With about 1,900 undergrads, Lincoln Memorial University’s campus recreation relies heavily on partnerships.
Director Zach Churchill said one of his biggest partnerships is with the residence life staff. The RAs are on the ground floor of student life, which is huge for sharing about upcoming events. “They are a really good tool for marketing,” explained Churchill.
They can rally excitement around the campus rec department’s events and help increase participation in its programs. They can also give Churchill ideas for events, like grocery bingo, which has become one of the better attended activities they hold. Partnering with RAs and residence life also lets Churchill know when they are holding events, keeping his department from competing with them. He makes sure to attend their staff trainings and work with the coordinators of the program.
Churchill realized the importance of partnerships from the moment he arrived at Lincoln as its first-ever director of campus recreation. For him, a large focus was getting everyone on campus on the same page. This kept things from happening like three different departments running similar events on the same night.
Not duplicating services offered is also a goal for Jim Todd, the director of recreational services at the University of New Mexico (UNM). “We know we may not be the best at different things, so we will find the people who do that and partner with them,” he shared.
For example, the student health and counseling center already has a strong wellness program for students. Recreational services will piggyback off of their events and programs instead of offering similar things. One way they do this is by offering discounts on group fitness programs and personal training for the participants in the center’s healthy weight program.
“There’s a lot of cross promotion whenever they have information fairs or we have information fairs across campus; we partner and work together,” he said.
UNM’s recreational services also partners with the global education office. Todd said they work to put on international trips for students. They will also offer trips exclusively in the Get Away Adventure Program for international students to see landmarks, national parks, museums, etc.
Todd shared they also have UNM Wellness, a wellness program for faculty and staff. Plus, the partnership with ROTC provides manpower for events and a cosponsor for a Halloween fun run, as well as participation in various intramural sports.
When it comes to finding and building these partnerships, Churchill said to get creative. For example, his department partners with the registrar. Looking at schedules, they’ll find some of the larger classes on campus and then will set up a table outside the class, marketing campus recreation programs in an efficient fashion.
In terms of informational fairs and tabling, Todd said they are always ready with bags packed so if they are suddenly called and told about an info fair in five minutes, they can be there.
And creative partnership ideas don’t have to just come from you, the director. Churchill pointed out his grad students have often done four or five years at other schools. He can pick their brains and see what other campus recreation departments are up to across the nation in terms of partnerships. Or, creativity in this area might be going to departments you wouldn’t first think of, like the admissions department. “Being as creative as you can helps a lot,” he said.
Ultimately, Todd wants to make sure recreational services isn’t seen as just a recreation department. “We want to be seen as being important to the entire campus community through health and wellness initiatives, through physical education, through recruitment and retention, as well as that we do a lot to increase student success, student persistence,” he shared.
So, whether it’s simply cross promotion of events, hosting a program with another department, or supplying the space, there’s plenty of ways to build partnerships. “Don’t be afraid to reach out and forge these relationships,” said Todd. “Take that leap of faith and put yourself out there. Definitely work on tearing down the walls, getting out of your silos.”