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Susan Potts – Recreation Services Supervisor, Howard County, Maryland (Part 1 of 2)

By Admin | May 30, 2008

Susan Potts is a therapeutic recreation therapist in the Baltimore/Washington, DC area. We recently had a chance to speak with her about her career and the importance of recreation therapy.

Where are you from?

Lombard, Illinois, suburb of Chicago.

Where did you go to college and what was your academic major?

BS from Southeast Missouri State University – in the boot heel of Missouri.
Recreation – with an emphasis in therapeutic and outdoor recreation.

MS from Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois. Just outside of Chicago – remember Wayne’s World. Masters are in administration and therapeutic recreation.

What has been your career path from college to your current professional position?

I finished my BS and had been working in a fitness center for awhile looking for a full-time position in a hospital rehab unit.

Missouri didn’t have much to offer so I took a position in a long term rehab center in northern Illinois called Winning Wheels, Inc. Clients there are recovering from a spinal cord injury or brain injury or other illness that requires intensive physical rehab.

I started out as a staff therapist and moved into the Director’s position of my own department.

Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in recreation?

I started my masters degree as a way to continue to educate myself and found that pursuing it full time would lead to bigger opportunities.

In short, I wanted to help more people and I thought that expanding would be the answer and potentially a career in higher educations.

I attended Aurora as a graduate assistant under Dr. Rita Yerkes. She was my mentor and great teacher.

I worked in the community part time and took classes in the evening. I was at the Sandwich Park District for 9 months and than Camp Fire Boy and Girls Club for a year.

These two assistantship allowed me to continue to train as a professional and pursue my education.

Why did you stay on at Aurora University?

After my education, I was job searching and approached by the University to manage outdoor programs and teach.

I accepted and spent 3 years with the Aurora University. Teaching is a passion and I enjoy working with students. I learn so much from them.

I remember sitting in my office at school one night and my phone rang and John McGovern who is a leader in the recreation accessibility area and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) asked if I would talk to the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) about a job.

I did and so I moved to Virginia to work for NRPA at the National Therapeutic Recreation Society staff liaison.

Did you like working for the NRPA?

It was one of those things were they tell you one thing but not the real thing. It was a great opportunity and I have met some great people and some of the most talented professionals in my field like Dr. Fran Daily, Dr. Candy Ashton, Dr. Anne Simmonson and Patti Irving, and many others.

But, the position wasn’t a good fit for me. I wanted to work on public policy and the branch needed more of an administrator for their advisory board.

I was able to transition to the National Partnerships Department and work on national campaigns with the USTA, Hershey Foods, NFL Football grants, NIKE and many other organizations that should be discussed.

Need to be discussed? Why?

All these partners understood the value of recreation and parks to people and partnered on that belief.

What did you do then?

After almost 5 years, I needed to move on. I was missing the field greatly and received the nick name of “May Tag Repairman” from Kathy Spangler because I wanted to work with each Recreation and Parks agency individually.

The relationship building that I did over that time was significant to me. I met and know people from all over the country. That was what I did best is knowing what is going on in the field from state to state.

I think NRPA has really lost that since I have moved on.

From my contacts, I knew of a few agencies I would be interested to joining. The time came when Howard County was looking to fill a position. That is how I got to where I am.

Copyright 2008 DailyInterview.com

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