The Final Exam is your chance to get to know leaders in the industry. For the September/October 2023 issue, Campus Rec Magazine spoke with Coulson Thomas the director of Recreation & Wellness at Old Dominion University (ODU).
1. How did you get started in the industry?
I attended Towson University to pursue a degree in sports management and business. I took a class with Dr. Ned Britt who was the director of Campus Recreation, and he introduced me to NIRSA. He had a picture of the founders of NIRSA on his desk. He recommended I attend the NIRSA annual conference in Cleveland and from there I was hooked. The next year, I attended a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I received a graduate assistantship in the Campus Recreation program at Texas State University–San Marcos. It’s been upward and onward since then.
2. How would you go about describing campus recreation at ODU?
We serve a diverse population of students, and faculty and staff. Our team is innovative and values meaningful collaboration with our peers. Students at ODU enjoy memorable experiences, so we make every effort to create programs and activities through the eyes of our students. We offer traditional recreation programs and support student well-being through health promotion and education.
3. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced throughout your career?
I’ve been lucky to work with great people throughout my career. Transitioning to a leadership position and learning your staff, the goals and desires of the people you work with is important but challenging at the same time. Also, learning to maintain services and programs with decreasing budgets is tough. It forces me to be creative to reach the needs of our campus community.
4. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
I’ve always wanted to follow in the footsteps of the people I have looked up to. Being in a leadership position allows me to challenge myself but also influence the direction of our department. It’s been an honor to be a director and create an environment where our students can live and learn well.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other recreation professionals might benefit from?
Keep an open mind and always stay in touch and connected with the people who matter the most — your students.
6. What is one fun fact about yourself others may not know?
I’ve been skydiving twice.