Center for Excellence Honoree: Linda WoosterAfter a day crammed full of classes, a little too much time spent in the Arnold Bernhard Library, or an exam that just didn't go right, every college student needs some rest and relaxation.
And that's where Linda Wooster steps in. As associate director of recreation and athletics, one of Wooster's responsibilities is to coordinate what she calls the school's "night culture."
"The events Linda creates allow students to relieve stress, laugh, cry, grow, bond, and most of all, have fun," wrote three former Fitness Center student employees, Austin Ashe of West Haven, Conn., a senior psychology major, Amanda Mazzola '04 of Newton, Mass., communications major, and Christian Contreras of Hamden, Conn., a graduate computer information systems major in nominating Wooster as one of the university's top staff members.
Wooster is one of six employees who will be recognized at this year's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Service to Students' annual recognition dinner on Thursday, Oct. 20, in the Recreation Center. The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Service to Students encourages, supports and recognizes superior teaching and service to students at Quinnipiac.
Jennifer Hayman of Woonsocket, R.I., a senior psychology major, who also nominated Wooster, highlighted her effort to create recreational programs that would appeal to diverse groups of students.
"From yoga and hip-hop dance classes to an alcohol-free pumpkin painting event for Halloween, to her part in the school/community wide "University Games" -- she works hard to do a little something for everyone, and gains great respect by enlisting the help and opinions of her staff and students," Hayman said.
"Those of us who worked on her staff wondered how she could accomplish so much in a single day -- her dedication to her job, to students and to Quinnipiac has been very inspiring," Hayman said.
Wooster came to Quinnipiac in 1984 as coordinator of women's athletics and assistant professor of physical education.
During 22 years at Quinnipiac, Wooster has served as director of sports information, senior woman athletic administrator, associate professor of physical education, associate director of athletics and recreation, and director of physical education. Her job duties have grown exponentially during those years.
"When I first started working here 22 years ago, there was no Fitness Center," Wooster recalls. "We had a few weights and several strength machines located outside of our athletic offices. In 1993, I was assigned to direct the new Fitness Center. At that time, we had guys on free weights on one side of the room; gals on cardio equipment on the other side, and rarely did they cross the line.
"About 10 years ago the fitness craze hit the campus, and everything changed. Women were lifting weights and using the strength machines and men were using the cardio equipment. Now everyone does it all," she said. "The students coming into college now expect to have great fitness facilities, like the ones we have at Quinnipiac."
The recreation rush starts most nights about 7, and soon after, there is rarely a free spot to be found in the building.
"We serve thousands of students every day," she said. Some 75 percent of the students participate in intramurals. Others are lured to the Fitness Center, the track or the recreation center, the dance studios, or they sign up for physical education classes.
Alumni who have worked closely with Wooster say she has boundless energy. They also credit her for offering a tremendous number of diverse courses and fitness options.
"We [the recreation staff] do what we do because we love it, not to win awards," she said. "I love people and I love what I do. I spend a lot of nights and weekends here and really enjoy getting to know the students in a relaxed atmosphere. I work with an incredible group of people who guide me through. The kids here definitely keep me young, no doubt about it."
Anthony Zollo of Monroe, N.Y., a student who worked evenings in the Fitness Center, was one of the people to nominate Wooster.
"Attempting to explain what makes Linda a truly exceptional leader is much like trying to describe a sunset to someone who has never had the ability to see," wrote Zollo, a student in the master of arts in teaching program. "Her personality, understanding, knowledge, commitment and desire for excellence is beyond compare."
He added that she leads and inspires others with her "infectious zeal for life" and makes others strive to be better people.
Wooster grew up in Bethany, Conn., and she was lucky to attend Amity High School, which unlike many others, offered girls sports. Field hockey was her favorite sport, but Wooster acknowledges she was never a "star" on any team, a title that belonged to her younger sister.
Wooster planned to teach third grade, but when she learned that she would have to sing and play a musical instrument, she quickly changed her plans. Before long she was a physical education major.
"Not being an athletic star helped me in teaching," she said. "I had to explain things very thoroughly. I only demonstrated when the kids needed a laugh."
Wooster earned her bachelors degree in health, physical education and recreation from Southern Connecticut State University. She also earned her masters in physical education from Penn State. In 1990, she completed her MBA from Quinnipiac. She also has a sixth-year administrative degree in educational administration and supervision from the University of Bridgeport.
To get the job done, Wooster and her two assistants rely on some 140 student employees. She said the students never let her down -- she loves everything they do, except when their good intentions lead them to try to tidy up her office.
"Kids don't disappoint you," she said. "You ask them to do something and they do it. Our department puts so much responsibility on their shoulders and they always come through."
"We hire students as freshmen, and they're kids, and we see them mature into adults. That's something that's unique to our area. We spend a tremendous amount of time with our student workers, with people who use the Fitness Center, studios, and who play intramurals and athletics. We see them in a relaxed, recreational setting," she said.
"We get to spend three or four years with many young people; you blink, and somehow they become seniors at the top of the leadership ladder. What a treat and privilege we have to see them grow," she said. "I'm not sure people in academics always have that opportunity."
Wooster said she is receptive to new program suggestions.
"I'm of the mindset that you try it once and if it doesn't work, you try it again. And if it doesn't work, then you discard it," she said. "I try to give students the opportunity to express thoughts and suggestions, and we go from there. That's how our successes come around. I like to give them leeway and guidance, but they have to develop the basic programs themselves."
Today, Wooster still teaches Elementary Physical Education, Recreational Games, and co-teaches fishing and indoor rock climbing.
"Elementary Physical Education is geared to MAT students about to go on their internships," she said. "Many students are prepared from a classroom perspective, but when they have to substitute teach for 30-, 60- or 90-kids in a gym or on the field it is a different situation. I teach them games that they can do with the kids, as well as elementary school teaching techniques. The class is hilarious and fun."