Graduate Student Spotlight: Andrew Lacanienta

What is your area of study?

Andrew Lacanienta is an RPTS graduate student
pursuing his PhD in Recreation, Park and Tourism
Sciences at Texas A&M. He has concentrated his area of study on experience design. This area of study has led him to explore recreation and leisure experiences and focuses on creating more memorable experiences in a broad variety of fields. In the past, he has studied
experiences as they related to work settings, as well as experience in relation to families and youth
development. He is currently expanding his research interests to include experiences related to live action role play.

Why did you choose the RPTS department at Texas A&M?

Andrew attended Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in
Experience Industry Management and a Masters in Youth and Family Recreation. During his time at BYU, he attended several Experience Industry
Management Conferences where he was introduced to Dr. Ellis, a professor from Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M.  Andrew’s advisor, Matt Durden, recommended that he apply to the RPTS Department at Texas A&M. Like Andrew, Dr. Ellis also had an interest in experience design, and because of Andrew’s focus in this area, RPTS at Texas A&M became his new home.

How have you gotten involved at Texas A&M?

While at Texas A&M, Andrew has gotten involved in many areas. He currently teaches RPTS 201, “The Foundations of Recreation, Park and Tourism,” which he enjoys immensely. He also works with the RPTS Aggie Reps, a student organization that represents the RPTS Department at a variety of events and conferences. In
addition, Andrew provides consulting services to undergraduate
students on how to improve experiences in different situations and settings. He has attended many conferences in which he has given presentations on his area of study, and he is currently working with Dr. Ellis to research different aspects of experience design.

What are some lessons you have learned at
Texas A&M that will help you in your future

One of the biggest lessons that Andrew mentioned was that “balance is key.” He described how there needs to be a separation between home life and work in order to avoid exhaustion and burn out. To maintain this balance,
Andrew is intentional about including leisure time in his schedule. He bikes to work and schedules times to go rock climbing during the week. He also leaves his computer at work, which forces him to focus on other things when he is home. This allows him to be refreshed on both ends and gives him better focus.

Another lesson Andrew has learned is the importance of giving back to those who have invested in you. He
discussed how so many individuals in the department had invested time and effort into his education and he has learned how important it is to invest his own time in giving back to the department and the surrounding community.

Finally, Andrew discussed how he has learned that stress is what you make of it. Stress is a choice, and it should not govern everything you do. By prioritizing, staying on top of things, and taking everything one step at a time, stress can be avoided and will not be enabled to rule your life.

Where do you see yourself going in your future career?

From the beginning, Andrew has had a desire to teach. He enjoys working with students and would like to become a professor, mentor students, and possibly even provide consultation services for businesses on how they can improve customer experiences.

Upon graduation, he would like to return to BYU and teach in their Department of Experience Design and Management because their curriculum so closely aligns with his area of study. He also has family ties to the area and would like to return upon completion of his PhD. However, he is keeping his options open and will consider his opportunities when the time comes.

Do you have any advice for future students?

Andrew’s advice for undergraduate students was to explore. He suggested taking a variety of classes to get a feel for what one’s interests are and what one likes to do. He also emphasized the importance of talking to a wide variety of people in one’s area of interest to determine what they actually do on the job and if their career sounds like a good fit.

For graduate students, Andrew recommended treating the
degree like a job. He suggested working like the degree was an eight to five job and then returning home and leaving work at the office to maintain the balance between home life and work life.

For all students, Andrew emphasized the importance of sharing your skills and talents with others. Share what you know and what you are good at to encourage others and support them as they pursue their goals. Who knows? Perhaps they will one day do the same for you.


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