During the Fall 2023 semester, the Therapeutic Recreation (TR) classes at Longwood University were the recipients of presentations from real-world guest speakers including Brent Wolfe, the Executive Director of the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA); Jen Vass, Recreational Therapist at McGuire Veteran’s Hospital, and Aryn Atchison, Senior HR Business Partner at Tackle.io. Dr. Wolfe presented in RECR 215: Core Concepts in Therapeutic Recreation, Ms. Atchison presented in RECR 410: Supervision and Administration in Leisure Services, and Ms. Vass presented in RECR 302: Recreation Therapy in Physical Rehabilitation Settings I. Each presentation consisted of original, real-world material and perspective that helped to bring curriculum to life for students.

Dr. Wolfe is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) and is the Executive Director of ATRA, the national professional organization for the field of TR. His presentation was about how ATRA is beneficial for members and recreational therapists across the nation. Dr. Wolfe’s intent is to encourage students to become involved in ATRA, and the advancement of the field. According to Dr. Wolfe, both students and professional members alike are needed to help in this effort. Additionally, there are many benefits of an ATRA membership such as access to population and setting-specific expertise and networking. He related “getting people involved into the professional association gives us [ATRA] an opportunity to continue doing more of the work to try to empower recreational therapists.”

Jen Vass has been a CTRS for over 20 years and works at the McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center located in Richmond VA. She presented the day-to-day roles and responsibilities of a recreational therapist working with veterans on the polytrauma unit. Specifically, she works most often with veterans with acquired and traumatic brain injuries. While presenting, Ms. Vass advised students to “show respect in order to gain any respect” while working alongside other professions.

Aryn Atchison is a Senior Human Resources Business Partner at Tackle.io, and her presentation was about how to deliver feedback in an effective and professional manner. Ms. Atchison emphasized “Feedback needs to stay professional, regardless of your relationship with the other person. Feedback needs to be objective, this means it is about observations, not interpretations you make of their work. Feedback should express concern or support, as this helps communicate why you are delivering the feedback. Feedback needs to be concluded with an opportunity for improvement and agreement. Remember, it is not reserved only for when something has gone wrong.”

            Guest speakers provide information to students that they would not regularly receive in a classroom setting by the professors. The guest speakers this semester were able to give insight to the professional experience that students will have after graduation. The encouragement and knowledge shared by the guest speakers is beneficial because it allows students to engage with current professionals and ask questions that only can be answered by those professionals.