The Final Exam is your chance to get advice and insights from experts in the industry. For the November/December issue Campus Rec spoke with Suzanne Ries, the director of Campus Recreation at Florida Gulf Coast University.
1. How did you get started in the industry?
I was in the right place at the right time. During my first year of graduate school at Central Michigan University, I qualified for work study and applied for a student manager position at the recreation center. I got the job and a couple months later, the graduate assistant (GA) of Facilities took a full-time job. Since I was already a graduate student, I was asked if I would like to take the Facilities GA position for the spring semester. The rest is history.
2. How would you go about describing campus recreation at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU)?
We are a gateway to lifelong well-being and an avenue for student success. We value integrity, quality, growth, play and community. With this at the forefront of our minds and actions, we provide the recreational home for the FGCU community.
3. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced throughout your career?
Tragedy. COVID-19, deaths at our facilities, hurricanes, termination/furlough of employees — all of these are tragic and have not been easy. However, whatever the tragedy I have always faced it with our team of professionals and student staff. Facing tragedy together strengthens your community.
4. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
Opening not just one but two recreation centers. Some professionals never get to experience designing, constructing and opening a new building, so I’m beyond grateful for these opportunities. It’s not just the physicality of bringing these buildings online: it’s the people you get to work with throughout the process; it’s working together as a staff and team to create a legacy for your campus; it’s the impact these facilities have on the students on your campus. This is why these opportunities have been the most rewarding experiences of my career.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other recreation professionals might benefit from?
It’s all about relationships. Not just the relationships with other recreation professionals but relationships across campus as well. Taking time out of your day to get out of your office and across campus to engage with other faculty, staff and administrators is so important. Relationships open the door for opportunity, not just for yourself but for your department, your staff and your students.
6. What is one fun fact about yourself others may not know?
My wife and I take our holiday decorating very seriously. And when I say holiday, it’s not just Christmas, it’s also Halloween. We are the Griswolds of Bonita Springs, Florida. The 300 trick-or-treaters and the hundreds of slow drive-bys taking pictures, listening to the music and watching the dancing lights — that’s what makes all the work and increased power bill worth it.