The Final Exam: Six Questions With Mary

Mary O'Mahoney

The Final Exam is your chance to get advice and insights from experts in the industry. For the September/November issue, Campus Rec spoke with Mary O’Mahoney, the interim executive director of health and wellness at California State University, Bakersfield.

1. How did you get started in the industry?

I got a job at the rec center to start my junior year in college at Northern Illinois University (NIU) and ended up working there three years — I had a super senior year. I also worked in the athletic department at NIU. I had two really great mentors who encouraged me to go to grad school and one of them introduced me to NIRSA. I appreciate that as I was a bit of a “goofball” — their words. I did take a year off after graduating, but spent the year working and applying to various schools for a graduate assistantship. I chose the University of Arizona where I started off as a graduate assistant and ended up staying there for almost 24 years.

2. How would you go about describing campus recreation at California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB)?

I couldn’t be prouder to be part of campus recreation here at CSUB. The events of the last couple of weeks here have shown me what a family this group is and how dedicated we are to not only doing good work but also to each other. We are a small department with seven full-time staff members and a little over 100 student staff, but I like to think we make a huge impact on our campus. The full-time staff are very committed and take pride in providing the best facilities, programs and services to our students. That commitment and pride carries on through to our student staff. We have created a great culture within our department and strive to make everyone feel not only included but welcome. CSUB has a majority of first-generation students, so we are always looking to break down obstacles students may have about coming into our facilities or participating in our programs. We have plans to grow and expand. We just opened a high ropes challenge course this past spring and are moving toward building an aquatics facility next. Our attitude is that our students deserve the best, and we are going to work as hard as we can to provide that for them.

3. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?

I have been so fortunate in my career to be at the beginning of a lot of things. I am very proud of the summer camp program I developed at Arizona and also being part of developing a really great sport club program there as well. But I am also really proud of the relationships I have developed and still have through all these years: present and former colleagues; students I have worked with when I was a grad student, all the way to students who just graduated a couple of weeks ago; the sport club athletes and coaches; and campers, who are now all grown up, and their parents. So just maybe looking back and hoping I have had a positive impact on people would be a great accomplishment.

4. What is one lesson you have learned that other recreation professionals might benefit from?

I think one lesson could be that these are the “good old days” no matter what level or phase you are in your career. Enjoy this time and be in the now. The next thing will come along soon enough if you are doing what you need to be doing in the now. Develop great relationships, work hard, but enjoy your life and create great memories.

5. What is one fun fact about yourself others may not know?

I have Irish citizenship. They also may not know that I would really like to live overseas someday.

Heather Hartmann
Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at

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