The Department of Campus Recreation, led by director Wendy Windsor, has stayed open with stringent COVID-19 safety protocols in place since early August. Windsor now looks forward to next fall with the expectation of “new normal” operations, taking lessons learned from the pandemic. Windsor recently has been elected president-elect of NIRSA: Leaders in Campus Recreation, a national, professional organization. Windsor holds a doctorate in education in sport management.
How did you and the Campus Recreation staff respond to the crisis during the early days of the pandemic last March?
The day the Tulane campus closed last spring, we started thinking and planning about what it was going to mean to not just open but to safely open and remain open. Collectively, as a staff, we researched best practices. The strong, talented and passionate team did a remarkable job bringing our strategic plan to life. We never had to close once as a result of even a threat of any type of COVID-19 outbreak.
When did you offer the first virtual programming?
Within two weeks after the university closed down in March, right out the gate, we launched our virtual fitness programming, which allows individuals to be able to do a variety of different workouts from their home. I was more than impressed by the effort that I started to see with all of our professional staff. Our mission is to keep our campus healthy and to make sure that people are living their best active life.
What are other innovative and creative programs offered by Campus Recreation this year?
We launched our Esports program for students into video game competition, which took off. And then our outdoor adventures department got creative through blogs and instructional videos to bring the outdoors to our Tulane students, faculty and staff. The outdoors program has continued to grow to offer new experiences, especially for international students, who are here for the first time and maybe did not get to experience New Orleans the way they would typically. Some of the common activities are canoeing, kayaking, hiking and climbing.
How have you enforced COVID-19 safety protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing in the Reily Student Recreation Center?
Our new reservation system allowed us to always know our capacity counts throughout the facility. We could control our numbers and keep everyone 6 to 10 feet apart. We hired more staff — increasing the usual number of student leaders — to help us monitor and enforce social distancing and the mask mandate. The entire time you are in the facility you have to be masked up. We would tell people, “We’re doing this to make sure that everyone is going to be safe and, hopefully, have an enjoyable experience.” Response was positive, and during those first few weeks, patrons were impressed by the work and effort that went into making our facility safe for everyone. In fact, we received several comments on how our facility felt like one of the safest on campus. We set the way with our practices and protocols. We were getting calls from colleagues [at other institutions], saying, “Hey, talk to us about how you were able to pull this off?”
What are your expectations for fall 2021?
We’ll be able to be close to “new normal” operations in the fall. One of the things we’ve learned is how to operate with reduced face-to-face contact, such as cashless operations. That’s something we hope to keep moving forward. We’re also looking at setting new capacities for our spaces, in particular the weight room and functional fitness areas. Through social media, our website and display screens throughout the facility, we will allow members to see or track when our spaces are crowded or at capacity. Space capacities will be monitored and updated throughout the day. Reservations will no longer be needed.
In your role as president-elect of the national professional organization, NIRSA: Leaders in Campus Recreation, what do you hope to accomplish?
I have a lot of goals. As only the second Black woman elected in this role (first since 1998), I’m looking to be an advocate for BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] members. For so long our voices have not been heard or even recognized. I want to make sure that as an association we’re really about equity, diversity and inclusion, as we say we are. I want to make sure we continue some of the efforts that we’ve seen over this recent year, and to make sure that all of our people are being represented and being provided opportunities to eventually evolve into leadership like I have.
Interview by Mary Ann Travis