Wesley Howell, director of EMU's Rec/IM department, said goodbye to Eastern Michigan University - and Michigan - at the beginning of the fall semester. After serving the students of EMU for over a year, Howell said he was excited but saddened to announce his acceptance of a position in the recreational facilities at the distinguished Stanford University near Palo Alto, California.
Howell came to the university in 2018 as the director of the Rec/IM, having previously worked at Stanford as the Director of Recreation Facilities and Sustainability. Immediately Howell took on the role of student advocate. As the Rec was already undergoing renovation at the time that he arrived, Howell strived to include the student voice in every decision that was made around the facility. He did this by instituting a series of surveys and focus groups, soliciting feedback on a variety of topics dealing with recreation and student life.
"A recreation center is a great option for students looking to better themselves physically while on campus,“ Howell said. "The Rec/IM provides individuals a place to develop a regular exercise routine. But the Rec/IM is not only a place to work out, it is also a place to study, a place to play games and build a community.”
During his time at EMU, Wes also introduced a barrage of updated ideas and programming geared towards giving students a well-rounded and responsible recreational experience while on campus. This includes the new esports program that is in the process of being launched through the Rec/IM.
“In the digital era, we spend so much time online, or sitting at a computer. I think the Rec/IM provides a healthy environment for real life interaction and focuses on some of the things we may be missing in the current digital age,” Howell said regarding the expansion of recreational opportunities for students on campus.
Howell also focused heavily on sustainability, having introduced methods into the facility to cut down on single-use plastics and create a system of recycling that is practical and simple for students to use. Creating central waste stations in the hallways and eliminating the need for plastic garbage bags to be pulled from multiple office trash cans every day is another way that he has encouraged the Rec/IM to look toward the future and their role in maintaining a healthy environment.
The Rec/IM staff is sad to see Howell leave but thankful for the opportunity to work with him. Looking toward the future, the process of finding a new director will be starting soon. Currently the Rec/IM department is operating with only four full-time professional staff members, with Tim White, aquatics facilitator, planning to retire this month.
Despite the constant changing environment, the Rec continues to focus on the voice of the students. Howell has left a lasting impression on the community with his outreach and tireless advocacy for student recreational life and Stanford is fortunate to have his knowledge and passion on their team once again.
Howell will miss EMU, also, stating, “I had many impactful moments while working at EMU. Some of those moments were centered around speaking with students and other moments were around building relationships with graduate assistants, faculty and staff on campus. I think what I am most proud of is the relationships I built, what I learned from the individuals that I had the chance to get to know, and hopefully I left a lasting impression about the overall importance that recreation has on a college campus.”