OXFORD, Miss. – For park and recreation management majors at the University of Mississippi, the post-graduation job market is thrilling, but not scary. Most of them, you see, already have solid job prospects.
One of those students is Diandra DeVoe-Hazelett, a senior from Orlando, Fla., who began figure skating when she was 6. Figuring out how to turn her lifelong love into a career was simple, once she realized the University of Mississippi offers a degree in park and recreation management.
The park and recreation management program offers both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in park and recreation management. The undergraduate program, one of 80 nationally accredited ones since 2000, prepares students to become certified park and recreation professionals and/or certified therapeutic recreation specialists. Park and recreation degrees offered at Ole Miss combine traditional classroom education with experiential and interdisciplinary approaches, which prepare students to become leisure and recreation professionals in a variety of recreation, leisure, tourism and sport settings.
DeVoe-Hazelett, who started coaching figure skating her senior year of high school, knew after visiting UM for the first time during the 2010 Egg Bowl that it was where she wanted to attend college.
“I skated at the DeSoto Civic Center when the (minor league hockey team) RiverKings had their season, but then through a lot of hard work and doing fundraisers, we earned enough money to build a rink in Olive Branch,” she said. “So now I am coaching about six hours a week in Olive Branch and I also worked for the RiverKings for two years as their game operations director.”
DeVoe-Hazelett also did community development with the Junior Street Kings, the River Kings’ youth roller hockey program.
She credits Ole Miss with providing her many opportunities for success.
“You get on a personal level with all of your professors because it is such a small department,” said DeVoe-Hazelett, who is president of the park and recreation majors student association. “They become your friends and they do whatever they can to see you succeed. They are willing to help you in any aspect, whether it be getting an internship or working on a project.”
Zack Breeding, a sophomore in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College who is double majoring in public policy leadership with an environmental studies minor, said the best part of the parks and recreation management major is its versatility.
“I am interested in the governmental side and will probably attend graduate school to study some kind of natural resource recreation management, looking at not just the facilities or the people, but at how do you make it possible,” he said.
DeVoe-Hazelett and Breeding both stressed the importance of career preparation, especially by attending yearly conferences that attract a mix of students and professionals. The conferences are a way for the students to network, and for professionals to earn CEUs.
“Many people end up getting internships through those conferences,” said Breeding, a Columbus, Ga., native. “At the Mississippi Park and Recreation conference earlier this year, four different people stood up and offered positions they had available.”
Kim Beason, UM professor of park and recreation management and coordinator of the program, is pleased with the recognition the major is receiving.
“Since the summer, the recreation profession has been featured in several national sources,” Beason said. “Most recently, the field of therapeutic recreation was featured on the ‘Today’ show as one of the top 10 majors for a lucrative career, which is great news because college graduates will have a job market to explore. These sources support how society has a need for recreation programmers and the job market will continue to remain strong in the future.”
U.S. News and World Report featured a similar story, pointing out that park and recreation management degrees are meeting the needs of baby boomers, and CNN Money listed the field as the best job for saving the world. The major was also featured on collegemajors101.com.
The degree has been available at UM since 1975, though the program has gone through various name changes.
“Regardless of our title, the key is that we are accredited through the National Recreation and Park Association, and this assures that when a student graduates with a park and recreation degree from the University of Mississippi, they can apply for, be accepted and take the Certified Park and Recreation Professional or Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist examination,” Beason said.
The university’s park and recreation degree program prepares students for careers with not only knowledge but with numerous field experiences – basically assuring education meets vocation.
“We plan for students to be right in the middle of applying what they need to be competitive in the job market by mixing them in with the professionals each semester,” Beason said. “So in the end, the internship, practicums, class projects, attendance at conferences and special events they program and administer provide job-related experience to go along with their formal education.
“If students complete a good internship and become certified, they walk out of Ole Miss as well-prepared for positions in the field as anyone in the country. I can say that pretty close to 100 percent of the students who are dedicated and become certified are employed. Every one of our certified therapeutic recreational specialists alums are employed right now.”
One who found a job immediately was Gerry Logan, a 2010 graduate who said he has been involved with sports and recreation most of his life, so the thought of making it a career was intriguing. He interned with the city of Clinton and was then hired as a full-time sports coordinator.
“I plan, implement and evaluate all the sports for the city of Clinton Parks and Recreation Department,” Logan said. “I serve as the primary liaison to the youth sport associations in Clinton, and I also act as the primary tournament director for our local and state tournaments, and assist with our regional and national tournaments. I am frequently responsible for obtaining sponsorships and finding alternative funding options for programs, I assist in the marketing of all our programs and I frequently work with maintenance staff in preparing fields for play.”
Logan, a past-president of the student association, recalls his experience at Ole Miss as priceless.
“Every class I took got me even more hooked to the profession that is recreation,” he said. “The degree program had the students constantly involved with events like the Rebel Man Triathlon, the Double Decker Festival and Avent Park’s Haunted Trail. Looking back, those experiences prepared me more than anything else for the life I have now undertaken.”
For more information, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/hesrm/Park_and_Recreation_Management/index.htm.