Dr. Sönmez is Associate Dean for Faculty, Research and Graduate Programs at UCF College of Business. She holds a doctorate from Penn State University, a Master’s degree from Clemson University, and a B.B.A. from Bernard Baruch College/City University of New York.
Her research is interdisciplinary and applied and delves broadly into tourism management and the nexus of leisure, work and health. Her work has evolved through several phases, beginning with a focus primarily on the management and mitigation of impacts of various natural or human-caused tourism crises. Her research later broadened to include health risks of vacation travel as well as other forms of population mobility—namely occupational. Dr. Sönmez’s current work focuses on the health-promotive role of vacations, including links between US labor policy, mandated vacations, and public health; occupational health of tourism and accommodation sector workers; travel and tourism health risk management and mitigation; and links between health, risk, and destination sustainability. She has recently begun incorporating complexity theory into her work by using a systems science approach to deconstruct the complex and dynamic nature of her research questions.
Dr. Sönmez currently serves as PI on a research grant funded by the NIH/NIMHHD, titled Delineating Hispanic Immigrants’ Allostatic Load Dynamics through Simulation Modeling, with an interdisciplinary team of leading scholars. The study draws on syndemics, systems science, and dynamic simulation modeling methodologies to effectively capture the underlying, dynamically-complex etiology of Hispanic immigrant worker health disparities, focusing on the hospitality and tourism sector, with potential to lead to impactful structural policy interventions.
Her work has appeared at a wide spectrum of conferences (e.g., TTRA, I-CHRIE, NRPA, Active Living Research, European Conference on Travel Medicine, APHA, World Congress on Public Health), as well as in journals both within and outside her field (e.g., Annals of Tourism Research, Journal of Travel Research, Tourism Management, Thunderbird International Business Review, Occupational Medicine, International Journal of STDs & AIDS, AIDS Education and Prevention, Ethnography), in addition to three edited books (Women as Producers and Consumers of Tourism in Developing Regions, Mediterranean Islands and Tourism Development, and Population Mobility and Infectious Disease) and various book chapters.
She has worked in academic and professional settings in four countries, and with students of diverse backgrounds from Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and European nations. Prior to joining the College of Business at UCF, Dr. Sönmez held various faculty and administrative positions at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management (2015-2018), the University of North Carolina Greensboro (2009-2015), Zayed University, U.A.E. (2008-2009), European University of Cyprus (2006-2008), Emory University’s School of Medicine (2002-2006), Arizona State University (1995-2002), and Penn State University (1994-1995). Before beginning her academic career, she worked at the Hilton International Istanbul and the T.B.W.A. and Leo Burnett advertising agencies.