Next Gen Essayist on Activating Students Through Rec

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I am a senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, majoring in Recreation Administration with a Business minor. I work as a program assistant and lead building manager for guest services at the Wellness Center on campus.

Drake Langley is a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is pursuing a Master’s Degree and begins a graduate assistantship at Utah State University this fall.Drake Langley is a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is pursuing a Master’s Degree and begins a graduate assistantship at Utah State University this fall.

After graduating from UNO, I plan on working inside campus recreation as a graduate assistant in the facilities, memberships or fitness departments. I'll be going to graduate school to study Recreation Administration or Instructional Leadership with a concentration in Student Affairs. My dream job is to work in Student Affairs via campus recreation and wellness. Through campus rec I've realized that my purpose is to work with students in developing a future for them in and around recreation.

Before I graduated from high school, I found purpose in campus recreation. The reason I chose UNO wasn't for academics, a food court or sports teams — it was because I loved the campus gym. Once I heard I could work there, I was quick to apply and I had a job before my freshman year. Fast forward three years, and I'm still working inside campus recreation, and I'm constantly told I need to take a vacation. What most people don't realize is that the reason I don't leave the wellness center is because I feel like it is my solace. I always feel that if I ever need to feel at home, I'll go to work. Without campus recreation, I wouldn't have a career, a network of career professionals, personal development opportunities, or a vision of what I can offer future generations of students.

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Through almost four years in campus recreation, I've learned that there are plenty of people like myself at UNO whose purpose is getting students involved in recreation. Becoming a state student leader in NIRSA has shown me that recreation extends all over the country and that related opportunities are endless. Working in rec allows you to associate with athletes, the general public, architects, the fitness industry and so much more. You can be a visionary, a hands-on worker or manager, and you'll be able to find a career in campus recreation or even athletics.

My career path of working with students wouldn't have started without campus recreation. Working in wellness left such a great impact on me that I changed my major to Recreation Administration. I was then able to enjoy schooling because everything I was studying pertained to the work I love. Likewise, studying recreation has only pushed me to pursue and promote working with and inside campus recreation to my peers.

Most of my personal development in college has come through campus recreation. I can still remember writing an essay during my freshman year expressing my frustrations with just "folding hand towels." Three years later, and I am handling campus rec programs using Fusion software, overseeing onboarding and training, scheduling and advising my peers, and creating a digital training website for my department.

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I have to give all my thanks to my direct supervisor, Angelica Jensen. I have grown because she is someone who is hands-on in creating a vision for myself and others, and she believes in me. That belief is something I want to reciprocate to the future student workers I hope to oversee.

Our professional staff here at UNO does more than just develop students. Some staff are constantly looking for ways to provide new amenities to students. Throughout the years, our fitness director's ability to listen to students has led to more equipment, machines and exercise classes. His ability to ask what can be better and enact change based on that input is a reflection of what campus rec professionals should strive for.

But change should involve more than just physical wellness. It should encompass recovery, restoration and stability in mental, emotional and financial health — as much if not more than physical health. Students need to understand that they should maintain healthy lives throughout college and beyond. Providing on-campus counseling, nutritional expertise, and accessibility and health services shouldn't be a rarity. Campus recreation facilities should strive to enable stories like mine. At the end of the day, that's why campus recreation exists: to provide a home and a sustainable lifestyle for students.

This article originally appeared in the July | August 2020 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Finding solace and feeling at home in campus recreation." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.


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