University of Florida

Svetlana Stepchenkova


Svetlana Stepchenkova, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the Department of Tourism, Recreation, and Sport Management at the University of Florida. The area of her research interests is destination management, marketing, and branding, with the focus on quantitative assessment of destination image using qualitative data. She is especially interested in influence of media messages on image formation, and destination image as a factor in explaining destination choice.
For three years Svetlana has been leading a three-year international project “Capacity Building Partnership to Improve Tourism Education, Research, and Industry Outreach: University of Florida, USA and the State University of Nizhni Novgorod, Russian Federation” sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.

Lori Pennington-Gray


Lori Pennington-Gray, Ph. D., began her appointment in the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management in 1999. Since then, she has served as an Associate Professor and also as the Director of the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute from 2004-2007. She is currently the Director of the Tourism Crisis Management Institute. In addition, she is affiliated with the School of Natural Resources & Environment and the Warrington College of Business. Dr. Pennington-Gray has been involved in numerous research projects in the state of Florida and other areas in the U.S. Additionally; she has completed research projects in several countries such as Canada, Mexico, Korea, South Africa, Russia, Peru and the Caribbean.

Overall, her research program’s common theme is tourism planning and development from a demand and supply perspective. Her other major research initiative is in tourism crisis management. Her main aim is to provide destinations with research findings, which enable them to make more informed policy choices and better market their destinations. She operates from a sustainable tourism paradigm where policy is recommended which mitigates the environmental and social impacts to the host destination while improving the economic impact to the host society. She has worked with several stakeholders including non-profits, private sector businesses, public sector businesses and governments, as well as residents.

She has consulted with several destination marketing organizations, designing research to identify front-end positioning and results-oriented evaluation. Some examples of past state-wide projects include: Examining the Contribution of Historic Properties to the Quality of Life for Floridians and Visit Florida – Festivals and Tourism Impacts. Dr. Pennington-Gray has conducted visitor study research for Alachua, Marion, Columbia, Pasco and Indian River Counties and the coalition of counties marketing under the brand “Original Florida.” Other DMO research includes: St. John’s County Heritage Tourism Study; Alachua County Destination Audit; Marion County, Destination Visioning; and Economic Impact for Gainesville Arts Festivals and Gainesville Sports Organizing Committee.  In addition, her research has been on understanding the current state of affairs in various sectors in the industry’s planning and preparedness. Currently, she leads the Tourism Crisis Management Institute which was established in 2007 within the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute. The aim of the Institute is to assist the tourism industry in developing comprehensive tourism crisis management initiatives with respect to crisis reduction, readiness, response and recovery.

Dr. Pennington-Gray is a member of the The International Ecotourism Society, Travel and Tourism Research Association, World Travel and Tourism Council, DMAI, AH&LA, and USTA.


Brijesh Thapa


Dr. Brijesh Thapa is an associate professor in theDepartment of Tourism, Recreation, & Sport Management & the Director of the Center for Tourism Research & Development.

Michael Gorham


Michael Gorham is an Associate Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Florida, and Associate Editor of Russian Review and Russian Language Journal. He teaches language at all levels, as well as courses in literature, culture, and the Russian mass media. He received his Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Stanford University. Gorham has published a number of articles on the intersection of language, literature, and politics in Russia in the 1920s and 1930s. His book on this topic, Speaking in Soviet Tongues: Language Culture and the Politics of Voice in Revolutionary Russia (Northern Illinois University Press, 2003), was selected as an “Outstanding Academic Book” by Choice Magazine and won the 2004 award for “Best Book in Literary and Cultural Studies” from the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL). His current research (with articles published in Russian ReviewAb Imperio, and a number of edited volumes) explores related issues of language, politics, and national identity in late- and post-Soviet Russia. External research grants and fellowships have come from such institutions as the Social Science Research Council, the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, The American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR) and The International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX).


James Goodwin


Dr. James (Frank) Goodwin joined the faculty of Russian Studies at UF in 2003. He teaches courses on Russian language and Russian literary prose of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His recently published book Confronting Dostoevsky’s Demons: Anarchism and the Specter of Bakunin in Twentieth-Century Russia (Peter Lang/ Middlebury Studies in Russian Language and Literature, 2010) explores the cultural and political significance of Dostoevsky’s novel in light of the Russian revolution.


Charles Lane 

Charles W. Lane is from Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Miami, Florida.  A child of Pan American Airways, he has been involved in some aspect of travel and tourism his entire life, leading, ultimately, to a doctorate in tourism studies from the University of Florida. Dr. Lane’s minor area of study was distance education. He has developed a series of tourism education classes for the online environment. He is currently teaching three distance education courses at the University of Florida, and is directing online course development for international grant projects.

In addition to tourism education, Dr. Lane’s scholarly interests extend to rural and agricultural tourism. He has served on the Statewide Scientific Advisory Board of the Florida Association of Dairy Farmers (2009-2010).

In an attempt to bridge the gap between tourism researchers and practitioners, Dr. Lane has created and is the editor of TRiP Reports©: Tourism Research in Practice, a research-to-practice blog reporting results of tourism studies as news stories for industry practitioners.


Elaine McLaughlin


McLaughlin is currently a visiting professor in department of Tourism, Recreation and Sports Management at the University of Florida. McLaughlin who served as executive director of the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel Visitor and Convention Bureau for over 12 years has an impressive local, state and national record. Twice named as one of the leading women in tourism by Travel Agent Magazine, McLaughlin led the Bureau in innovative programs that fully integrated the tourism industry with the overall goals of County government. McLaughlin began her career in local government management. She has had over 20 years experience working with budget, finance, transportation, tourism, and community development.

Cynthia Willming 


Cynthia Willming, Ph.D., joined UF in 2009 as an Adjunct Faculty Member.  Willming came to UF from Bethune Cookman College where she was chair of the Recreation Administration Program. Willming was also an assistant professor of Marketing and Leisure Service Delivery at California State University, Chico.

Willming’s area of research in tourism studies focused on the leisure travel behaviors of African Americans and their perceptions of racial discrimination while traveling for pleasure.  The focus of this research has been to examine perceived racial discrimination based on sociological factors.


Galina Simanovskaya


Galina was born in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. In 2006 after graduating from high school she got admitted to Nizhny Novgorod state University of Lobachevsky, Department of International Relations majoring in International Relation. Galina focused on international security and studied extremism and extremist organizations. She was a coordinator for Nizhny Novgorod International Model UN throughout 2010-2011. She graduated with her Bachelor’s in 2011 and got admitted to University of Florida (USA) Master’s Program in Recreation, Parks and Tourism. She graduated with thesis “Destination Nizhny Novgorod, Russia through the eyes of domestic tourists: destination performance, risk perception and post-visitation behavior”.  Throughout her Master’s Program she worked as a Graduate Assistant on the Project “Capacity Building Partnership to Improve Tourism Education, Research, and Industry Outreach: University of Florida, USA and Nizhny Novgorod State University, Russia”.




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