DURHAM, NC – As the director of the North Carolina Central University (NCCU) Department of Recreation and Wellness (RecWell), Tiffany Lomax, Ed.D., knows the importance of teamwork in guiding Eagles to develop a holistic lifestyle.
Recreation and Wellness is a department within the Division of Student Affairs. In addition to Dr. Lomax, their team includes associate director James Leach, assistant director of programs Walter Muñoz, community engagement coordinator Princess Jackson, competitive sports coordinator Malik Hayes, and wellness and outdoor program coordinator Alicia Benson. Like most teams, they band together to make great things happen for NCCU students, faculty, and staff.
After being appointed director, Lomax and her team restructured the organizational chart and changed the department’s name from Campus Recreation to Recreation and Wellness. The new name is part of the strategic vision the RecWell team is establishing. "As our profession advances, we are striving to see individuals holistically," Lomax said. "We want to positively impact their well-being, and we believe our name should reflect that."
"But here’s what’s driving that vision," says Leach, "it is devised around inspiring minds and cultivating wellness."
Leach focuses on the department’s budget, assessment, and student staff development. He has always had a strong desire for healthy living; however, his passion grew when he joined the RecWell team. He is committed to exposing the Eagle community to more areas of recreation that have a positive impact on well-being. As an example, Leach referenced a hiking excursion that included nine students who had never experienced hiking before. Those students indicated they were excited about going on other outdoor adventures. He followed up by saying, "Research shows that outdoor activities like hiking are beneficial mentally and physically."
The department consists of eight component areas: informal recreation, intramural sports, club sports, wellness programs (personal training and group fitness), outdoor programs, student staff development, aquatics, and the most recent addition, eSports.
The addition of eSports to the department’s list of offerings helped expand the traditional idea of "campus recreation." ESports gives students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to compete in PC (personal computer) or console gaming (e.g., Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch). There are opportunities to compete internally within the institution as well as externally. These opportunities also lead to scholarships and prizes, including money.
Through strategic partnerships, the RecWell team has been able to expand its offerings this year in two areas: eSports and outdoor programming.
RecWell partnered with the Black Collegiate Gaming Association to host the 3rd annual Black College Con here on NCCU’s campus during Black History Month. This summit allowed NCCU and neighboring communities to learn about career opportunities in the field of gaming outside of being a competitive player. Topics focused on career building, diversity in gaming, mental health, and the blockchain.
"There were over 90 participants, with one of our very own taking home the first-place prize in an NBA 2k tournament, a $1,000 scholarship," said Lomax. In the United States, only 3% of the gaming industry is Black, compared with 13.4% of the population. RecWell has made efforts to increase the 3% population.
"People of color are not often exposed to the opportunities that exist in eSports," says Leach. "This summit expanded our knowledge base so that we all can understand the possibilities that occur in eSports and gaming in general."
RecWell also partnered with the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail to enhance our outdoor programming (Eagle Venture). The NCCU Eagle Venture program invites students to engage with nature through activities such as hiking and whitewater rafting.
"With this partnership, we were not only able to offer a new trip to students, but we were also able to expand their knowledge about job opportunities in outdoor recreation," said Muñoz. RecWell offered a Namaste and Nature event led by the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which gave students a hike and yoga experience. The Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail also assisted RecWell in hosting a career night for students featuring speakers from the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, REI Co-op, Eno River Association, and the YMCA of the Triangle.
In addition to offering new opportunities, RecWell has made some enhancements to the facility, most taking place in the fitness center, and as Leach says, "people work out with their eyes first." They removed inoperable equipment, reorganized current equipment, purchased new equipment, and created a turf section for functional training. "It has been favorable as the space is more visually appealing as well as enhanced," says Leach.
The NCCU Recreation and Wellness Department is getting ready for the new academic year. Trying new things and thinking outside the box keeps the students interested in what’s coming next. The department offers recreational sports such as basketball, flag football, volleyball, and soccer, and there has been discussion about the addition of pickleball.
"We want to give our students similar experiences as far as programs that they may see at different PWIs," says Muñoz.
"We will continue our outside-the-box programming, but we generally want to increase the number of opportunities for the Eagle community," says Muñoz. "That includes whether it is internship opportunities, practicum opportunities, or student employment opportunities."
With new events and opportunities coming, students will have more ways to express themselves and learn new ways to enhance their mental and physical health. It takes teamwork to run a department like RecWell, and for these new events and opportunities to take place, everyone needs to pitch in.
"We would love for everyone to see our 2022-23 end-of-the-year report and know that support is needed and appreciated both internally and externally," says Lomax.
"If you are interested in assisting us in achieving our mission to support the well-being of our Eagle community, we want to hear from you," says Lomax.
For more information about the NCCU Recreation and Wellness Department, contact Princess Jackson at [email protected] or by phone at (919) 530-5471.