CSUS faculty spotlight: Dan McCole

Dr. McCole reflects on his scholarship and the most impactful part of his job, teaching and engaging with the thousands of MSU students that come through the CSUS program.



Dan McCole

Departmental Home:

Department of Community Sustainability


Associate Professor

What year did you join MSU?


Educational Background (undergraduate and graduate program):

University of Massachusetts: Double Major: German Literature and Management

Michigan State University: MBA in Marketing and Human Resources Management

University of Minnesota: Ph.D. in Education with emphasis in Parks, Recreation and Tourism


Boston, MA.

Field of study or area of interest:

My scholarship mostly focuses on the ways proper execution of business/management practices can improve quality of life and benefit communities by being applied to organizations that either provide leisure experiences, or exist to address social or environmental challenges.

Why did you choose to pursue your area of interest or field of study?

I don’t know that there was any one choice.  Like in most cases, my area of interest was the result of many decisions and opportunities throughout my life.  But one consistent themes is that I’ve always been interested in the power of good management practices, and think that organizations that aim to make the world a better place could benefit from better organizational execution.  Through my teaching and outreach, I hope to help people to become better at managing the organizations they lead (or will lead), and through my research, I aim to identify, understand, and explore solutions to problems that don’t have clear answers.

What is one exciting thing you’re currently working on?

I feel like everything I work on is exciting in some ways.  I’m proud to be part of efforts through MSU Extension and with the Tourism Industry Coalition of Michigan (TICOM) to help businesses and communities throughout the state investigate ways to be more inclusive and welcoming to all people. 

I also just finished writing a paper related to a program I’ve been part of in several African countries with partners from Ghana, Botswana, and Tanzania.  That program aims to drive job creation in sub-Saharan African by helping youth who participate in sport recognize that the skills they’ve been developing through sport, are the same skills needed to be successful entrepreneurs (e.g., resilience, communication, calculated risk taking, goal-setting, leadership, etc.).  In addition to helping students make this connection, the program provides basic entrepreneurship training with the goal of sparking future entrepreneurial behaviors or continued education.  We are hoping to expand that program into new formats and into more communities soon.

What’s the best part about your job?

Teaching has always been my favorite of the responsibilities of a professor.  I love interacting with students on a regular basis, and there is simply nothing more satisfying than helping a young person see something new in themselves or see something from a different perspective.  I also really enjoy that my work is always changing.  New projects, new students, new methods.  Constant change can be difficult, but it suits my personality.

What is one of the most impactful things you’ve done as a scholar at MSU?

That’s easy.  I’ve had the privilege to teach and influence thousands of MSU students.  I’d like to think I’ve done a good job of that but good or bad, I’m sure I’ve made more of an impact through my day to day interactions with students that I have through the research articles I’ve written. There is a lot of power and responsibility that comes with designing a curriculum, facilitating conversations, sharing stories, lecturing, and helping students grow during an important and incredibly stressful time of their lives.

Who is an influential or inspiring person in your life or career?

I’ve been inspired by too many to mention and have been fortunate to have had many people who have positively influenced me.  One who stands out is Dan Healey, my high school Latin teacher.  I am the youngest of four children, and we came from very modest means.  Nobody in my family had (or has) attended college, but we all worked hard.  I got my first paper routes when I was 11 years old, and soon after bought my own school lunches, clothes, etc.  I worked from that point on, and played sports regularly, but never focused on my school work.

Attending college was never something expected of me, nor anything I seriously considered. And my grades showed it.  I barely passed enough courses to graduate from high school, however, I earned four years of straight A’s in Latin.  My good grades in Latin were entirely because Dan Healey was the only teacher who saw something in me, and took the time to challenge and encourage me.  When I joined the Army right out of high school, Dan regularly wrote me letters, encouraging me to go to college after my 4-year commitment.  I did, and somewhere along the way realized he was right about my potential.  Now, many years later, I’m a university professor and know that Dan influences the kind of teacher I try to be.

When you’re not working, what do you do?

I love to travel and spending time in the outdoors (skiing, camping, rafting, cycling, etc.).  At home, I enjoy woodworking and doing projects around the house.  I’ve occasionally been known to act/sing in community theater productions.

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

Look for the joy in everything you do.

Do you have any thoughts or advice to share with students?

It’s important to have a destination, but only because it provides a reason for the journey.

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