The Final Exam is your chance to get advice and insights from experts in the industry. For the May/June issue, Campus Rec spoke with Caesar Wood, the previous executive director of campus recreation at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
1. How did you get started in the industry?
My interest in the field began in 1992 as intramural official and supervisor at Sam Houston State University. I saw a flyer on campus advertising for intramural officials to make $5 per hour and officiated flag football for the first time in the fall of 1992.
2. How would you go about describing campus recreation at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga?
I would describe campus recreation at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) as innovative, student-centered and growing in services or programs. We operate the aquatics and recreation center, Maclellan Gym, and the new UTC Sports Complex. The UTC Sports Complex broke ground in November of 2017 and was completed in November 2018 at a cost of $7.7 million. The department offers diverse and creative programs for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and retirees to engage in healthy lifestyle and life-long activities.
3. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced throughout your career?
The biggest challenge in my career to date has been the choice to move from Texas after 15 years to take on the role of director of campus recreation in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I needed the challenge to grow and make that move to the next level. It was the most difficult because I had to consider my wife, Christy, and my two sons, Noah and Josh, who drive me to do what I do. I was scared my boys and wife would not adjust to the city, culture and community in Chattanooga. I knew I had to make a change if I wanted to be a director. I still remember Laurie Braden, at Louisiana State University, told me many years ago you have to be willing to make a sacrifice and have the passion to be the best, which means you may have to move for the opportunity in higher education. I now know what she meant. The move was the most challenging experience but the best decision in my career. I have grown more the last six years than I could have imagined. The best part, my two boys and wife are doing great and love the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
4. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
I would have to say that one of the biggest accomplishments to date has been the promotion to executive director in July of 2014. I became responsible for the campus recreation department, the university center (union) department, and the cheerleading and dance teams at UTC. In two years after being hired as the director of campus recreation, I got lucky and timing presented an opportunity to advance in the profession of student affairs. I have been in that role for almost 4.5 years now, and the experience has been well worth it.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other recreation professionals might benefit from?
You must be positive and have that ability to make a difference in what we do. Supervisors change, staff change and administrators change, but the one constant is how you react to those situations. True leadership has the ability to deal with challenges in a positive manner.
6. What is one fun fact about yourself others may not know?
I have a fraternal twin brother, Armando Wood, who is three minutes older than I am. We are similar, yet very different. We are first generation college students and are the only ones in our family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. I told him I will be the first one to be Dr. Wood – I am a little competitive. We both are Dallas Cowboy fans and have two kids each.