OXFORD, Miss. – Anna Pechenik Mausolf, an adjunct instructor of park and recreation management at the University of Mississippi, has been named the 2012 Outstanding Graduate Student by the Young Professionals Network of the National Recreation and Park Association. NRPA will present the award publicly at an Oct. 17 reception during the association’s 2012 Congress & Exposition in Anaheim, Calif. Pechenik said she was both shocked and humbled by the news, even though she has been consistently working toward the association’s goals during her tenure at Ole Miss. Last year, she oversaw the development of a comprehensive citizen survey to help the city of Hernando’s Parks and Recreation Department understand its constituency.
“When I first spoke with Anna, I was encouraged by how she was able to understand our needs and her ability to translate those needs into questions that would get to the heart of what we needed to know from our community,” said Dewayne Williams, director of Hernando Parks and Recreation. “Anna walked with us and guided us through this process of discovery. She was learning about Hernando and at the same time giving great professional advice. Anna has helped Hernando to learn what we want now, what we want in the future, where we stand with each other, and that parks and recreation are essential to all in our community.” Pechenik also organized the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society’s “Party in the Dog Park” fundraiser in April, which encouraged the participation of the department’s undergraduate students and illustrated some “how-to” principles of event management. When NRPA’s national conference was in Atlanta last fall, Pechenik helped organize a trip for about 20 undergraduates and seven fellow graduate students from the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management to attend. She said she hopes these “future young professionals” became inspired by experiencing what they can do outside Oxford in the field of parks and recreation management. “Our focus in the HESRM program is on the quality of education students receive,” said Kim Beason, professor and coordinator of the UM Park and Recreation Management program. “Graduate students manage, guide and mentor undergraduates wherever possible. They are in the field, supervising service projects and conducting research. Anna has taken that leadership role and understands it.” The awards honor NRPA members for significant efforts in specialized areas of parks and recreation management. Individuals are chosen for their contributions to advancing the movement through professional service, volunteerism and education. Winners, nominated from among the association’s 20,000 members, are chosen by the association’s interest areas or regional networks. Pechenik graduated from UM in May with a master’s degree in park and recreation management. A native of Muskegon, Mich., she attended Central Michigan University for her bachelor’s degree in recreation, parks and leisure services administration. She is undecided about her plans to either to pursue a doctorate or return to working full-time, but said she also wants to give back to NPRA by advancing the association’s educational and professional objectives. “I really enjoy teaching students, but would also love to take them on study abroad experiences (and) help others coordinate volunteer projects, taking education and vocation and putting them together,” she said. “If getting a Ph.D. means that I will continue to get the opportunity to do that, then I’m all for it.” Pechenik said she is passionate about the role of recreation in overall quality of life. “If you participate in active recreation, you will be a happier, healthier individual,” she said. “It will make you a better family member, community member. NRPA says that the benefits are endless. I truly believe that working as a professional in this field is a joy. It’s almost like social work, to help other people to promote health and wellness through exercise and active recreation. Pechenik credits the university with helping her win the NRPA award. “(Winning the award) gives me one more reason why I am so thankful I came to Ole Miss for my master’s degree,” Pechenik said. “I got a very strong education here and met amazing people.” Pechenik was working in Sitka, Alaska, when she chose Ole Miss for her graduate studies to “do more.” “I wanted to come to a smaller program like Ole Miss, so instead of being lost in a crowd, I could work hard to make a difference,” she explained. “In two years, I got to do a major marketing project, organize a big fundraiser, do independent research and teach three courses as the instructor of record.” Graduate students at larger programs may not have these opportunities, she said. “Choosing to come to the University of Mississippi, I got to do a lot more,” Pechenik said. “I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity and I am happy that I took the opportunity.” For more information about programs in the UM Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, go to http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/hesrm/About/index.htm.