As I walked into the FRC, Ben White, the new director of the FRC, greeted me with a smile, walked to the front doors, and turned to face the lobby and its commotion. After he told me he was “analyzing the visual appeal of the lobby area,” he asked me to stand next to him and observe the lobby. “What do you notice visually?” White asked.
I instantly felt like I could be honest with him because of our common desire to be actively involved in change. I told him there was empty space. After asking an FRC student employee the same question, White concluded that there was so much empty space on the walls that all you could do was focus on the empty space. He wants to use his prior knowledge and current expectations of the FRC to leave an impression on its visitors the moment they walk in.
White started working as the FRC Director just over a month ago, and is responsible for the Fitness and Recreation Department: from staff to programming to FRC memberships, as well as Mainely Outdoors. He will be filling the shoes of the previous Director and founder of Mainely Outdoors, Jim Toner, who passed away last summer.
He has a lot of new, productive ideas for the FRC— including program additions and a deeper relationship between the FRC and campus wellness— but he’d like to focus on student staff development to better prepare student staff for graduate school or the workforce. “Having been at other schools and working with people and schools all over the country,” White said, “I’ve seen some student staff development programs that provide more leadership [and] graduate school opportunities to student staff.”
White made it clear that he’s not expecting to enact major changes. “There are, and have been, so many amazing things happening by the staff that’s already there,” said White. “I don’t feel like I need to come in and be like, ‘Alright, we need to do these things.’ They’re already happening.”
Heather McDonald, a senior Special Education and Psychology double major as well as an FRC lifeguard and swim instructor, has been impressed with White and what he’s done so far. “His openness towards learning the environment and the people involved in the facility was a great relief,” said McDonald in an online interview. “Since we had built our own flow and daily routine, it made [the staff] much more receptive towards him, knowing that we wouldn’t have to change what we already know.”
Leah Brackett, one of the assistant directors at the FRC, was equally impressed after talking to White about his new ideas, such as the possibility of using DSE Rec software at the FRC’s front desk. “He’s met lots of people, so he has resources all over the country to help us improve our practices,” said Brackett.
White is more than qualified for his new position, and he and the staff are ready for his leadership. “Jim Toner’s passing left a large space in our FRC community and environment, which also left a certain level of expectation to fulfil,” said McDonald. “But I have no doubts that Ben will not only fulfil those expectations, but will bring his own element and legacy to the FRC.”