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Alumni Stories

Giovanna LaPorta ’13
BS in Recreation and Leisure Studies
Therapeutic Recreation Emphasis
MS in Progress in Rec and Leisure Service Management

Giovanna LaPorta

Both within the classroom and beyond, students in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies have countless avenues to explore new interests and connect with others. Upon entering The College at Brockport in fall 2009, Giovanna LaPorta had a hard time identifying herself as a college student, let alone envisioning herself as one day being a human resource specialist with employees that look to her for guidance. Brockport presented Giovanna with a new assortment of opportunities for career advancement, which she eagerly took advantage of.

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’”

                  - Dan Rather

Through the guidance and support of Associate Professor Lynda Cochran, Giovanna was able to get the encouragement and the drive to reach her next plateau. “There were times in my life where I thought I wouldn’t go to college. However, once I began my journey at Brockport and attended Dr. Cochran’s courses, I not only began to truly enjoy school, but it was in her courses that I decided I would continue on to earn my master’s degree.”

It wasn’t until Giovanna entered The Graduate School at The College at Brockport that she began to contemplate the idea of pursuing a career in an administrative position, where she could one day have employees of her own.  

Giovanna is currently working as a human resource specialist at Episcopal SeniorLife Communities. “My position is focused around implementing needs, rules, regulations, and benefits for our employees enforced by both our organization and the government,” she says. “I began my career as a recreation therapist working per diem, and when the position for human resource specialist arose, I felt fully confident in applying thanks to my background and the knowledge I accrued at Brockport.”

Read on for more about Giovanna's experience.

How has your REL education helped in your work? How do you apply what you've learned?
My REL background has helped me tremendously in countless ways. The program helped me to grow as a person by building confidence, strength, and knowledge that I never thought possible. This program has also helped me to enhance my communication skills, which is crucial no matter what field you find yourself in. I have learned that anything is possible so long as you are passionate and work hard toward your goals. Do not let anything stand in the way of your future.

What was your favorite aspect of the REL program? What's your best academic memory from college?
One of my absolute favorite aspects of the REL program is that there is a large amount of field work. You are constantly out in the community working with real people and not just hiding behind books trying to remember dates and titles for the next test. You are in the community learning about people who are actually counting on you and your knowledge in order to create happiness for them. Hands-on experience is the best way to learn.  

Working in the community with a wide range of people are some of the best memories I have from the REL program. By the time you graduate and walk across the stage, you will have realized that you needed the guidance of those people out in the community just as much as they needed you. That is what makes this program so special.

What would you tell someone looking to major in REL at Brockport?
This department is unlike any other out there. This department is not just your ordinary college program; this department is a family. The love, support, knowledge, and growth that are gained by being a part of this program cannot be found anywhere else.


Jacob Place '14
BS in Recreation and Leisure Studies
Tourism Management Emphasis

Jacob PlaceBecause he’d always excelled at math in high school, Jacob Place started his time at The College at Brockport as a math major. The problem? It didn’t conjure up any long-term aspirations. Thanks to a summer job as a country club’s assistant pool director, he realized that being around people and making them happy was what inspired him. “I saw that Brockport had a major for doing just that: recreation and leisure studies!” he says. This made it an easy decision to switch his major — a decision which has led him to a fun career in a gorgeous setting.

Read on for more of Jacob’s story.

Tell us about your job. What does it entail?
I am the program supervisor at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, outside of Charleston. Kiawah Island is a 5-star/5-diamond resort that is known for its southern hospitality, five championship courses, the Sanctuary Hotel, and one of the top beaches in the world.

As a program supervisor, my job entails planning and supervising all weekly activities, special events, corporate groups, and group/teen/family events in the recreation department. I also oversee our beach services and equipment rentals, and I teach lessons (bike, archery, disc golf, etc.).

How has your REL education helped in your work? How do you apply what you've learned?
I use what I have learned from school every day in my job, from budgeting and risk management to problem solving and thinking outside the box. I still refer to my notes, projects, and important handouts to refresh my memory and go through the steps for creating new programs and activities.

What was your favorite aspect of the REL program?
My favorite aspect of the REL program would be the experience and dedication from the professors. Every professor in the department has had years of experience and has been in many different places in the world. When my professors gave me information and advice, I knew that they learned from experience, and I always took their information seriously. Some stories that professors had told me, I have actually experienced in my profession today.

Was there a particular professor who was a big influence on you?
Dr. Lynda Cochran, who is now the department chair, helped me significantly through my college career. She is a professor that always has her door open and is always excited to hear about your accomplishments, whatever they may be. She is also very knowledgeable, and she wants to see you succeed in your career as an REL student.

What would you tell someone looking to major in REL at Brockport?

  1. Time management is one of the most important traits to have in REL. A lot of classes require you to do a semester-long project, which takes time management to do well. The projects you do are the most helpful when it comes to being out in the “real world.” All assignments and programming I do now at Kiawah is exactly like a class project; same format and everything.
  2. Use your imagination! This is a career in which you need to think outside the box to do new things and create something that no one else does, which makes your place of work that much more unique.
  3. Do not be afraid to go outside your comfort zone! I took a huge step and went away from home [Lancaster, NY] to Charleston, SC, and I do not regret it one bit. REL is a major that does not have limits.


Christine Winter '10
BS in Recreation and Leisure Studies
Recreation Management Emphasis

Christine Winter The College at Brockport helped Christine Winter channel her lifelong interests into a field of study and, ultimately, a career. “I grew up outside playing sports with my older brother and a bunch of kids in our neighborhood. I always loved being outside, so I thought it made sense to attempt to study the environment,” she says. Originally an environmental science major, Christine learned from a classmate that the Recreation and Leisure Studies major might be more geared toward her interest area.

After changing majors, she never looked back. “I had no idea that a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies actually existed. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that sounds exactly like what I want to do!’ I set up a meeting with the department chair, and the rest is history!”

Christine is currently working as a recreation supervisor with the Town of Brighton Recreation Department. She serves the community year-round by planning, developing and evaluating several of the department’s programs and special events. “I primarily oversee youth sports programs, such as summer camps and clinics and our popular youth basketball leagues in the winter. My duties include hiring part-time and seasonal staff, program and departmental promotion, budget management, equipment ordering and management, and customer service.”

She also has served three years as secretary on the executive board for the Genesee Valley Recreation and Park Society.

Read on for more about Christine and her experience at Brockport.

What was your favorite aspect of the REL program? What is your best academic memory from college?
I really enjoyed the experience of learning how to build my résumé and create a professional portfolio, applying for internships, and getting real-life experience by interviewing for multiple internship sites. The professors urged us to become involved in groups like Rec Club, Rho Phi Lambda honor society, and the Genesee Valley Recreation and Park Society (GVRPS). I served as an Activities Coordinator in Rec Club for a few semesters, and I volunteered as a moderator at a Diversity Conference, a GVRPS Annual Conference, and a New York State Recreation and Park Society Annual Conference.

How has your REL education helped in your work? How do you apply what you've learned?
I feel like everything I did in class has somehow found its way into my daily routine as a recreation professional. I kept everything (literally). There are times when I actually reference some of the materials I gathered in school!

Was there a particular professor who was a big influence on you?
Each and every one of the professors that I had the pleasure of learning from brought such an amazing array of knowledge to the table. I credit all of them in helping me arrive where I am today. I am forever grateful!

What would you tell someone looking to major in REL at Brockport?
You’re making the right choice!

Last Updated 4/1/15