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In 2004, Cleveland State University (CSU) embarked on a journey of instituting a bold, invigorating campus master plan that would help drive the university over the next ten years. The plan was motivated by new attitudes, new philosophies and a brand-new CSU. It would rethink the university’s role in downtown Cleveland and how campus design could stimulate functional and visual links between the campus and the city; leverage development opportunities that enhance the quality of life of the university and community; establish an inviting campus environment that welcomes students, faculty, staff, and visitors; and enhance safety and convenience that appeal of all campus users.

 

Ultimately this master plan would establish a development zone at the periphery of campus where private sector development and operations could occur in partnership with the university.

One of the crown jewels of this campus master plan was the design, construction and operation of a brand new 110,000 square foot Recreation Center at the corner of Chester Avenue and East 24th Street. Never before in the 40-year history of CSU did they envision a facility and department that would accelerate the campus master plan and transform the campus forever.

BRAILSFORD & DUNLAVEY AND CENTERS, LLC PARTNERSHIP

Following financial, technical and market analysis from Brailsford & Dunlavey’s management advisory services regarding the vision for a campus recreation facility, CSU entered into a management agreement with its subsidiary company, CENTERS, LLC. After several years of critical thinking, the implementation of a business plan and the physical construction of the facility, the CSU Recreation Center opened on August 26, 2006.

“CENTERS is an established and highly regarded campus partner over the last 15-years at Cleveland State University. Campus Recreation Services is synonymous with exemplary department operations and customer service; an optimal student and professional development model; creating innovative programs and services; and enhancing the facility through cutting-edge equipment and technology. We look forward to a continued and long-standing relationship with CENTERS on our campus.”  -Sean Ries, Executive Director – Campus Support Services

SERVING THE CAMPUS AND THE COMMUNITY

Campus Recreation Services has made a dramatic impact on the students commuting or residing at CSU. Originally, designed for students and affiliates of CSU, the university knew to materialize its campus master plan it needed to incorporate the city is our campus mantra and the building opened to the CSU community after one year of operation. As of 2021, Campus Recreation Services has an established community membership base of over 1,200 individuals and it welcomes another few thousand guests annually to the facility.

STUDENT DEVELOPMENT

Campus Recreation plays a significant role in higher education and society by educating students and providing guidance in an effort to produce citizens and future leaders. Student development refers to the way in which a student transitions or grows in their knowledge, skills, and abilities through participation in quality recreational programs, facilities, and services. CSU Campus Recreation Services assists in student development by creating opportunities for students to further grow outside the classroom. This is achieved through participation in award-winning facilities, extraordinary programs and exceptional services or via the employment opportunities made available through the department.

Campus Recreation Services is the largest student employer on campus and when fully staffed employs over 200 students each semester. The department has a diverse group of positions including operations assistants, membership representatives, lifeguards, swim instructors, fitness instructors, personal trainers, graphic designers, photographers, intramural officials, camp counselors, trip leaders and various student supervisor positions. The facility, programs and services are truly student run and student lead; and professional staff are here to teach, encourage, develop and mentor these students through their collegiate experience.

FACILITY UPGRADES

   

For the last 15 years, CENTERS has worked with CSU to make the appropriate upgrades throughout the facility to enhance the user experience and ensure the space was being utilized to the best of its abilities. From seeking approval from University Marketing to rebrand the entire facility in a more favorable CSU atmosphere, and adjusting facility spaces based on membership needs, the Campus Recreation Services team continues to look for ways to bring the latest and greatest opportunities to its members each day.

  • Expanded Men’s Locker Room: As the facility began its first full year of operation, it was quickly realized that the men’s locker room needed to be expanded due to the demand and waiting list for monthly, semester and annual lockers. CENTERS worked alongside the CSU Office of the Architect to add an additional 120 lockers in the men’s locker room.
  • Juice Bar turned Pro Shop: With minimal activity and revenue from the existing Energy Oasis Juice Bar, the department converted the area into a highly profitable Pro Shop. Opening in September of 2011, the Pro Shop was built for $50,000 and has since grossed more than $370,000 in total revenue. The Pro Shop offers personal convenience items, protein shakes and bars, competitive equipment and customized CSU Rec apparel.
  • Green Roof: It took two years, two students and the support of the entire CSU community to implement a 6,000 sq. ft. rooftop garden [3,000 sq. ft. of patio pavers and 3,000 sq. ft. of green foliage]. LeeAnn Westfall and Erin Huber met in an environmental science course where they learned about the intended rooftop garden on CSU’s LEED certified Recreation Center. Upon learning that the rooftop garden was expunged from the project due to lack of budget, they decided to take it on, doing everything from research and develop
    ment to installing the garden with the help of volunteers. This project was a true example of engaged learning. Erin and LeeAnn began fundraising in 2007 through small events, spaghetti dinners and bake sales. Although these events could not provide all the funding for this $250,000 project, it helped gain support throughout the University. The students raised a portion of the funding and were supported by a local foundation as well as the University’s administration. Without the support from the community at large, the dream of a rooftop garden could not have come true. The project was completed in August 2009.
  • Fitness & Wellness Suite: CSU chose to repurpose the on-campus YMCA Daycare located within the Recreation Center and assign it to Campus Recreation Services to further enhance the university’s fitness and wellness offerings. Campus Recreation Services in partnership with the CSU’s Department of Facilities, Architect, Safety & Technology (FAST) renovated the $100,000 project and 5,000 square feet of space into a modern, forward-thinking fitness & wellness center complete with a boutique-style cycling room, multi-purpose fitness studio, instructional classroom, personal training studio, massage studio and several administration offices. The space also was the original home to the Lift Up Vikes Resource Center and Food Pantry. The Lift Up Vikes program offers convenient, dignified and compassionate care which connects CSU students to resources that supplement nutrition and other basic needs as they strive to earn a college education. Due to the immense success of the program, it was relocated to a larger building and space on campus.
  • Adventure Recreation: Campus Recreation Services established an Adventure Recreation program in 2013 by converting an original storage closet into a programable office, display and rental center. The adventure recreation program has applied for and received multiple Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) grants to purchase rentable outdoor equipment that includes tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, dry bags, propane grills and stoves, as well as additional camping accessories. The program also offers multiple outdoor recreation trips per semester and instructional clinics such as Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP), kayaking paddle clinics and the Ohio Boaters Safety course.

PROGRAMMING & SERVICE ENHANCEMENTS

With new facility spaces available, the staff continued to be innovative and creative with programming and services. Prior to opening, traditional fitness and wellness programs did not exist on campus; while limited intramural and club sports programming was operated by various athletic coaches and/or the department of student life. But there have been major changes to the CSU programs over the last 15 years including the following:

  • Usage & Attendance: In 15 years, the Recreation Center has welcomed over 3.2 million unique individuals and visits have tripled with over a 130% increase in annual facility attendance since day one.
  • Participation Numbers: Campus Recreation Services through their diverse programs and services has served over 400,000 unique individuals in the last fifteen years. The Recreation Center has seen an increase from 11,049 to 33,641 in annual program participation numbers since first opening the facility.
  • Aquatics: The creation of a robust learn-to-swim program serving infants as little as 6-months old to adults wanting to learn a new life-long skill. The program also features private swim lessons, master’s swim, and the recently created CSU Rec Swim Team. The CSU Rec Swim Team is perfect for the up-and-coming young athlete interested in competitive swimming. Geared towards proficient young swimmers; the swim team’s goal is to enhance technique, develop speed and endurance, and build confidence in a fun, competitive atmosphere. Progressive, structured practices will introduce and teach the basics of competitive swimming and prepare team members to swim in local meets.
  • Safety Courses: Campus Recreation Services continues to offer a wide range of safety courses including Adult & Pediatric CPR, AED, and First Aid; CPR and AED for the Professional Rescuer, Wilderness First Aid, Certified Pool Operator, Lifeguard Training, Lifeguard Instructor, and Water Safety Instructor Training.
  • Fitness and Wellness: This flagship departmental program area offers more than 15 formats and 25 weekly group fitness classes to students, faculty, staff, alumni and community. The program also offers individual and group personal training, massage therapy, customized fitness education, assessments and outreach, fitness equipment rental, and diverse instructional classes such as Pink Gloves Boxing and F45.
  • Pink Gloves Boxing (PGB): PGB is not your average boxing class with the goal of crushing calories. The female focused empowerment program combines the PGB tier system to teach the art of boxing by building a community competing against themselves to increase self-defense and well-being. CSU is the only collegiate program to offer all seven PGB tiers and has served more than 1,000 women in the six-year history of the program.
  • F45: This functional 45-minute workout is effective, fun and community-driven. It combines elements of high-intensity interval, circuit and functional training delivered through a digitally-connected global network of studios. Participants experience a continuously evolving fitness program in which virtually no two workouts are ever the same. CSU was the first collegiate institution east of the Mississippi River to offer the program to its students, faculty, staff, alumni and community. To date, F45 has served well over 4,000 participants on our campus.
  • Club Sports: The club sports program (university sanctioned student organizations) has gradually and continually grown over the years, but really flourished beginning in FY16. CSU’s club program grew from 14 active clubs to 24 active clubs, and during that time period increased from 252 student participants to 436 student participants. The sport club program serves more student athletes than the intercollegiate athletics program and is an instrumental recruitment and retention tool for CSU. The sports club program also supplements 50% of their operational budget through philanthropic initiatives and fundraising. This helps alleviate the financial stressors on the General Fee Advisory Committee (GFAC) and allows them to support additional student organization funding.
  • Intramurals: The intramural program has also seen great growth over the last fifteen years. It serves approximately 600 participants, 150 league contests and 75 teams on an annual basis. The program has also increased its sport offerings and it currently has XX sports.
  • Camps: The camp program has grown to hosting day camps throughout the year culminating with an 11-week summer camp enrolling more than 825 student campers from parents and guardians employed at CSU or the surrounding downtown community.
  • Milestone Events:
    • Rock the Rec – Welcome back event for the students and one of the biggest events on campus for students.
    • WellFest – University wide program that brings over 800 people together to promote wellness.

THE FUTURE

During the height of the pandemic in 2020, Campus Recreation Services embarked on creating and establishing a five-year business plan that directly aligns the department with CSU’s original Statement of Strategic Priorities and subsequently updated 2.0 plan to emerge from the pandemic a stronger and more focused institution.

By creating its own set of broad strategic initiatives, as well as specific business goals and objectives; Campus Recreation Services is better able to position the department within the university framework while supporting the overall vision, mission and goals of CSU.

Campus Recreation Service’s (CRS) Strategic Priorities:

  • Strive to position the CSU Recreation Center as a recognized national leader for health, wellness and recreation in Cleveland in order to support the university’s goals of being both an “anchor” & “beacon” institution.
  • Continue to develop ways for CRS to make contributions to the campus community by way of experiential learning opportunities, student employment, academic program participation, campus involvement, and organizational partnerships.
  • Collect data and showcase the results and impacts campus recreation has on student successes, as well as the overall college experience.
  • Strive to make CRS the model support institution by exemplifying leadership in both internal and external projects, identifying service and programmatic efficiencies, and innovating operations.
  • Strive to capitalize on recognition opportunities at a local, regional and national level both inside and outside of collegiate recreation.
  • Always strive to create an experience that is welcoming, inclusive, educational, and innovative.

Campus Recreation Service’s (CRS) Business Objectives:

  1. Pioneer a robust and visible digital presence for CRS in the metro-Cleveland marketplace.
    • We will launch an external website that stands out amongst our fitness center and boutique studio competitors.
    • We will be recognized by our peers for our innovative marketing & advertising techniques as the premier downtown fitness center (i.e. SEO, IP Targeting, etc.).
    • We will offer an innovative virtual membership package that engages our patrons when they are not physically present in our facility.
    • We will be a digital first facility – systems, technology, marketing, advertising – allowing us to be nimbler in the ever-changing environment.
  1. Establish CRS as a university recognized, leading and comprehensive wellness brand.
    • We will explore a department name change to align ourselves with the higher education industry and improve delivery of our wellness brand.
    • Shine Well will be the vehicle that drives the reasoning behind each and every program, service and facility decision. It will also be the action behind the purpose to partner with already established university programs and partnerships. (i.e. Journey to Wellness; NEOMED/Law School remote yoga; academic program internships, etc.)
    • We will seek acknowledgement for our employees and our department from recognized higher education associations, accreditations and non-profit organizations supporting the recreation and wellness industry.
  1. CRS will be a sought-after campus partner and collaborator.   
    • We will be synonymous with exemplary department operations and the operational model for professional and student development.
    • Creating and leading collaborative opportunities with other departments, organizations and partners both on- and off-campus.
    • Actively seeking and participating in campus activities and projects to share our expertise and contribute to university initiatives.
  1. CRS will rebuild and rejuvenate our community membership base.
    • We will develop enhanced pricing, bolder promotions and targeted outreach.
    • We will create an innovative membership structure that encompasses “value-adds” for our patrons to reestablish trust in our previous members.
    • We will pursue aggressive promotional campaigns to increase visibility in the highly competitive downtown fitness industry.
  1. Create an enriching workplace culture that makes us a sought-after employer  
    • Re-establishment of an attractive and competitive wage and perks package for employees.
    • Establishment of an approach to recognition amongst staff at all levels that is encouraging, empowering, and part of daily operations.
    • Implementation of a comprehensive staff development and training plan with practices that support and empower staff at all levels, and invests in their continuous growth.
    • Implementation of a structured accountability plan that clearly outlines both opportunities and expectations, and promotes respect, responsibility, integrity and professionalism amongst staff at all levels.

There are many physical capital improvements, programming ideas and service initiatives that Recreation Services would like to accomplish over the next five years. By utilizing the strategic priorities and business objectives as the guiding light, Campus Recreation Services is poised to accomplish its goals for the future success of CSU. A sampling of these goals includes but are not limited to the creation of a virtual fitness program and membership; complete redesign of the website; increase the campus reach of the Shine Well program; develop and enhance inclusive programming and services; digitize enrollment processes for membership, programs and services; expanding the e-sports program; maximize programable outdoor field space; and several flooring, painting, and lighting projects.

CELEBRATION

CSU celebrated the Campus Recreation Services department and Recreation Center 15-Year Anniversary during their annual fall semester Rock the Rec special event on August 26, 2021, from 4-7 pm as they welcomed students back to campus. Campus Recreation Services is excited to have students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community back on campus and we look forward to seeing what the next 15-years will bring. Congratulations to Campus Recreation Services and CSU for an amazing 15-years!

Written by: 

Nick Froelich – Director, CENTERS at CSU
Matt Schmiedl – AD of Marketing & Advertising, CENTERS at CSU
Greg Ross – CENTERS Vice President of Operations (Past CSU Director)
Julie Ray – Marketing Manager, CENTERS, LLC.

Each year, millions of individuals live with a mental illness. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the CENTERS staff at Marshall University have taken the time to really show they are committed to providing support to the Marshall community. This past March, the Professional Staff at Marshall all received their Mental Health First Aid Certification. The training empowered the staff to recognize signs and symptoms of varying levels of mental health challenges and taught the staff how to effectively help individuals get the help they need. Director Michele Muth said “I’m proud of my team, it was a long day of virtual training, a lot of reading, tests and difficult conversations.”

A few of the staff below provided their feedback on the certification course:

“The certification is important because it provides resources and information in a digestible way, allowing those of us who do not regularly research or study mental health to feel more comfortable providing care to people in a mental health challenge or crisis. Many students struggle silently with mental health challenges, so it is beneficial to have professionals on campus who can provide mental health first aid and assist them in finding resources when noticing the signs. I personally have students come talk with me often about their mental health struggles, so it is beneficial for me to now have the knowledge from the MHFA certification course to provide better care.” – Mariah B.

“This training gave me confidence in identifying someone experiencing difficulties and in my ability to help them.” – Cindi T.

“I learned the application of assessing the person’s state of being, offering listening and support, and the encourage professional and other forms of help. I learned about being intentional with all of my words, expressions, and interactions with others. This will benefit campus because college environments can be challenging environments, but colleges are also about working together as a community to support each other, and MHFA is perfectly in line with that.” – Sam I.

“As a college educator and supervisor of student employees, I have daily interactions with the student employees who work at the Rec Center. It has been a tough year for many individuals, and students are still feeling the constant stress and mental impact of virtual classes. Covid-19 has taken its toll on Mental Health in general, so we must be able to assist those in need. The first step to solving a problem is recognizing there is one. This course helped me to identify signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis or challenge, with specific action steps to take to assist the individual in need.” -Eric B.

We are proud of our Marshall team for taking the time to educate themselves on Mental Health and becoming a safe-space on campus for individuals.

When CENTERS was hired to open and manage the Aquatic and Track Center at Mylan Park, we knew it was going to be different than our facilities that we currently operated. From the increased demand for membership revenue, non-traditional population (not located on a college campus), extensive business and financial focus, it was going to be a good challenge for our company. Jen was originally hired as the Assistant Director at the Aquatic and Track Center but transitioned to the into the Director role shortly after. Jen worked for local parks and recreation organizations for 20 years before coming to CENTERS. The aquatic knowledge she has is perfect for this operation.

Can you talk about how the CENTERS Culture with POI, our commitment to Better is Better, our Quest for X, and cross-site collaboration opportunities helps motivate you to continue learning and growing within the CENTERS organization?

It is amazing to be connected to so many colleagues that have a similar operation with similar challenges and successes. It allows us to collaborate and bounce ideas off each other.  I am proud to work in a service organization where everyone is passionate about their jobs and their students and employee development role.

What women inspire you, and which of CENTERS’ core values/attributes do they exemplify most?

I am often inspired by female athletes, such as Serena Williams, Mia Hamm Katie Ledecky, because there are so many places in the world where females don’t have the opportunity to grow up dream to compete at that level and I am proud to live in a place that creates through acceptance athletes of this caliber. The have accepted the risk and have taken a risk in choosing to be a professional athlete despite the disparity in reward for their commitment as compared to men’s athletics.

How do you feel having strong and respected female leaders in the company attracts women and minority talent to the company?

I feel accountable, that I should be an example for those looking to attain a role like this and I hope that I inspire people to desire a position like this and know that it is attainable to them.

How does working for CENTERS help you overcome common challenges and inefficiencies that campus recreation professionals that work outside the company live with?

CENTERS is a true network. I know that I can rely on my colleagues when I may not know the answer. I know that my decisions come from an informed collaborative and not made in a vacuum.

What are the most important competencies that younger female professionals need to acquire to become the next generation of leaders in the industry?

Confidence can sometimes be a barrier to leadership roles. You females desiring a leadership positions should arm themselves with education, experience, and the emotional intelligence they need to be a true leader of a diverse team.

We appreciate your hard work and dedication over the last year as the Director, Jen. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Our next featured Director is a true example of the Site Leadership pathway established in CENTERS Career Pathways Program. Michele Muth, Director at CENTERS, LLC @ Marshall University has been in her current role for over a year and a half but prior to becoming the Director, she held three other professional staff positions at Marshall over the course of eight years:

2010-2016 – Assistant Director of Marketing and Membership
2016-2017 – Senior Assistant Director of Marketing and Membership
2017-2018 – Associate Director of Facilities

She even attended Marshall as an undergraduate and graduate student, as well. Talk about bleeding green! Sadly, Michele had to leave CENTERS in 2018 due to her family moving back home to live in Norway. However, when the Director position re-opened at Marshall, we welcomed Michele back with open arms to the CENTERS family. Michele stated “I may not have been able to leave my job and come back to it if I worked anywhere else! CENTERS gave me a shot at the Director position after leaving for 10 months to live in Norway. Not sure many institutions would have done that for me!” When we asked Michele what made her stick around for those 8 years and want to come back to CENTERS after leaving, she said “I love what we do, and I love Marshall University. I also love the emphasis we put on leadership as a company. I have had jobs before where I felt stifled, but here I feel like I can learn and grow.”

Can you talk about how the CENTERS Culture with POI, our commitment to Better is Better, our Quest for X, and cross-site collaboration opportunities helps motivate you to continue learning and growing within the CENTERS organization?

As an individual I must remain focused on my personal goals, and through these initiatives my goals are able to align with CENTERS. We improve our odds of reaching our goals if we maintain focus and get some help from others along the way. POI, Better is Better, Quest for X, and collaborations help the goals remain clear so we can take the steps needed as a team to reach them.

What women inspire you, and which of CENTERS’ core values/attributes do they exemplify most?

My mom inspires me a lot because some of her greatest achievements have come from her ability to take risks. She showed me that despite making us uncomfortable big risks can have enormous payoffs and positive outcomes.

How do you feel having strong and respected female leaders in the company attracts women and minority talent to the company?

CENTERS commitment to inclusive processes, culture, policies and programs have enabled CENTERS to create a business model where all talent can prosper, including women. When the best talent rises to the top, everybody wins.

How does working for CENTERS help you overcome common challenges and inefficiencies that campus recreation professionals that work outside the company live with?

Collectively, CENTERS has an extensive toolbox of skills and experience. The fact that I can tap into that wealth of knowledge and insight by making one phone call or writing an e-mail to a trusted co-worker is incredibly powerful.

What are the most important competencies that younger female professionals need to acquire to become the next generation of leaders in the industry?

The best advice I can give someone of any gender is to take risks, break barriers and create success on your own terms. No matter what people say or do to you, you control how you respond. Don’t let others influence how you feel about yourself.

Name a female employee on your staff who has inspired you by the way they have broken barriers or set new standards in the industry.

Cindi has inspired me because she started her career later in life, and she has been employed at 3 different CENTERS sites. She has been able to pick herself up, learn from her experiences and make the best of any situation. The wealth of knowledge she brings to the table is worth more than I can express. I don’t know what I would do without her.

How has working at CENTERS impacted your professional career?

CENTERS has taught me to never settle. It is practically written in my DNA at this point to strive to do better all the time. I have also been given the chance to excel through the trust CENTERS has placed in me, something I am extremely grateful for.

Thank you for your dedication to CENTERS over the years, Michele. We are thankful to have you back sharing your knowledge and leadership with the company.

From a student to Assistant Director and now our Director at CENTERS, LLC @ Jacksonville State University, Joanna Prociuk has been positively impacting the company on many levels for over 6 years. Joanna started as a student employee at our first CENTERS location, DePaul University, working for current Director Maureen McGonagle and Jeff Sessine, now CENTERS’ Senior Vice President. After grad school, she was hired as an Assistant Director at DePaul. Joanna took some time away from CENTERS as she ventured to Florida Atlantic University in 2008 to open their recreation facility in 2009. She later became the Director of Campus Recreation at FAU.

When the opportunity arose to open a new facility at JSU, we knew Joanna had the CENTERS mentality already in her blood. We welcomed her back as the Director of Campus Recreation at JSU in 2018 and with the support from CENTERS, watched her work her magic as we opened a P3 (Public-Private Partnership) recreation facility on campus in January 2019.

Can you talk about how the CENTERS Culture with POI [Program of Innovation], our commitment to Better is Better, our Quest for X, and cross-site collaboration opportunities helps motivate you to continue learning and growing within the CENTERS organization?

Personally, I find the ‘Better is Better’ concept really motivating. I am motivated by problems and opportunities for improvement, so I deeply appreciate that CENTERS expects staff and organizations to improve.

What women inspire you, and which of CENTERS’ core values/attributes do they exemplify most?

The most honest answer is my daughter. She absolutely motivates me to work efficiently and prioritize what is important. She demands my continuous learning and development.

Professionally it would be Moe. She is so smart and is a master at developing organizational culture and bringing a mission to life.

How do you feel having strong and respected female leaders in the company attracts women and minority talent to the company?

I think, and research supports, female leaders benefit the organization. I would venture that it attracts all types of candidates. It also communicates that CENTERS values diversity at the leadership table, that they embrace a variety of leadership qualities, and are not afraid of promoting women.

How does working for CENTERS help you overcome common challenges and inefficiencies that campus recreation professionals that work outside the company live with?

In my experience, CENTERS has been able to reconcile this debate that recreation must either be student focused or revenue focused. Recreation can be both and the intensity of each should be adjusted to the individual institution.

What are the most important competencies that younger female professionals need to acquire to become the next generation of leaders in the industry?

Get comfortable making decisions, find your voice, do not play down your abilities, and ride out any imposter syndrome feelings you have. While wellness is the hot topic in collegiate recreation, I think business and organizational management are the most critical skills you are called upon to use (and no one really trains you on them).

Name a female employee on your staff who has broken barriers or set new standards in the industry.

Stephanie Hobbs was the first certified POUND® instructor in the state of Alabama. Back then, facilities had to pay to be a POUND® venue. She presented to the City of Anniston and they became the first location in the state to offer this popular fitness format.

Way to go, Joanna! We thank you for all you have done at CENTERS and look forward to what you will do next.

Picture this: You have been in your professional role for 5 years and it has come to the point that you are ready for a new challenge. Unfortunately, there is no room for growth at your current institution. What do you do? Typically, you would start looking outside of your institution for opportunities, but, not at CENTERS.

When CENTERS opens a new site, or has positions available at current sites, we look internally first to see if anyone has interest in applying and could fulfill the role. We pride ourselves on providing those opportunities to the current staff first to ensure they are being challenged, gaining experience, and provided professional growth though a new position. This is all stemmed from the Site Administration Pathway in our Career Pathways Program.

Julie Bearden, Director at CENTERS, LLC @ Harper College, is a prime example of this. Julie started at Moraine Valley Community College in 2013 and assisted with the opening of the facility in 2014 as the Assistant Director of Fitness and Wellness and was later promoted to Senior Assistant Director. But in 2017 when the opportunity presented itself, Julie put her name in the ring for the possibility of being the Director at CENTERS new location, Harper College. With her knowledge of community colleges, and experience in aquatics, Julie was a perfect fit for this role. She has been the Director now for just over 3 years.

Can you talk about how the CENTERS Culture with POI [Program of Innovation], our commitment to Better is Better, our Quest for X, and cross-site collaboration opportunities helps motivate you to continue learning and growing within the CENTERS organization?

The connection between the sites whether through POI, Quest for X or cross-site collaboration is one of the key attributes of our CENTERS culture. The sharing of ideas and wisdom not only benefit the receiver, but the provider benefits as well. We get stronger as a team and the team extends beyond your individual site. The feeling is similar to being part of a family even though we are spread across the nation.

What women inspire you, and which of CENTERS’ core values/attributes do they exemplify most?

Inspiration is bountiful when it comes to women, both on a personal and professional level, as choices and opportunities have expanded. Women that balance professional goals and demands, while balancing personal needs of self and family inspire me. The exciting part to me is there is no template, so each woman can create a lifestyle that works for her. Related to CENTERS’s core values, I would say Continuous Learning & Development best exemplifies the qualities I appreciate in women. I see us getting stronger and wiser each year, which makes maturing something to look forward to.

How do you feel having strong and respected female leaders in the company attracts women and minority talent to the company?

It helps attract women and minority talents to CENTERS because recruits see themselves in us. Our teams, whether professional or student, need to reflect the diversity in our schools, states and nation.

How does working for CENTERS help you overcome common challenges and inefficiencies that campus recreation professionals that work outside the company live with?

It is the benefit of the team approach… lots of talent on the bench. Whether from the corporate office with HR and IT support, another site with similar facilities or a professional with experience in a particular field, expertise is only an email or phone call away.

What are the most important competencies that younger female professionals need to acquire to become the next generation of leaders in the industry?

Very simply, be honest, accept responsibilities for your mistakes, elevate the people around you and work hard.

Name a female employee on your staff who has broken barriers or set new standards in the industry.

Given that I have a complete female team at this time, I am inspired by all of them for different reasons. Each of them have their strengths, so we work together to support each other, the site and the CENTERS Culture.

It has been great to see the impact you have made at both sites, Julie. Thank you for everything you have done at CENTERS and leading the “Fab Four” at Harper.

Opening a new recreational facility is a challenge in itself, but the ace in the hole that Yvette Kell, Director at CENTERS, LLC @ University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL), had was CENTERS. Vet was hired to be the Director at UMSL as we opened the new facility in 2015. With the support and framework already created by CENTERS, and leadership Vet brought to the table, the UMSL staff made it look easy. We are thankful to have her on our leadership team for the last 6.5 years.

Can you talk about how the CENTERS Culture with POI, our commitment to Better is Better, our Quest for X, and cross-site collaboration opportunities helps motivate you to continue learning and growing within the CENTERS organization?

Our culture of learning is a great support to continue pushing and providing new and inventive ways for not only individual development, but team development. You can’t sit back on your heels, which helps me stay continually motivated.

What women inspire you, and which of CENTERS’ core values/attributes do they exemplify most?

There are many women who inspire me, this changes with every person I meet and interact with on a daily basis. I admire women who are able to balance work with family responsibilities, I admire women who are not afraid to speak up and speak out, and I admire women who quietly get ‘er done. I believe all of these things are values in CENTERS, as we are all about balancing our lives, ambition to be better, and making sure we get things done!

How do you feel having strong and respected female leaders in the company attracts women and minority talent to the company?

I feel it shows our commitment to diversity and inclusion. We are able to show our ability to include voices from all backgrounds, which gives us strength.

How does working for CENTERS help you overcome common challenges and inefficiencies that campus recreation professionals that work outside the company live with?

Having a built-in support system has been very helpful when navigating a number of challenges on campuses. Our connections make us stronger!

What are the most important competencies that younger female professionals need to acquire to become the next generation of leaders in the industry?

Flexibility, confidence, and know your WHY!  It’s so important to know WHY you do what you do and what motivates you to keep learning and getting better. Also, understanding things change, being ready to change with them, and knowing that you can get it done.

Name a female employee on your staff who has inspired you by the way they have broken barriers or set new standards in the industry.

Emily Davidson, our Associate Director, is a master at getting things done. I admire her ability to take on numerous tasks and get them done while making it look easy. Her relaxed and easy demeanor make her a great collaborator and teammate.

We are happy to have you on our leadership team, Vetty! Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for the company.

In honor of National Women’s History Month, CENTERS wants to thank the exceptional women in our company – we would not be where we are today with out each and every one of you. As a company that currently manages 10 sites, we are proud to say that 60% of our directors are female. We took some time to pick their brains on how working for CENTERS has impacted their professional careers and to lend some advice for future leaders. Up first is CENTERS’ very first employee, Maureen McGonagle, better known as Moe, the Director of Campus Recreation at CENTERS, LLC at DePaul University.

Moe was hired by CENTERS in 1998 and has been leading the troops at our very first site, DePaul University, for 22.5 years. When asked what has kept her coming back each and every day, Moe replied with “I appreciate our focus on excellence and innovation, and the flexibility in the approach to our work. I also appreciate the support.” Moe has operated under a specific business plan every year and she has consistently innovated to deliver value to DePaul by converting concepts into efficiently delivered programs.

Can you talk about how the CENTERS Culture with POI, our commitment to Better is Better, our Quest for X, and cross-site collaboration opportunities helps motivate you to continue learning and growing within the CENTERS organization?

CENTERS actively nurtures a growth mindset, and we are proactive in creating opportunities to excel. There are a variety of mechanisms (Quest for X, Better is Better) to provide ongoing challenge and support, and we’re always looking for, and creating, opportunities that strengthen our team and our company.

What women inspire you, and which of CENTERS’ core values/attributes do they exemplify most?

My daughter inspires me; she is passionate, dedicated, and fierce when faced with adversity. She relentlessly pursues excellence, and is always looking for ways to improve herself and the organizations she works with. Although she is not a CENTERS employee, she embodies our core values and is a reminder to me of what we are trying to be as a company.

How do you feel having strong and respected women leaders in the company attracts women and minority talent to the company?

An individual’s commitment to an organization is strongest when there is a sense of belonging, which goes a step beyond the goals of diversity and inclusion. When people with different experiences have a true voice in our leadership, it proves our commitment and helps align our intent with our impact. This active role modeling is also an important aspect of talent development.

How does working for CENTERS help you overcome common challenges and inefficiencies that campus recreation professionals that work outside the company live with?

There are many development opportunities that we are able to offer our staff that are much more difficult to provide within a normal university bureaucracy. An example — at Centers @ DePaul we give our full-time staff frequent opportunities to switch job responsibilities (partial or full job swaps) as a way to keep them engaged, challenged, and constantly growing. We’ve been able to prioritize our staff experience, which ultimately allows us to better serve our students and the university community.

What are the most important competencies that younger women professionals need to acquire to become the next generation of leaders in the industry?

In my experience women tend to underestimate (and be less confident in) their skills and abilities compared to men. Supervisors can help emerging women leaders identify and leverage their strengths, and help boost their confidence.

If someone asked you to describe CENTERS, what would you say?

CENTERS is a collection of passionate, supportive, and high-achieving staff who are devoted to serving students well. We are creative and driven in our quest for excellence.

Speaking of the Quest for Excellence… Moe was one of the first employees to receive the CENTERS “Quest for X” Award. The Quest for X Award is an internal award that recognizes employees who consistently portray CENTERS essential attitudes and employee attributes on a daily basis. This is demonstrated through their outstanding accomplishments, commitment, or service as well as for bringing an overall excitement and awareness to their fellow co-workers’ contributions. Moe was selected by the CENTERS owners as a founding recipient of this award specifically due to her ability to be a role model to the entire company and to show what the award truly represents. Moe has beyond exceeded all expectations as she has pioneered the way for not only women in CENTERS, but NIRSA as a whole. Moe was awarded the NIRSA Honors Award (highest award given at NIRSA) in 2015 as well as the NIRSA Horace Moody Award in 2008. She has been recognized many times over the years at the National, Regional and Campus level for her excellence, professionalism, leadership, and knowledge.

Moe, thank you for all that you have done to contribute to CENTERS’ history and future. We all could learn something from you.

When program management firm Brailsford & Dunlavey (B&D) — parent company of CENTERS — completed the business plan for the Ray Meyer Fitness & Recreation Center at DePaul University, the school loved the plan’s ambition.

But there was one problem: DePaul didn’t believe it could implement the plan on its own. The university needed help running the new 123,000-square-foot facility and turned to B&D, which at the time wasn’t set up to operate a recreation center.

“We believed we could do it, but we knew it would require building a team of the highest quality of collegiate recreation professionals, who were also the right fit for DePaul,” said Paul Brailsford, a principal and co-founder of B&D and CENTERS, LLC. “B&D was not set up to operate a recreation center, so the CENTERS partnership was born.”

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The Rec Center had everything set up within three to four minutes,” [a patron nephrologist, who also assisted in the rescue] said. “Most people don’t survive. He was in the right place at the right time.”

“It was a team effort,” [Michelle] December said. “I am really grateful for our amazing student and professional staff.

View the Full Article Here.

“As the university’s largest employer of student workers – more than 140 student employees – Campus Rec holds a special responsibility in shaping students’ futures beyond DePaul.”

View the Article Here.

Dan Belcher Wins the 2015 Horace Moody Award for his outstanding contribution to enhancing student development.

Scott Vandermoon wins IIRSA’s 2013 Service Award for his outstanding achievements and contributions.

DePaul University’s head swim instructor, Carolyn Meurer, has been awarded the 2013 DePaul Student Employee of the Year award for her dedication and leadership.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham was featured in Best College Reviews’ list of “25 Most Amazing Campus Student Recreation Centers.” Coming in at number 18, the recreation center is noted for its varied facility components and programs for both students and community children.

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Jeff Sessine wins NIRSA’s 2013 Regional Award of Merit for demonstrating exceptional performance and dedication to the field of collegiate recreation on a regional basis.

Cleveland State University’s “Billionaire Bingo” marketing campaign won first place in NIRSA’s 2013 Creative Excellence Award in the category of Programming Publication.

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Scott Vandermoon is selected as the first staff professional to be honored by the offices of the First-Year Program and New Student and Family Engagement’s recognition reception for its Chicago Quarter teaching teams.

Lisa Hanson Lamey receives the NIRSA Service Award for her work on and dedication to the National Campus Championship Series, and is honored by the University of West Florida Campus Recreation as this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award.

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