Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Talking about My Generation

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Talking about My Generation

Article excerpt

Park and recreation professionals entering the field today are no different from their predecessors. Or are they?

GENERATION Y. THE MILLENNIALS. THE ME GENERATION. We're talking about those young workers, some 70 million of them, born between 1977 and 2002. Much has been spoken and written about this group, perhaps more than any other. Here's what we know about them: They're young (of course), independent, tech-sawy, crave interaction with others, and fiercely seek work-life balance.

And they want to make an immediate impact on the workplace.

Beyond that, they're quite concerned about their development, and they seek constant feedback from their superiors, a by-product of a lifetime of nudging from hyper-involved parents, coaches, teachers, and others. After all, this is the generation that was told it could do anything - and believed it.

Now that they've entered the workforce, they've brought that attitude with them. Young professionals in law, medicine, technology, engineering, education-and public parks and recreation.

A Changing Tide?

The question is: Are young people entering the field of public parks and recreation today different from a generation ago? The answer is a definitive yes... and no.

According to Karen Paisley, an associate professor of parks, recreation, and tourism at the University of Utah, young professionals today are still committed to human service.

"I teach our intro class," Paisley says, "and I just reframed it as a means to change the system. Parks and recreation is a social service, a tool for social justice. It's not just about making money or combating obesity; it's what we should be doing."

It's a sentiment echoed by Linda Oakleaf, a doctoral candidate with North Carolina State University's Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management.

"Most young professionals are entering the field of parks and recreation after being inspired by their own experience," Oakleaf says. "Most of them developed some passion - for the great outdoors, for sports, for paddling, or whatever, and they want a situation where they can combine that passion with a job that they care about."

But true to identifiable Gen Y characteristics, today's park and recreation students can be a little fuzzy on the details as far as career goals.

"They may want to be a director without any sense of the intermediate steps or they may focus on the entrylevel position without any understanding of where their career can go from there," Oakleaf says.

Still, defends Oakleaf, these students are clearly driven.

"We definitely get students who want to stay out of corporate America," she says, "but we're just as likely to get students who want to start their own business and become successful entrepreneurs in our field."

A Different Approach

Paisley believes part of the change comes from a curriculum that is slightly different from years past. "It seems there used to be a traditional parks and recreation focus, and students had a very common understanding of a core knowledge. Now, the learning is much more streamlined and more specialized. Curricula have changed radically"

Paisley identifies studies, such as site management, that have changed drastically because sites themselves have changed. Legal issues have also changed, she says. Students are entering a vastly different world now from that even just 10 or 15 years ago. Some of the difference, she says, is that students are being prepared differently today But she also points out more industry- specific examples. …

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