advice I try to pass on to students as well, which is why so many wind up in careers they find deeply enjoyable and satisfying. 

Who is someone you admire, and why?

I admire LeBron James. He has done so much for Akron and NE Ohio more generally. I drive by the "I Promise School" all the time on the way to my parents home in Akron. I always marvel at it. LeBron shows that basketball, like leisure more generally, can be more than a simple pastime. It can be a tool for tremendous social and economic good. Thanks LeBron!

Do you have any skills or talents most people don’t know about?

Well, back in the late 1980s, I rapped on the mic at a Public Enemy concert in Cleveland to great applause. After that, Public Enemy went on to be inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame while my skills on the mic returned to obscurity. I probably have many other hidden skills and talents as well. I'm just waiting for the right time to reveal them.   

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I love being with my family. We enjoy traveling together and have been to many amazing places. Right now I am coaching my youngest boy's soccer team and that is lots of fun. Accepting new challenges like that keeps me on my toes. 

Of course hanging out with friends and sharing home cooked food is always great. 

When I need alone time, I try to teach myself guitar, read books, and just let my mind wander. It usually takes me somewhere good.  

What does it mean to you to be included in the top 2% in your field?

It means that I have a lot to be thankful for. I'm thankful for everyone who contributed to this research over the years, including students. First and foremost on that list of people to thank is Dr. Jacob Barkley who is an outstanding Professor here at Kent State. It means that this research has had a significant global impact. That is an incredible achievement and I am proud that my colleagues and I achieved it together. 
 

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