Bynum Boley, an assistant professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, educates students and conducts research on recreation and tourism that helps communities foster economic development and a better quality of life for residents.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I have been fortunate to go to school in some of the best college towns in the country (Athens, Georgia; Missoula, Montana; and Blacksburg, Virginia). I am a UGA alumnus with dual bachelor degrees in forestry and natural resources recreation and tourism. For graduate school, I attended both the University of Montana and Virginia Tech, where I earned my master’s and Ph.D. respectively.
I am currently an assistant professor of natural resources recreation and tourism in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. My responsibilities are broad and include research, teaching, service and mentoring graduate students. My research and teaching focus on sustainable tourism development and how the unique natural and cultural resources of communities can be protected, packaged and marketed to jointly increase sustainability, resident quality of life and a community’s competitiveness as a tourism destination.
When did you come to UGA, and what brought you here?
I came to UGA in 2014 following a postdoctoral research position at Virginia Tech in the department of hospitality and tourism management. What brought me here is an interesting story. I had always wanted to return to UGA as a professor in Warnell’s natural resources recreation and tourism program, but I never thought it would be possible based on the few faculty positions available in the program. When the position was initially announced, the emphasis was on hiring a full professor with more experience under his or her belt. Long story short, a second position opened up while my application was being reviewed, and I now have my dream job. I will never forget the phone call about the job interview because I received it while driving home from the hospital with our firstborn. I did not answer the call, of course, as you are paranoid the first time you drive with your newborn in the car.
What are your favorite courses and why?
My two favorite courses to teach are “Ecotourism and Sustainable Development” and “Resource Management and Entrepreneurship.” These are upper-level major classes that are small in size and designed to engage students on the most pertinent issues in our field. The classes provide a chance for me to get to know students on a more personal level. I love taking the students on annual field trips to Dahlonega and Woody’s Mountain Bikes. These experiential learning opportunities provide students with a chance to see firsthand the concepts learned in the classroom working in actual tourism destinations and businesses. It is very rewarding to see students engage with the professionals in the field and watch them begin to master the course material and see how it applies to management on the ground.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
I am fortunate that the highlight of my career happens twice a year. I thoroughly enjoy watching my students graduate. It is wonderful to be able to celebrate their accomplishments and all that they had to overcome to walk across that stage. I also really enjoy meeting their families and seeing how proud they are of their sons and daughters. Publishing academic articles with students is also incredibly rewarding.
How do you describe the scope and impact of your research or scholarship to people outside of your field?
The nice thing about my field of “travel and tourism” is that almost everyone has been a tourist at some point. This makes it pretty easy to explain what I do and why it is important. I usually start the conversation by engaging them on why they travel and then use their own travels to explain how my research helps communities protect and package the special things about their community in a way that provides economic development and a better quality of life for residents.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
I will start with how students have inspired my research. One of my proudest research ideas actually came from one of my First-Year Odyssey Seminar classes on “Travel and Tourism around the World.” Each student in that class is required to present a current issue pertinent to tourism, and a student happened to present on an article titled “Are selfies influencing where we choose to go on vacation?” A light bulb immediately went off, and I decided to develop a survey measure to test whether or not the anticipated “social return” from travel influences people’s decisions on where they go. We tested it in regard to Americans traveling to Cuba, and it does, in fact, predict their intention to travel to a degree.
Research also inspires my teaching because I feel like I am able to share the latest and greatest findings with my students. Being involved in research also helps build credibility with the students, since they can see how you are intimately involved in studying the topic.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
I hope students leave my classes with the feeling that I cared about them while also pushing them to perform at their highest ability. I also hope that I instill in them a passion for sustainable tourism development and the ability to address the complexity of real-world recreation and tourism management.
Describe your ideal student.
My ideal student is not necessarily the easiest student to teach. My ideal student is one who respectfully challenges me in the classroom. The students that have been able to do this not only have a mastery of the course material but elevate the entire class to a new level of learning through their thought-provoking questions.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is …
My favorite thing to do on campus is to run on the trails behind the intramural fields. We have such a beautiful forest back there, and it is only a short jog from the heart of campus. I also love any excuse to walk through North Campus.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to …
… travel and spend time with my wife and two sons outdoors. Our favorite trips usually consist of a blend of hiking and exploring mountain cultures around the world.
Community/civic involvement includes …
… serving as a deacon at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. I enjoy being able to help share Christ with people in a tangible way that helps take care of their financial and physical needs.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
My favorite book is “Desert Solitaire” by Edward Abbey. I like the book for multiple reasons. First, Abbey is a great writer and does a good job of transporting the reader into the environment of the American Southwest. Second, it is a collection of short stories, which makes it easy to pick up and read when I have few minutes to spare. My favorite chapter is the one on “Tukuhnikivats, Island in the Sky.” The chapter summarizes a great adventure that I can imagine being a part of.