Choosing a career can be the most daunting part of attending college. Choosing the course of your life around the age of 20 can seem like a nearly impossible choice. Mike Clark found out the hard way as he chose two different majors that he never truly felt a passion for - but he refused to settle.
“At first I had no idea that recreation and leisure studies was even a major until my friend Brittany Petron ’16 told me that she was switching her major to it,” Mike said. “We talked about all the opportunities in the field, and I instantly latched on to the idea of tourism management because I love to travel.”
The thought of switching his major for the third time left Mike feeling uneasy. He loved to travel and be outdoors, but he couldn’t envision a way to transition that to a career. He was worried that he would become stuck in a loop of changing majors. Mike decided he would talk to a faculty member from the department before making a decision - which would become the most pivotal moment of his career.
“When I initially sat down with Dr. Graham, I was extremely flustered. I had switched degrees twice and taken a year off from schooling,” Mike said. “After talking, I knew right away that recreation and leisure studies was my calling and that I would find a career that I loved because of it.”
Mike started taking courses that spring, and this time his decision to change his degree paid off. He created bonds with many of his professors in the department, but it was Joel and Sarah Agate who left a lasting impression.
“Both Joel and Sarah Agate were the best professors that I’ve ever had. They made learning fun again,” Mike said. “No matter what time or day, they are always there to answer any question and make sure you have what you need. They truly care about the program and its students.”
The Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies requires students to take an internship before graduating, and Mike was able to receive two opportunities while at Brockport. His first was with the Seneca Park Zoo, where he had already volunteered during his year off from schooling, while considering a career as a zoologist. His responsibilities were caring for the animals and ensuring that the park was a safe environment.
Mike’s second internship was a step outside his comfort zone, as he chose to travel outside of New York State to Fripp Island Golf Resort in South Carolina. He spent most of his time leading recreational activities for the guests, including kayaking tours, nature hikes and birding. He also had the opportunity to attend animal rescue missions in hopes of preserving the natural state of the island.
“I was the first student at Brockport to do this internship, laying the groundwork for future students to experience this opportunity,” Mike said. “It was an amazing learning experience, and the resort hired me fulltime shortly after.”
Mike’s time at Fripp Island was brought to a halt when Hurricane Matthew came through South Carolina. Mike saw this as a chance at a new opportunity and worked as a youth director aboard a Carnival Cruise ship, where he spent six months making friends from all over the world.
Now content with his travels, Mike decided to move back home, with his sights set on starting a career in the Rochester area. With little tourism in the area, he switched his focus and applied for the Recreation Supervisor position for Perinton, NY.
“Perinton hired me shortly after I applied and I will be starting the job in late May,” Mike said. “I want to settle down in the Rochester area, so I am hoping that I will find a new home in Perinton!”