Dan McCole

Dan McCole

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Associate Professor
Department of Community Sustainability


Dan McCole is an associate professor of tourism and sustainability in the Department of Community Sustainability.


  • B.A. - University of Massachusetts 
  • MBA - Michigan State University 
  • Ph.D. - University of Minnesota 

Dan McCole’s teaching, research and outreach focus on the role of natural resource and agricultural-based tourism in contributing to community sustainability. His work combines the foundations and principles of business and management systems with a deep understanding of the role leisure in peoples’ lives. As a social scientist, Dan brings together business fields of study (marketing, human resources, organizational development, finance and operations) with other social sciences related to the field of leisure (e.g., psychology, sociology and economics). Further, he uses research methods and analysis to bring a scientific approach to solving problems related to the development and management of tourism and recreation organizations. Some of his recent work involves wine tourism's role in rural community sustainability.

Dan’s Current and Recent Projects Include: 

A USDA funded project involving wine tourism in the northern United States. Initiatives include profiling tasting room visitors, understanding collaboration in the wine industry and wine tourism consumer behavior. 

A Sea Grant funded Integrated Assessment involving the coastal areas of Michigan’s Thumb region. The region is working collaboratively to find new ways of using its resources to attract tourists after the collapse of the Chinook Salmon fishery in Lake Huron.  

A project funded by Oakland County Parks that examines how various park attractions can contribute to a more sustainable community. The focus of the project thus far has been on attractions such as farmer’s markets, a greenhouse complex, nature-based education programs, a proposed off-road vehicle park and a heritage sports center.  

An impact assessment of the Grameen Foundation's Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) program in Uganda. The program aims to reduce poverty among Ugandan farmers by equipping model farmers with smart phones equipped with a database of agricultural information. These model farmers (CKWs) then act as liason’s between their neighbors and information about improved agricultural practices as well as market and weather conditions.  

A project funded by the International Joint Commission to explore the impact of lower water levels in the Upper Great Lakes (as a result of climate change). The focus of Dan’s research was on identifying sustainability indicators and providing a contextual narrative for coastal tourism and recreational boating in the Great Lakes.

Why the field of natural resources-based tourism and recreation? 

My connection to the field of natural resources-based tourism and recreation lies in its importance to the identification of a way of living that can be better sustained economically, environmentally and socio-culturally.


As an industry, leisure makes a significant impact on economies from local to global. Tourism and recreation creates jobs, contributes tax revenues and provides individuals and families with financial security. 


Natural resources-based tourism and recreation provides important incentives to protect and preserve our natural world. Our species has a deep connection to the natural world that is imprinted in our DNA, and if we want to continue to have meaningful experiences in nature, we will work to protect it (especially if we have economic incentive to do so). Moreover, research suggests that those who have positive experiences in the natural world are more likely to change their everyday behaviors in a way that better protects the environment.


Finally (and most importantly), my commitment to natural resources-based tourism and recreation comes from the role it plays in the quality human life.  Our leisure experiences in the natural world make our lives better by providing quality time with loved ones, helping us to develop and maintain our physical, emotional and spiritual health, and creating opportunities for escape, challenge, stress relief and adventure. 

Current Courses

  • Introduction to Travel and Tourism
  • Social Entrepreneurship and Community Sustainability
  • Program Evaluation