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 Teri L. Bladen, the director of campus recreation at Weber State University.
1. How did you get started in the industry?
I began teaching group exercise for recreational sports at Indiana University as an undergraduate. Although my undergrad degree is in French, I got excited about fitness, started working in the weight room and became a personal trainer. I got more involved with the department — volunteering at special events and for leadership roles — and when Indiana University was opening up a new student recreational center in the mid-90s, Jackie Puterbaugh reached out to see if I would be interested in becoming a graduate assistant. Of course the answer was, “yes.” I got an amazing experience on the facilities side as well as experience in management and administration as a graduate assistant. These experiences, along with volunteering in other areas of recreation such as with sports clubs and aquatics, set me up for success as a professional after getting my master’s degree in kinesiology.
2. How would you go about describing campus recreation at Weber State University?
Weber State is committed to open access and has the unique dual mission of offering undergraduate degrees and masters programs, while also offering multiple certificates and associates degrees. To that end, while Weber State has approximately 29,000 students, the campus can still have a commuter feel, making it challenging at times. We offer comprehensive programs and services through aquatics and safety, fitness, competitive sports, marketing and operations, and our outdoor program is one of the premier programs nationally.
3. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced throughout your career?
I face what many women in leadership face: striving to be a strong leader while avoiding labels such as “bossy” or “pushy.” While that can be frustrating at times, I see it as an opportunity to continue to develop communication skills and demonstrate perseverance.
4. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
Growing the recreational programs and services at Weber State University. In my 10 years at Weber State, we have grown from a staff of four professionals and 30 hourly employees to a staff of 10 professionals and over 100 hourly staff. We have built two facilities dedicated to drop-in recreation, and we are currently working on a state-of-the-art outdoor adventure facility that will serve as a welcome center for university recruitment, offer traditional outdoor program services and serve as an educational hub for unique training opportunities — think ski lift maintenance and rescue. Having an outstanding recreational staff and being able to offer amazing recreational opportunities and experiential learning for our students is something I’m very proud of.
5. What is one lesson you have learned?
There is never a dull moment in higher education. Having new student participants and student staff every year keeps us on our toes. We are always learning from our students and striving to inspire them to engage in a healthy, active lifestyle.
6. What is one fun fact about yourself?
When I was 20, I dropped out of college, sold what meager items I had and ran off to live in France. That wanderlust is still very much a part of who I am.