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Featured Profile: Sonja Wilhelm Stanis


Sonja Wilhelm Stanis

Dr. Sonja Wilhelm Stanis looks outside for answers.

Parks provide a place for adults and children to exercise and play – critical because rates of obesity and overweight have tripled since 1970. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the rates are higher in racially and ethnically diverse populations.

Wilhelm Stanis’ research looks at the role of parks and outdoor open spaces in promoting health and physical activity. She also has partnered with other researchers to examine how proximity and quality of city parks influence physical activity and park use. Wilhelm Stanis and her team have received national recognition for their work on how different races and ethnicities perceive the same park.

When comparing perceptions of blacks and Hispanic visitors versus white visitors attending the same park, the team found that blacks and Hispanics voice more fear that racial conflict will occur, are concerned that public transportation does not visit the park, and anticipate that they will not feel welcome. In addition to those concerns, Hispanic park-goers expressed more fear than whites that physical assault could occur at the park, gangs would come to the park and theft might happen.

In addition to this work, Wilhelm Stanis was a principal investigator on developing a comprehensive tool for evaluating park use and park characteristics. The tool has been widely used by the research community.

Dr. Sonja Wilhelm Stanis is associate professor and graduate emphasis area coordinator for the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine