From the Desk of William Stackman, Vice Provost for Student Affairs
Welcome to “Meet Student Affairs,” a regular series in which I introduce a member of the Student Affairs community. Given that this blog and series are both new, I thought it was only fitting to introduce the newest member of our family.
Stephen Byrd joined the division on April 1 as the director of recreation services. He came to Mizzou at an interesting time, with MizzouRec temporarily closed as part of the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet he hit the ground running to make sure students had access to critical resources for their health and well-being.
Stephen and the MizzouRec staff developed new ways for students to access fitness programming, including co-hosting a virtual 5k, partnering with Fitbod to deliver a free fitness app to all students, and creating virtual fitness classes for students to access some TigerX classes from their homes. These measures have proven successful, with nearly 1,000 Mizzou students participating in the new programs.
Let’s get to know Stephen!
William Stackman: You joined MizzouRec on April 1, a few weeks into the university moving to remote operations. How have you adjusted to the role in your first two months as a Tiger?
Stephen Byrd: The people here at Mizzou have been wonderful! That’s how you really become acclimated to a new place or a new job. Campus recreation operations are largely the same at most places; gyms are gyms almost wherever you go. But it’s the people and the culture of a particular institution that really shapes what the role can become there. From what I know, and what I’ve already seen, this will be fantastic here at Mizzou.
WS: Why did you choose a career in student recreation?
SB: Like so many others in our field, I began working in campus recreation as an undergraduate student. There is such a large emphasis on coaching and development in the discipline that many young adults who at one point just need campus employment eventually find they’ve developed the skills to continue this work as a professional. That was the case for me. I was highly invested in mentoring and working with youth throughout my own upbringing, so I greatly value those aims within higher education.
WS: Speaking of health and fitness, what are your favorite ways to stay active?
SB: I’ve always been a sports enthusiast, so recreational athletic opportunities are always enjoyable, even though they rarely work for my schedule. I also enjoy (and sometime endure) morning workouts, so that’s typically when I’ll be active in MizzouRec. The older I get though, the more these workouts are now just to stave off as much athletic embarrassment as possible!
WS: I know students miss MizzouRec. How has MizzouRec adjusted to make sure students have access to resources as we wrap up the semester?
SB: The MizzouRec team has worked hard to create an array of virtual fitness programing. In addition, we’ve launched recreational esports leagues and tournaments so that students can still compete with and interact with one another. Aside from these open-access opportunities, there are also many club sport participants, wheelchair basketball student-athletes, facility members and others who are still relying on a level of engagement from us in order to best prepare for a return to their preferred recreational activities.
WS: Last question, what is your best advice for Mizzou students to be successful?
SB: Engage! Whether it be with a club or organization of interest, or an intriguing student employment opportunity or some other endeavor, you should find something that you feel is worth investing your time and energy. You’ll soon find that the return on that investment are experiences and opportunities that reward you in ways you never could have expected. Those wonderful experiences are an essential part of enjoying your journey toward graduation. For some of us, they even move us towards our career.