The Final Exam: Six Questions with Stephanie


The Final Exam is your chance to get advice and insights from experts in the industry. For the March/April issue, Campus Rec spoke with Stephanie Smith, the director of recreation at MIT.

1. How did you get started in the industry?

I got started in campus recreation as a student group fitness instructor at The Ohio State University in 2002. I went through the Group X teacher training program there — with Jenn Peters — and loved the community of students and professionals I met. It was after a year or so I realized I really wanted to pursue a career in fitness through campus or community recreation.

2. How would you go about describing Campus Recreation at MIT?

We operate as almost a hybrid of a campus and community recreation program. Our students and overall community are high achieving in every way — including their health. Our facilities and programs are the perfect way to improve and maintain social, physical and mental well-being across the community.

3. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced throughout your career?

I’m a “woo” so it is very hard for me to step back from my constant need to be front and center, developing relationships to step back and play the coach. It also took me a while to learn strategies and navigate campus politics.

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

Hearing from young professionals I’ve hired and coached reflect back on their experience at MIT and how it helped shape them into the professionals they are now. 

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

Reach out to folks across campus right when they start in all sorts of offices, and offer to show them around the recreation facilities and learn what goes on there. It’s helped me create some really amazing foundational relationships that have led to new and exciting opportunities years later, and has also helped the new staff feel welcomed immediately. It’s a win-win.

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

I take Halloween very seriously every year. I knew right away that my partner was a keeper when he didn’t mind I was planning elaborate, family costumes. We have two small kiddos who now make it even more fun.  

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

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