Michelle Healey, B.P.E. (Co-op), M.P.E. (2005, Memorial)
Director of Athletics, Memorial University
Hometown: St. Joseph’s, St. Mary’s Bay
My experience with the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation
I had a great experience with the School of HKR. It was a changing time in the faculty, with new faculty emerging, changes to fitness testing requirements in the academic program and a small class setting. Some of my good friends today were my classmates during my time in the PE program and despite separation due to distance we still keep in touch. While pursuing studies, I also played varsity basketball and had great support from within the faculty, which allowed me to pursue both my academic and athletic goals. The people in the School were, and probably still are, the School’s best asset. It just seemed like people in the building cared about your well-being as a student, no matter what their role was.
My work terms
Without co-op, I would likely have become a physical education teacher, as that’s why I originally enrolled in the BPE program. Once I began my co-op work terms, I was exposed to the variety and diversity of employment opportunities related to the HKR field. I completed my first co-op work term right here in the School, as program coordinator of service programs. I learned lots of great skills in that position, as I was responsible for organizing and scheduling a variety of campus recreation programs, overseeing aerobics, the weight room, the swimming pool, etc. From this position I learned very quickly the need to stay on top of things and prioritize tasks, as it was a busy, but interesting position. My second work term was with the provincial government’s Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. I met some great people through this position, people that I’m still connected with today both professionally and personally. My work primarily centered on the preparation of Team NL for the 1995 Canada Winter Games in Lethbridge. This was another quality work experience that really broadened my horizon about a future working in sport. My third work term was as Strength and Conditioning Coordinator here in the School. It was a great exposure to the fitness side of things and being involved during the opening of the facility gave good insight into the work done behind the scenes to get things ready. My final work term was with Student Housing as their Health and Wellness Coordinator. I was responsible for summer health and wellness programming in residence and for planning the fall residence orientation. During that work term I met great people and learned the value of teamwork and working together with people to make things happen.
My experience with the co-op program/office
The folks in the co-op office at the time I went through were a great resource and a great source of learning. I came through when the co-op program first started. When I look back at how green we were when it came to employment readiness, I realize just how valuable co-op programs are. The preparation for interviews, resume development, professional behavior on the job - I can’t imagine what my first professional employment would have been like without having had co-op experience. You get to work through all of the bugs and grow professionally before really entering the work world! To those entering HKR programs today, I highly recommend the co-op option. It might add an extra semester or two, but that investment of time will pay off when it comes to professional opportunities post-graduation.
I credit my career path in some ways to Bas Kavanagh, a faculty member in our School. I graduated with my BPE in 1997 and had been accepted for Education in the fall. I had lined up summer employment to secure some finances for tuition and living expenses for the next year. In early August, I got a call from Mr. Kavanagh, who was a volunteer on the Goulds Recreation Committee at the time. They were looking for someone to run their community recreation centre and programs, as they were just branching off from the city to deliver their own programming. I immediately said no, convinced that a career in education was what I wanted. About a week later, he contacted me again and suggested we get together to at least talk about the opportunity. During that meeting, I realized that the position sounded interesting and there was a great opportunity to work on numerous skill areas. He suggested that I could probably defer my acceptance into education for a year to test out the position. He suggested if I determined it wasn’t for me, then only a year had passed and I could return to school. I took the opportunity. A year later, I declined the opportunity to return to complete my Education degree and had found great satisfaction in the challenge and the diversity of the Recreation Director position. It was gratifying to see the development of programs and community partnerships and I really enjoyed the hectic pace of the work. In the spring of 1999, an opportunity to work at Memorial as Service Program Coordinator became available, with responsibility for overseeing the Campus Recreation, Intramural and Varsity Athletics program. It was a busy job, but I dove in. With campus recreation, intramurals and varsity athletics on my plate, there wasn’t much downtime, but I loved the challenge and the opportunity to work in a field that I loved. This position transferred into becoming Coordinator of Varsity Athletics in 2001 and at the time, I was the only fulltime employee working in Athletics. This job required a lot of time and I worked days, nights and weekends to manage the bulk of work and despite the busy schedule, it was very rewarding to love to come to work everyday. The preparation helped me gain experience for my current role as Director of Athletics, a job I love and am passionate about. Without my training in the PE program, my experience in the varsity program and the experience I attained through co-op, I’m not exactly sure where my professional life would have taken me. The one thing I am sure about is that I wouldn’t change a thing!