Temple RT Faculty

Heather R. Porter, PhD, CTRS, FDRT

Creator and Director of RT Wise Owls | hporter@temple.edu

Heather is a professor in the RT program at Temple University and a fellow in the National Academy of Recreational Therapists. Her area of specialization is adult inpatient and outpatient physical rehabilitation. She’s received multiple teaching awards and has been recognized for her contributions to the field of RT by professional associations. She’s published four RT textbooks that are used by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation to write national exam questions, written multiple peer reviewed journal articles (many with students), given numerous regional and international presentations (many with students) and mentors RT students in manuscript development for publication. She is the Creator and Director of RT Wise Owls, the RT Wise Owls Research Lab, and the virtual RT Evidence-Based Practice Conference. She is the Chair for RT licensure in Pennsylvania, provides consultations on assessment, research methods, evidence-based practice, and RT curriculum development, serves on the College of Public Health’s Interprofessional Education Committee, and has served on regional and international dissertation committees.

Teaching Excellence: In 2024, Heather received Temple University’s Great Teacher Award, which is the highest teaching award at the university. She also published a new book, Nature Walking for Wellness, to educate others about the power of nature for health and wellbeing.

Heather Burket, MS, CTRS, CCLS

Heather is an instructor in the RT program at Temple University. She is a dually certified Therapeutic Recreation and Child Life Specialist who has worked in the field of pediatric therapeutic recreation and child life for over 15 years. She has been employed in a variety of pediatric service domains including medical daycare, step-down intensive care, acute rehabilitation, and behavioral health. She has had exposure to multiple acute care service arenas including but not limited to oncology, neurology, ICU, emergency care, and outpatient clinic services. Heather is a Past-President for the New Jersey Eastern Pennsylvania Therapeutic Recreation Association, has served as an NCTRC exam item writer, is the Delaware state representative on the Joint Taskforce for the exploration of RT licensure, is a past Peg-Connelly Scholarship Recipient of the American Therapeutic Recreation Association. She has additionally had training in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as well as Parent-Child Interaction Therapy.

Moving Interprofessional Care Forward: In Fall 2023, Heather initiated a recreational therapy group at Temple’s Speech-Language-Hearing Center to train students in recreational therapy practice and to address social-emotional skill development in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is a current exam writer for the Child Life Certification Commission.

Ann Dolloff, MEd, CTRS

Ann is an instructor in the RT program at Temple University. After 22 years directing RT services in community-based recreation and summer camp facilities for individuals with disabilities and their families in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, Ann returned to Temple University in 2004. She joined the Institute on Disabilities with Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology, the state AT Act Program, as assistant director, and a teaching adjunct in the RT program. In 2012, she accepted a full-time faculty position with the RT program. She has also taught at West Chester University and the University of New Hampshire. In addition to her passion for teaching, she is also a long-time instructor and coach in various adapted sports and still teaches adapted skiing every weekend with the PA Center for Adapted Sports at Camelback Mountain in the Poconos.

National recognition: In 2024, Ann received the Jim Winters Volunteer Award through Move United (formally known as Disabled Sports USA) for her work with the Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports. This is a prestigious award given to one person nationally who has longevity volunteering in adapted sports.

Bryan McCormick, PhD, CTRS, FDRT

Bryan is a professor in the RT program at Temple University. He is a past president of ATRA and is a fellow in the Academy of Leisure Sciences and the National Academy of Recreational Therapists. He is the author or co-author of over 60 peer-reviewed publications, more than 40 published research abstracts, 3 books and 15 book chapters. Working with co-investigators and graduate students, his group has successfully used a variety of data collection and data analysis techniques to capture the everyday experience of adults with severe mental illness. His current work is focused on translating basic findings on everyday life activities into field-based interventions to improve social functioning and community participation among adults with schizophrenia. He is a two-time recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research and lectures in psychiatric services in Serbia (2010) and Bosnia (2017). He has provided trainings in the US and internationally on the use of recreation as a form of psychosocial intervention in psychiatric rehabilitation. His teaching includes both undergraduate and graduate courses in the areas of RT, social psychology, and social science research methods.

Pushing RT Research Further: Bryan has new articles published in the American Journal of Recreational Therapy, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, and Therapeutic Recreation Journal. He was also the keynote speaker for the Recreational Therapy Student Summit and presented at the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services and College of Physicians of Philadelphia this Spring.

Brandon Snead, MS, CTRS

Brandon is an instructor in the RT program at Temple University. His professional background includes leading RT interventions for adults with mental health diagnoses, targeting motivation to participate in community based recreation. In this effort, he has developed and led biking and storytelling interventions, physical activity fairs, and worked with Temple University college students to facilitate Leisure Education conferences for consumers of mental healthcare. As an instructor, he aims to offer experiences that allow students to apply what they learn in classes in real-world settings.

Brandon often tells students that as recreational therapists, it’s our job to model a healthy leisure lifestyle. For him that means prioritizing the time he spends running, biking, traveling and playing with dogs! He captures it all with pictures that he posts to Instagram (@lifeinphilly).

Connection Guru: Brandon manages the Temple RT social media pages on FB and IG (follow us @templerectx), serves as faculty advisor for Temple RT Student Association (@rtstudentassocation) and works to develop relationships between Temple’s RT program and local high schools and community colleges.

Gretchen Snethen, PhD, CTRS

Gretchen is an associate professor in the RT program at Temple University and the associate director for the NIDILRR funded Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion. She has funded research projects focused on supporting parents with mental illnesses to engage in meaningful activities with their children; supporting young adults to explore and participate in community-based leisure; promoting transportation using public transportation and bike-share; and exploring environmental factors that contribute to physical activity and dietary patterns among individuals with serious mental illnesses who have or are at risk for Type 2 Diabetes.  She is the author or co-author on more than 45 journal publications; 30 research-to-practice manuals and toolkits; and more than 30 research abstracts. 

Translating Research: As part of her funding through NIDILRR, Gretchen also directs knowledge translation activities. She is leading efforts to develop micro-trainings, intentionally focuses on pairing stories of individuals with lived experience with data, and is leading a student knowledge translation lab. 

Gena Bell Vargas, PhD, CTRS

Gena Bell is an associate professor in the RT program at Temple University and the RT Graduate Program Director. Her clinical background includes work in an urban acute psychiatric inpatient setting with people experiencing symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, some dually diagnosed with substance abuse. She has also worked in inpatient physical rehabilitation, with persons that have experienced strokes, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and amputations. Gena has spent a considerable amount of time running around in the woods leading children and adults with and without disabilities in various team building activities and ropes courses. Her interest areas include efficacy research on RT practice, with a focus on exploring the use of motivational theory in increasing continued participation for all.

Aurora Verlin, MS, CTRS

Aurora is an instructor in the RT program at Temple University and the RT Undergraduate Program Director. Her clinical background is in geriatric care with a specialization in working with individuals with dementia. Prior to stepping into the instructor role at Temple, Aurora served dually as the director of therapeutic recreation and personal care administrator within a Life Care Community which included skilled nursing, short-term rehabilitation, personal care, memory support and independent living. She also has clinical experience in stand-alone nursing homes, personal care/memory support, adult day programs and senior centers. Aurora was one of the developers of the Engagement in Preferred ActivitieS Scale (EPASS), which aims to measure engagement of individuals with dementia in preferred leisure activities. She currently serves as the vice president/president-elect of the RT Foundation. Additionally, Aurora enjoys mentoring current RT students and recent alumni in presenting at local and national conferences. Her interests involve dementia, cognitive fitness, engagement related to quality of life, caregiving interventions, and improvement of RT curriculum.