The Final Exam is your chance to get advice and insights from experts in the industry. For the July/August issue, Campus Rec spoke with Whitney Slater, the director of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center at Washburn University.
I got started in campus recreation as an undergraduate at the University of Kansas (KU) as the intramural program manager. My mother was a recreation director in my hometown, so I grew up around recreation. When I got to college, I started working for the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department, but when an opportunity opened up on campus, I was very interested in trying out a different setting.
After getting the student position at KU, I was offered a chance to attend a regional conference and it opened my eyes to the career possibilities in campus recreation. After talking with the professional staff, I decided to try to diversify my resume and get experience in other areas. I was given the chance to work in the facility as a supervisor, as well as the facility scheduler. I am very thankful for the professional staff at KU who provided me with all the experiences and opportunities they did, which showed me the wonderful world of campus recreation.
Washburn University is located in Topeka, Kansas. We are an open-access school that has an enrollment of around 7,000 students and we have a lot of Shawnee County residents that attend our institution. Our department is valued and supported by our administration and student body. We have a very nice 37,000-square-foot facility that overlooks our football stadium. We are lucky enough to be able to provide our students access to all of our services and programs for free, including our intramurals and group fitness offerings.
An ongoing challenge I have faced is the ever-changing interests and needs of the students we are serving. We are competing with so many other things students have available to them every second of the day. Plus, the college students at our institute look a lot different than they did five years ago. Many of them are working off-campus jobs, are over-extended in academic and other non-academic involvements, or have feelings of being over-extended in general, so figuring out ways to keep these students engaged and active creates some challenges for us.
I would have to say one of my biggest accomplishments was being given the opportunity to be the director of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center here at Washburn University at the age of 31. After serving as an assistant director at a similar-sized institution for six years, where there were only two full-time staff, I was able to get a well-rounded experience in all areas of campus recreation. These experiences helped prepare me to transition to a new role at Washburn.
One lesson I have learned recently was from a book a colleague recommended called, “Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable…About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business” by Patrick Lencioni. The book has helped me rethink how I run my staff meetings to make them the most productive they can be. The suggestion is departments should be having four different types of meetings, and it goes through how to implement the four different types. I highly recommend it to anyone who is leading any sort of staff meeting.
One fact about me is I met my husband through campus recreation. While I was the program manager at KU, he kept sending me emails asking to reschedule his flag football championship game time because he wanted to go watch his mother coach and his sister play in the state volleyball tournament. We had sent so many emails back and forth I decided the day of the game to go up and introduce myself. We have now been married for seven years and have two kids.