April 15, 2010

Recreation association honors three students

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Three Southern Illinois University Carbondale students are winners of one of the most select awards in the realm of recreational sports.

Graduate students Derek J. Donlevy, of Oconto, Wis., and Dustin W. Soderman, ofPardeeville, Wis., along with undergraduate Alan M. Beck, of Steeleville, are winners of the 2010 William N. Wasson Student Leadership and Academic Award from the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA).

Nationally, just 12 graduate students and 24 undergraduates can win each year with no more than two graduate and four undergraduate selections coming from any of the six NIRSA regions. The three from SIUC are Region III recipients. The region includes Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.

“We are fortunate at SIUC and Recreational Sports and Services to have student employees who lead by example and sacrifice and serve the campus and community so well,” said William Ehling, director of Recreational Sports and Services (RSS).

The late William Wasson played a major role in organizing NIRSA, then called the National Intramural Association, in the late 1950s. The group now has more than 4,000 members from more than 700 universities, public park and recreational districts, correctional facilities, military installations, non-profit organizations and private companies.

The award bearing Wasson’s name recognizes undergraduate and graduate students employed by or participating in college or university recreational sports organizations. Scholastic achievement, professional development, leadership, campus and community involvement, and active promotion or recreational services and activities are among the award selection criteria.

Soderman, Donlevy and Beck will receive their honor during NIRSA’s annual conference and recreational sports exposition April 20-23 in Anaheim, Calif.

Beck, a senior majoring in kinesiology, has worked for RSS for about two years. He is a certified personal trainer and a fitness floor leader in the fitness department. He also assists in the Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation program. The son of Patricia and Wayne T. Reynolds and William H. Beck, he plans to attend graduate school majoring in exercise physiology after completing his bachelor’s degree. His goal is to become an exercise physiologist for high risk and disabled populations.

“Alan Beck is an outstanding employee who has an extraordinary work ethic and determination to succeed,” said Kathy L. Hollister, assistant director of special populations for RSS. “While yet an undergraduate student, he functions much more like a graduate student in many respects. He is conscientious, hard working, creative and intuitive. He leads by example in professionalism, customer service, productivity, adaptability, communication and teamwork. He radiates confidence and caring for others.

“He is involved both inside Recreational Sports and Services and throughout the SIUC community. He serves as the president of the veteran’s student organization at SIUC and he’s currently been working on a special project for veterans that involves making short fitness videos to provide education and motivation for exercise. Without a doubt Alan exemplifies the many qualities of William N. Wasson,” Hollister added.

Soderman is a graduate student in recreation administration. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education and geography with a health education minor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He’s been a graduate assistant in facilities for about two years at RSS.

The son of Kris and Buzz Soderman, he will graduate in May and plans to continue working in campus recreation. He said the award is an honor and validates his hard work and time devoted to the Student Recreation Center.

Working in a variety of positions, Soderman has taken on numerous responsibilities, essentially handling facility management in the absence of administrative staff and managing all facility student staff members, notes Corné Prozesky, associate director of facilities and operations for RSS.

“He supervises 90 student employees who interact with approximately 700,000 yearly visitors. He is instrumental in our department’s risk management as the risk management council chair. His demeanor and behavior are exemplary and set an example for all to follow. Dustin is always ready to help with special events and is at all times ready to lend a hand in all areas of needs,” said Prozesky.

He said Soderman is active in numerous organizations including IIRSA, NIRSA, Freshmen Initiative Groups and that he works with moonlight canoe events and is volunteer coordinator for the Doc Spackman Triathlon. Soderman has managed and coordinated at least 22 events and assisted with others and that includes the Saluki’s Healthiest Loser finale, Bridge to Bridge Community Riverfront Cleanup, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Relay for Life and much more, including initiating and managing the first four-day NIRSA Rec Sports and Fitness celebration at SIUC, according to Prozesky.

“Volunteerism is alive with Dustin. His academic success and 3.9 GPA on a 4.0 scale combined with his other experiences make him a model for other students to emulate. He has earned several scholarships and his honors are many as he received recognition for what he accomplishes yet he remains humble all the time. Dustin has been instrumental in recruiting, developing and mentoring many young employees here at SIUC. His role in RSS transcends employment and is a positive, contagious influence for all participants and staff,” Prozesky said.

Donlevy is a graduate student in recreation administration carrying a 4.0 GPA. He holds a bachelor’s degree in recreation management from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He began his RSS career in January 2009 and he’s a graduate assistant for youth and family services instructional programs.

The son of Kim and Brian Donlevy, he plans a career in community or campus recreation. He said the Wasson award is his most prestigious thus far and the honor “feels awesome.”

Donlevy’s initial involvement with RSS was as a temporary, part-time staff member, filling a vacated graduate assistant position with the youth and family programs department, according to Hollister.

“Through his demonstrated skills and abilities as a doer and a leader, he was then offered a graduate assistantship position in a newly formed role working with both youth and family programs as well as instructional programs. This new position required excellent time management, organization and the ability to manage reporting to two supervisors. In total, Derek has had the responsibility of coordinating more than 60 programs per year. This includes scheduling facility space and communicating regularly with 25 part-time program instructors. He has also had to become familiar with use of the Vermont system ‘Rec Trac’ program registration and the ‘Joomla’ program for updating the Web site. Derek has excellent problem solving and critical thinking skills -- very important traits when accountable to two supervisors.

“His positive attitude and frequent smile enhance his relationships with the diverse populations he serves. His quick wit makes him well liked by children, parents and peers. Derek enjoys being a ‘facilitator of fun’ and being responsible for those around him having fun. He is a true servant in the field of recreation,” Hollister added.

This is the third year in a row SIUC has had Wasson Award winners.

“Recently, SIUC has had a winner in 2008 -- Ashley Grimes, and Amanda Drawve in 2009. And what a year in 2010! To be recognized with three winners is a reminder of the potential that exists at SIUC,” Ehling said.

In addition to sending three winners to the conference, SIUC will also have a presence through presentations for those in attendance. Soderman will join Lynn Thompson-Cundiff, assistant director of fitness; Sally Wright, associate director of recreational programs; and Prozesky, associate director of facilities and operations, to present “Collaborative Special Event Programming on University Campuses.”

Ehling, joined by Heather Shaffer, systems administrator, and Vijay Sood, undergraduate information technology employee, will present “A Technology Plan Staff Will Treat Like Their Favorite Dessert.” Also, Amber Bratsch, facilities coordinator, will be one of the presenters for “The One Minute Manager: Catch ‘Em Doing Something Right.”