While working at Centenary College from 2006-2008 I worked hard to build a foundation to build a Recreation department rather than just the intramurals programming I was hired for. When I started, the college had a new gymnasium and recreation center under construction but vision was to offer open recreation, intramural programming, trips and special events. Outside of my colleagues, I needed some help.
After doing some research, I came across NIRSA (National Intramural Recreation Sports Association), the professional development and governing body of collegiate Recreation professionals. Luckily, in February of 2007, I discovered Rutgers University was hosting a NJ NIRSA State Workshop. I registered myself and five of our student employees and this was the start of my professional involvement in NIRSA. I met several colleagues like Diana Clauss from Rider, Jess Ward from Rutgers, and John Mazurri from Stevens Tech.
Less than a year later I attended the Region 1 conference in Ithaca, NY where I brought four of our student leaders who were really interested in going into campus recreation. We got up there early to attend the pre-conference Student Lead-On portion, and I had registered all of us for the mentor-mentee program. Even though I was a professional staff, I wanted a chance to meet some other colleagues so I was excited to participate as well. That afternoon I found out I was paired with Jess Ward, the Intramural Coordinator at Rutgers.
Jess’ welcoming personality and genuine effort to introduce me to other RU alumni that were now in the field and other intramural professionals up and down the east coast has been invaluable to my career. I decided at that conference to volunteer and join a committee to help carry out the 2008 state workshop at Rider University. I had a chance to work with Jess and some other great colleagues while presenting my first workshop. At this point, I was continuing to grow our programming at Centenary while growing my network.
A short time later, I reached out to Jess about an open position within Rutgers Recreation. I applied to the job in December of 2007 but didn’t hear anything until May 2008 when I was invited for an interview for the Special Events position. It turns out, after talking with Jess, she kept me in mind and helped get my resume to the top. Long story short, I interviewed and didn’t get the position. It was ok - I got some experience and got my foot in the door meeting more professionals.
I was sure to send thank you notes to everyone I met and a few months later, I was told there was an opening for Intramural Coordinator. It turns out this was Jess’s position as she was leaving to work at Princeton University. When she was leaving, she was asked if she knew of any candidates she would recommend and she brought my name up again to her boss Paul Fischbach.
That saying, “everything happens for a reason” may be a cliche, but I went on two interviews and landed a job in August 2008 at Rutgers Recreation as their Intramural Coordinator. I owe a sincere thanks to Jess Ward for always helping me out. I remember the day I accepted, my new boss Paul called me that Friday evening to welcome me aboard - a nice gesture I still think about today.
Paul has had an influential role in helping me find my niche as he shares the same values in student development. He always looked out for me and to this day he still introduces me to anyone he knows at Rutgers. Even though I was working as the Intramural Coordinator it was an avenue to facilitate student leadership, development and offer innovative programming to the university population. Paul gave me the opportunity to be hands-on and foster a community on the Livingston campus.
Taking this job and leap into a large public university and department has been one of the best transitions that set up the next few posts in my series.
How They Inspired Me:
In this new role at Rutgers, I was able to combine my passions of programming and development with my knowledge of leadership to facilitate a community where college students could learn real-world skills. Paul always said that we helped develop and bring students together and that recreation just got in the way.
What They Taught Me:
The one thing I learned from both Paul and Jess is to always have a caring and genuine personality and help be a connector.
Take advantage of mentor-mentee programs, and professional development opportunities. Rutgers University gets about 200-250 applicants per job opening in the student affairs division. If you don’t know someone it can be very difficult to get your foot in the door. That being said, don’t just network to network. My relationship with Jess wasn’t around getting some job, it was about learning how to build my program at Centenary bigger and better. Authenticity and integrity when connecting with others is critical.