The Final Exam is your chance to get advice and insights from experts in the industry. For the July/August issue, Campus Rec spoke with Monica Verity, the director of recreation at Wellesley College.
1. How did you get started in the industry?
I did not know much about campus recreation as an undergraduate student as I was a Division I lacrosse student athlete. My first job out of college was working at Boston College (BC) in the athletic director’s office as a secretary/receptionist for the three senior associate athletic directors. I was working full time, attending night classes to earn my masters degree and coaching the BC Club Women’s Lacrosse team. The director of intramural and club sports at the time passed the assistant manager of club sports job description across my desk one day and said, “This is a newly created position. I think you would really enjoy it.” I applied, interviewed and earned the job. That was my first job of many in campus recreation.
2. How would you go about describing recreation at Wellesley?
My first interaction with the students at Wellesley College was during First Year Orientation in 2013. When I spoke with students about recreation activities during that first encounter, a majority of the responses I received were, “Oh sports, that’s not for me,” “I’m not athletic” or “I don’t play sports.” After that experience, I made it my mission to help every single Wellesley College student foster a greater relationship with physical education, recreation and wellness activities.
3. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
I am most proud of the relationships I have cultivated doing the job I love. The mentors I have had, the colleagues I have worked with and the students I have had the privilege to mentor are the pieces of the fabric that put together the quilt of my life and make me love what I do every day.
4. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my career was the death of a student. The recreation department was in a time of transition where one of my colleagues, who worked as the facilities and operations assistant director, was serving as interim director of recreation. I was the most senior administrator with the most connection to the program and best suited to manage and assist the students through the difficult time. Calling the club sports president into my office and calling the very part time head club sports coach on the phone, informing them of the passing of a student, was one of the hardest things I think I have ever had to do in my career. Then coordinating an emergency meeting with the team and ensuring they had all the extremely important items like counseling staff, an athletic chaplain, coaches and support phone numbers to all the little things like tissues, water and a private room on campus to provide grieving space before the information went public was also challenging. I know what it is like to be a member of a team, and I felt a different connection with this group of students; I wanted to help them through this difficult time as best I could. I was the administrator who traveled on behalf of the college that supervised a bus of 50 students out of state to attend the family services. Seeing the grief and loss of someone so young and helping a team of students through that time was heart wrenching. I truly hope no administrator has to experience that process in his or her career.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other recreation professionals can learn from?
I think one of the biggest messages I can express to recreation professionals is building a program, or creating a large change or culture shift takes time. On college campuses, sometimes that means five to 10 years depending on what the current campus climate is. I think it is important to have big goals and dreams, but you might need to take many small steps to get to that big goal. I think it is also important to celebrate those small steps along the way.
6. Tell us one fact about yourself others may not know?
I played the clarinet for 10 years in the band and orchestra. I love the way music can make you happy and dance or connect you to the intensity of the moment before a big competition. I also love seeing my sons Wesley (3) and Logan (1) at such a young age feel music and watch them move their little bodies to the beat.
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