The Final Exam is your chance to get advice and insights from experts in the industry. For the January/February 2021 issue, Campus Rec spoke with Josh Downing, the director of Recreation & Wellness at Butler University.
1. How did you get started in the industry?
Josh Downing: I got my start as an intramural official at Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington, Indiana, my sophomore year. That led me to a couple mentors who took me under their wing and opened my eyes to campus recreation and that you could have it as a career. Then, I had the fortunate opportunity to be a graduate assistant and pursue my master’s degree at IU. After, I got my start professionally in Intramural and Club Sports at my alma mater. I am very thankful for the professional staff at IU who provided me with many experiences and opportunities.
2. How would you go about describing campus recreation at Butler?
JD: We are a valued partner and collaborator on campus. We opened the 85,000-square-foot Health and Recreation Complex along with our department in 2006. Prior, Butler only had a few small recreation program offerings along with some fitness equipment in a small room in the basement of the student union. Since 2006 we have grown to become a robust department supporting a student population of 4,800. In January 2020, the use of our facility became free for 1,000 faculty and staff. Our programs and services have high participation rates yearly, and nearly 90% of our students and 20% of our faculty and staff use the activity spaces of the Health and Recreation Complex on a regular basis.
3. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced throughout your career?
JD: COVID-19 for sure. I’m extremely proud of the Recreation and Wellness team for how quickly they shifted gears, adapted to the second-by-second changes and have supported our students throughout. But it did have a big impact on the team which was a period of uncertainty for them. Navigating this is challenging for sure.
4. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
JD: The launch of BUBeWell, the university well-being initiative, two years ago. The BUBeWell framework is the foundation for a transformative and holistic Butler experience. We are making a difference and changing the culture to a culture of well-being at Butler. We have top down and bottom up support, and many departments across campus are actively involved in this groundbreaking initiative. The opportunity to help lead this and be part of it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other recreation professionals might benefit from?
JD: A mentor suggested this to me a few years back: lean in with yes. Leaning in with yes creates the opportunity to try new things, gets you out of your comfort zone, expands your experiences, etc. Campus recreation is a perfect profession to lean in with yes. I would encourage you to apply this as you move forward in your career. It has had a profound impact on me.
6. What is one fun fact about yourself others may not know?
JD: I’m married to my high school sweetheart. We’ve been married for 17 years, but together for 27. We have a 13-year-old son. We enjoy traveling, spending time with family, attending concerts — mostly Pearl Jam — and supporting local restaurants, breweries and wineries.
Extra: Check out this idea from Josh Downing in “8 Ideas from the Virtual Summit Roundtables.”