In Two Places at Once

two campuses

It’s difficult to expect the second of anything to be as good as the original — the same can be said for campus rec facilities. It’s quite a challenge to translate the vision, passion and mission of the original location to a new area with a different student body to serve.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), however, has found a way to deliver an excellent campus recreation experience on two campuses — Edinburg and Brownsville — over 60 miles apart.

To gain a better perspective on how UTRGV University Recreation (UREC) is able to achieve positive results on two campuses, we spoke to Kimberly Rottet, the director of campus recreation at UTRGV.

CR: What are the challenges of managing campus recreation across two campuses?

KR: By far our biggest challenge is equity in programming — what we offer on the Edinburg campus we try very hard to offer the same program, service or opportunity on the Brownsville campus. We are currently operating out of a gymnasium, but also with the shared use of the Texas Southmost College Recreation Center. All UTRGV Brownsville enrolled students have access to that facility with equal usage requirements. However, with differing missions and sometimes facility policies, it’s not always feasible to make equitable offerings a reality. That just means we as a staff need to be extra diligent to do so when we can.

CR: How do you maintain the same level of student engagement on both campuses?

KR: We are lucky at UTRGV — the Brownsville student body is actively engaged. However, they are in a community almost 70 miles away. The Brownsville community itself can at times be different in culture, what is celebrated, etc. As programmers, it is important for us to take these unique differences into consideration. While our mentality is equity in programming, that may not always hold up because of the — for lack of a better word — personality of the Brownsville campus. And as programmers, we program to the needs of the community. These needs can vary from campus to campus. While I am still new to my role here at UTRGV, I have been impressed with attendance thus far for events. If the student body believes there to be significant differentiation in the programmatic and service offerings to the Brownsville campus, they will let us know.

CR: Any tips for other campus rec departments managing more than one campus?

KR: Be sure to plan for the things that may not be the first things you think of. Even though we have been multi-campus for three years now, we sometimes have to iron out the kinks of technology to ensure the Brownsville staff are able to “attend” all our meetings. Several of us on staff travel to and from Brownsville consistently, requiring a considerable about of planning for the use of a fleet of vehicles. When just a few people travel, it doesn’t seem like travel to and from would be too big of a deal. But when the majority of department directors have dual campus duties, and the pool of individuals vying for use of university vehicles increases, it can become a travel and logistical issue.

Engage with the staff in various ways on the second campus. From my perspective, it takes a special type of professional to be able to work autonomously on that second campus. Our department senior leadership team travels frequently enough that someone is on the Brownsville campus at least once or twice a week, but that’s because we are intentional about planning schedules that way. But just as the student body deserves our attempt to provide equitable programming and services, our staff on the Brownsville campus also deserves the same levels of attention and development.

Engage with the student government association (SGA). At different times throughout my first year at UTRGV, I have had some great conversations with the Brownsville students representing that campus student body. I found they have a solid understanding of the pulse of the Brownsville campus consistently. I think we can use that to our advantage through collaborative projects or events, or to assist in communicating messages to the student community on the Brownsville campus.

Finally, engage with your student newspaper or media. I mentioned if the student body perceives a lack of equity in the programs they will let us know. It is important for us to remember to get ahead of situations and take a proactive role in the education piece. Our student media can be of great assistance in this capacity.

Bobby Dyer
Bobby is a staff writer at Peake Media. Reach him at bobby@peakemedia.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *