The Final Exam is your chance to get to know leaders in the industry. For the January/February 2024 issue, Campus Rec Magazine spoke with Chantelle Lancaster, the director of University Recreation at Hardin-Simmons University.
1. How did you get started in the industry?
My entry into campus recreation is unique. Prior to stepping into the campus recreation profession, I worked in corporate wellness. My target population was older adults — 65 and up. I was looking at job postings online when I stumbled upon the assistant director for University Recreation at Hardin-Simmons University (HSU) position. Having no previous experience in higher education — specifically campus recreation — my chances of landing the job were slim. After several interviews I was offered the position. I am forever grateful to the director at the time, Edgar Reed, for taking a chance and giving me the opportunity to join the campus recreation profession.
2. How would you go about describing campus recreation at HSU?
A tight knit group. Operating on a much smaller campus really allows us to build personable relationships with the faculty, staff and students who participate in our different recreation programs and use our facility spaces. Having a smaller audience at HSU, we’re also able to specifically listen and cater to our student body on campus.
3. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced throughout your career?
Beginning to really see some of the aftermath of COVID-19 and how it has really hindered the incoming students to be prepared for college both in and out of the classroom. It’s been a personal struggle of mine to find the balance of holding students accountable but also allowing for grace when needed. How can I personally make a positive impact on student lives and help them become responsible young adults? This is a challenge I face daily.
4. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
Being part of the growth and success of a new campus recreational facility that was built in 2018 on HSU’s campus.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other recreation professionals might benefit from?
I’ve learned the work email can wait. As campus recreation professionals we devote a lot of our time and energy to work. The balance of work and your personal life can be a daily struggle. Although we want to be good at our jobs, I think it’s also important to be present outside of work. I have personally benefited from this just in the past year when my son was born. When I get home from work each night, I really try to devote all my time and energy to my son and husband, knowing the work email or text can wait until the next morning.
6. What is one fun fact about yourself others may not know?
Many people are shocked when I tell them I grew up as a farm girl. Most of my days as a kid involved working and playing on a large cattle operation.
Chantelle Lancaster is also on the Leadership Team for the 2024 Campus Rec Base Camp. Read about it here.