California State University, Long Beach
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Recreation and Leisure Studies Excels at State, Nationwide Competitions

CSULB's Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies (RLS) had a banner year in 2007-08 when 20 of its majors brought back top scholarship honors from six state and nationwide competitions.

RLS student success is a reflection of the department’s emphasis on leadership, says Chair Maridith Janssen, who joined the university in 1999. “Recreation is a people profession,” she said. “We emphasize leadership. How do our students lead people? How do they lead programs? How do they direct and manage not only people and programs but small and large scale events as well? Success like this shows how our students learn skills in administration, budget, finance, programming and everything that helps to create leadership.”

In the California Foundation of Park and Recreation Scholarship competition, CSULB winners included Andrea Esposito, Brandy Bandaruk, Heather Barlow, La Tianna Williams, Marina Rabinovich, Heather Maluso, Christopher Ponce, Heather Stephenson and Joseph Mathieu.

In the California Park and Recreation Society District X Scholarship competition, winners included Keya Allen, Dominique Flores, Christine Flores, Chris Ponce, Barbara “Gaby” Ortiz and Heather Stephenson. In the CPRS District IX scholarship competition, Carl Ponce was the winner.

The Women in Leisure Services Gamma Chapter scholarship competition saw victory go to Brandy Bandaruk, Dominique Flores, Leticia Lozoya, Heather Maluso, Marina Rabinovich, Nancy Reyes, Heather Stephenson, and the Alpha Chapter awarded scholarships to Rosamelissa Rodriguez and Mary Allen.

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association Peg Connolly Scholarship went to CSULB’s Amanda Stemen and Victoria Storberg.

“Our department really pushes our students to go out and gain experience in the field whether through volunteering or work,” Janssen explained. “We believe our students need to go out and gain that experience so they can get their feet wet. Because our students do this, when they apply for scholarships, not only do they perform high academically but their volunteer and work experience shows a level of dedication and interest in their future degrees and careers. In addition, the faculty are constantly aware of scholarships available to our students and promote them via announcements are made in class or e-mail blasts issued on BeachBoard. Our department is constantly communicating with our students. One of the things we remind them of is upcoming scholarships.”

Another reason for student success is the RLS faculty members. “Every fall, Dr. Katherine James gives our students in-service workshops on how to apply for scholarships,” she said. “We also make sure our students see our full- and part-time faculty members actively involved in professional organizations. Many of our faculty members serve on state and national boards. This department has a national reputation based on our faculty members’ active involvement in national organizations through service, research and presentations. They work hard to find ways to connect with their professions outside of CSULB. This level of connection has paid off for the students in the form of scholarships and awards.”

Success in statewide competitions like these benefits both students and the university, Janssen believes. “Part of the pride we feel is in this professional recognition is it reinforces our belief that we turn out good students,” she said. “We make stewards of the profession and to see a student receive a scholarship serves as an internal reward for faculty members. It is the student’s glory that matters. My favorite thing to do, and I tell our students this all the time, is to write a letter of recommendation for a scholarship. I love it.” 

Success propels Recreation and Leisure Studies majors into such professions as recreation supervisors or directors of municipal recreation programs, camp directors, campus recreation or student life directors, event planners, resort/tour directors, directors of nonprofit/volunteer agencies or therapeutic recreation specialists, Janssen explained. “They naturally move up into positions of leadership in many of these areas of recreation,” she said.

At CSULB, the focus is on the student. “We know every student’s name and we know a lot about each one of them,” said Janssen. “The department is the right size for that level of intimacy. We have a much closer relationship with our students than many other departments. Our department breeds leadership and service. It is a very large part of who we are.”

Janssen sees even more recognition coming their way.

“This current success represents a continuation of a tradition of excellence that has lasted since the inception of the department,” said Janssen. ”There has always been a certain level of excellence in our department. It is a tradition that has been carried on through all our faculty members over time. It is just one of the given expectations of this department.”