The Final Exam is your chance to get advice and insights from experts in the industry. For the March/April 2023 issue, Campus Rec Magazine spoke with Daniel Lawrence, the director of Campus Recreation and adjunct professor at Utah State University.
1. How did you get started in the industry?
As a student employee at Western Kentucky University, it wasn’t until my senior year that I found out I could make campus recreation a career. After changing majors five times, a conversation with my supervisor one week before my senior year led me to declare Recreation Administration and opened the doors to a graduate assistantship at Belmont University. Almost 20 years later, the rest is history.
2. How would you go about describing campus recreation at Utah State University (USU)?
We challenge ourselves to deliver diverse recreational programs and services to engage the campus community while creating a space where all people are welcome and gain a sense of belonging. Campus Recreation was founded at USU in 1989. In 2015, we opened our state-of-the-art Aggie Recreation Center (ARC). The ARC helped put our department on the map.
3. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced throughout your career?
Losing the direct day-to-day interactions and mentorship with our student employees. Most professionals in the field chose this career path to work with students and have an impact on future leaders. As I have had the privilege to move into an executive leadership position, I don’t get as much student interaction as I did earlier in my career. I must find meaningful ways to interact with students — such as teaching — to keep my passion alive and feeling fulfilled.
4. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
Serving as the director of Campus Recreation at USU. Being a first-generation, low-income student, I am very proud of my career path, the challenges I faced and the mentors who kept me on track. Having the privilege to lead the amazing team and department at USU has been a dream come true. I tell students to find their passion and make it a career. I believe I did just that.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other recreation professionals might benefit from?
In graduate school, I had the opportunity to hear Patrick Lencioni speak. The message that I still live by to this day is, “Leaders are always on stage.” As a leader, you are always on stage. Your words and actions have meaning, and the higher your level on the organizational chart the more a misspoken word, display of raw emotion or slip of the tongue can hurt you and your people.
6. What is one fun fact about yourself others may not know?
Growing up in Kentucky, there weren’t any ice rinks and I never dreamed of playing ice hockey. After I became engaged to my wonderful wife, she wanted someone to shoot on as she’s an avid hockey player. So, knowing I played catcher in baseball for 12 years, she “told” me I was going to be a goalie. I just celebrated 10 years on the ice, and I’ve been known to stand on my head a time or two.
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