The Final Exam is your chance to get advice and insights from experts in the industry. For the March/April 2022 issue, Campus Rec spoke with D.J. Preston, the director of Recreation and Wellness at Radford University.
1. How did you get started in the industry?
A football injury led to the beginning of my campus recreation journey. I needed an outlet since I would no longer play football. I joined Rec Sports and worked my first job as an intramural sports official. Like most, I never envisioned working full-time in collegiate recreation, but thanks to some excellent student developers, I was given a chance and took advantage of it.
2. How would you go about describing campus recreation at Radford University?
We are collaborators, we are helpers and we are advocates. The work we do is about expanding capacity and improving quality of life. I always tell students to do the stuff you love. It is always our goal to provide as many opportunities that our skillsets and budgets allow to get students involved in the activities they enjoy.
3. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced throughout your career?
Fall 2020. Radford University reopened for in-person learning. This was certainly one of the biggest challenges in my career. Maintaining student staff levels, prioritizing well-being, and committing to all the needs and policies to ensure safety took a toll on many. Leading through the pandemic while managing expectations, fears and uncertainty was a heavy lift.
4. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
I take a lot of pride in the staff — student and professional — that I’ve been fortunate to lead over my career. It’s always rewarding to see people you’ve worked with excel in their careers. I’ve been fortunate to work with very creative and outstanding people to see many projects and visions come to life.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other recreation professionals might benefit from?
We spend a lot of time at work. Enjoy the work you do and the people you work with. Change is inevitable so embrace it. Create the life you want.
6. What is one fun fact about yourself others may not know?
I love music. I’ve been a church musician in some capacity since I was five years old. I play drums and piano by ear.