Ever wonder what NRPA’s Directors School is really all about? In this guest blog post from James D. Worsley, Parks and Recreation Director of Columbus Parks and Recreation Department in GA, you'll read his key takeaways from his first-year experience and learn why you should attend this school to further your career. And what’s more, he offers great tips for a first-time Directors School student!
The NRPA’s Directors School provides an opportunity for individuals to maximize their human capital (i.e. education, training, skills, and experience), which often becomes an advantage in the workplace. NRPA’s Directors School also provides an opportunity for individuals to increase their social capital (i.e. networking opportunities with colleagues and instructors and finding mentors).
The NRPA’s Directors School affords the opportunity to actively participate in a curriculum that is designed to build skills necessary for the development of new and upcoming park and recreation directors.
Directors School offers topics such as:
- Organization & Administrative Operations
- Strategic Planning
- Human Resource Management
- Recreation Management
- Fiscal Management
Each topic provided me with an overview and included specific issues that are relevant in the park and recreation profession. In addition, by attending Directors School I was exposed to other directors and faculty that provided feedback, advice, guidance, and mentorship. The engagement with other professionals who have similar goals and/or experiences provided me the opportunity to seek “Best Practices” in the park and recreation field and “Best Practices” for becoming a better park and recreation director.
The week-long Directors School adventure enabled me to create strong ties with other recreation professionals around the country. Since attending Directors School, I have contacted several of my peers to ask questions regarding special projects. The feedback that I received enabled me to make more informed decisions. Instructors were knowledgeable about their course materials, and they were also extremely energetic. The course materials were helpful; however I found the group exercises and projects most beneficial because working in groups created a practical atmosphere like you might find on the job. In addition, the groups were made up of directors and/or senior staff being groomed to become directors; therefore the groups brought diverse experiences and philosophies that created a think-tank for parks and recreation best practices.
One other key lesson learned from my experience at NRPA’s Directors School is that it reinforced the need for me to set realistic and obtainable goals, both personally and professionally. Goal setting is extremely important for most things in life, especially for professional development and upward mobility.
If you are a new Directors School Candidate, here are a few key recommendations to consider:
- Bring your tablet or laptop computer with you. These are great tools to use during class sessions and particularly during group work.
- Take time to read your course materials prior to attending Directors School. This will make the class/group discussion more productive.
- Remember you will get out of the overall experience exactly what you put into the school.
- Bring your gym wear. There are many opportunities to exercise outdoors in the great West Virginia air or a quick workout onsite at the resort.
- Do not isolate yourself to your room during non-school hours. Take every opportunity to network with your peers. In addition, do not isolate yourself to one group! Get to know everyone in your class. The benefits will be endless!
- Be sure to take your business cards.
- Most importantly, have a great time!
Written by: James D. Worsley, Ph.D., CPRP, CTRS
Parks and Recreation Director, Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, Georgia