NAI "Fellow" Award

Hooper Photo

Dr. Jon Hooper, Professor of Recreation, Hospitality, and Parks Management, has been awarded the “Fellow Award” for the National Association for Interpretation (NAI). The Fellow Award is the most prestigious and highest honor given a professional by NAI. It exemplifies career achievement in guiding the environmental interpretation profession through training, mentoring, writing, front-line interpretation, and management.

“Environmental interpretation” refers to communication processes and products that forge emotional and intellectual connections between people and their natural and cultural resources. It occurs in non-formal settings such as parks, zoos, nature centers, museums, and aquaria. Interpretation involves simplifying complicated ideas and sharing them in an easy-to-understand, highly-palatable manner.

Interpreters use both personal approaches (such as guided tours, talks, and demonstrations) and non-personal approaches (such as displays, brochures, videos, and self-guided trails) to help explain key concepts about natural and cultural environments.

The mission of NAI is to inspire leadership and excellence to advance natural and cultural history interpretation as a profession. It provides training and networking opportunities for interpreters. NAI strives to meet the needs of interpretation professionals in North America as well as worldwide. Members include guides, rangers, managers, curators, interpretive specialists, and people who design exhibits for visitor centers, museums, and other interpretive sites.

One of the criteria of the Fellow award is that the recipient must provide strong support for NAI. Jon has been involved with NAI activities at the national, sectional, and regional level and with its Western Interpreter’s Association (WIA) predecessor for a combined total of more than 35 years. Perhaps Jon’s most noteworthy involvement has been in giving presentations on a variety of topics at national and regional conferences. In fact, Jon was the first speaker to present a webinar at NAI’s national conference. His topic was “Applying Negotiation Tricks of the Trade.”

Dr. Alan Leftridge, who is also a NAI Fellow, noted the following in his letter of support for Jon’s nomination: Dr. Hooper’s fame as a presenter comes from his talent to interpret difficult subject matter in a knowledgeable and entertaining manner. Some additional examples of titles of presentations Jon has given are included below:

“Death! Interpreting the Myths and Misconceptions of Wildlife Survival”

“Interpreting the Animal Rights Controversy: Is a Revolutionary or Evolutionary Approach Best?"

“PowerPoint Pitfalls”

“Designing Great Presentation Graphics”

“Disarming Our Caveman Communicator”

Jon has also presented a variety of workshops on interpretive topics including “Designing the Self-Guided Trail” and “A Primer on Interpretation: From Basics to Bitchers.”

Jon has also written a variety of articles on interpretive topics including “Animal Welfarists and Rightists: Insights into an Expanding Constituency for Wildlife Interpreters” and “Interpreting the Myths and Misconceptions of Wildlife Survival.” For several years, he wrote a column called “PowerPoint Pitfalls” for NAI’s “Legacy” and “The Interpreter” magazines.

In addition, Jon has conducted interpretive research including research titled “Interpretation as a Management Tool: A National Study of Interpretive Professionals’ Views” and “Interpretive Services on Wildlife Refuges: A Market Survey of Californians’ Preferences.”  

Jon was a member of the promotions committee for the 1998 NAI Region 9 conference held at Whiskeytown Environmental School near Redding. He currently serves as Secretary for the College and University Academics (CUA) section of NAI. This section focuses on research, evaluation, and other scholarly aspects of the field of interpretation.

In addition, Jon has served as a consultant for interpretive display and self-guided trail design projects with the USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and California Department of Fish and Game. He has been a consultant and trainer for the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area for many years.

As a professor for 35 years in the Department of Recreation, Hospitality, and Parks Management at CSUC, Dr. Hooper has influenced a multitude of students in his “Environmental Interpretation and Communication” (RECR 444) and “Methods and Materials for Environmental Education” (RECR 448) courses. During the award nomination process, Colleen Bathe, Chief of Interpretation at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, stated that “Jon inspired his students in many ways.” Samantha Bell, Park Ranger at Muir Woods National Monument declared that “Jon's creativity, ingenuity, enthusiasm, passions, and high standards guided me to want to learn more.”

Jon was certified by NAI in 2003 as a Certified Interpretive Trainer (CIT). To obtain CIT status, an individual must pass tests on principles of interpretation and demonstrate their ability to train other interpreters in a professional manner. Jon was also given the “Educator of the Year” award by Region 9 of NAI in 1992.

Dr. Leftridge commented that he felt Jon is “…a professional interpreter of the first order” and that Jon “…has provided lifetime achievement in all of the criteria set forth for NAI Fellow.” 

The Fellow award will be formally presented to Jon on November 9, 2013 in Reno, NV at the NAI Awards Luncheon, which is part of NAI’s annual conference.