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Focus on Faculty: Jill Sturts

A passion for student engagement and service learning first attracted Associate Professor Jill Sturts to VWU in 2015

University News | April 27, 2022

Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sport and Recreation Professions Dr. Jill SturtsAssociate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sport and Recreation Professions Dr. Jill Sturts believes that a college campus is the best place to work. Since she first came to Virginia Wesleyan in 2015, she's added many new roles to her primary responsibilities. She's also assistant dean of the Batten Honors College, chair of the General Education Committee, Faculty Representative to Athletics, and Faculty Team Advisor for the women’s soccer team. 

The Lexington, Ohio native holds a B.A. degree from Baldwin-Wallace University, a M.Ed. degree from Bowling Green State University, and a Ph.D. from Indiana University. Prior to pursuing her terminal degree, Dr. Sturts oversaw a variety of programming areas in the field of campus recreation, including intramurals, sport clubs, group exercise, outdoor pursuits, and community leagues at multiple institutions.

Dr. Sturts also served as a faculty member for the NIRSA School of Collegiate Recreation, a board member for The Academy of Leisure Sciences (TALS) and a member of the editorial board for the Recreational Sports Journal. She has presented at several local, state, national, and international levels and regularly publishes on topics related to physical activity, competencies in collegiate recreation, and pedagogy within higher education.

An Interview with Dr. Jill Sturts:

What first attracted you to the Virginia Wesleyan University?

In my search for a tenure track faculty position, I learned about the opening at Virginia Wesleyan through the list serve for our national association, TALS (The Academy of Leisure Sciences). The announcement spoke to the emphasis on teaching and the 4-credit curriculum. I have a passion for student engagement and service learning, so I was excited about the potential for out-of-class experiences to enhance learning and understanding. When I had the opportunity to meet with Doug Kennedy, Wayne Pollock, and Takeyra Coats, it was easy to envision myself working within their team and I appreciated the culture that seemed to exist within the department. When I visited campus, I had a sense of the tight-knit campus community and that really appealed to me. 

What professional roles have you held?

Prior to VWU, I was a Visiting Lecturer at Indiana University. In my professional life prior to pursuing a Phd at Indiana University, I was an assistant director of campus recreation at Ashland University (Ohio), where I oversaw all programming (intramurals, sport clubs, group exercise, community leagues, and summer camp) within campus recreation. During my time at Ashland, I taught an Introduction to Sport Sciences course and while teaching that course, I discovered my passion for being in the classroom and working with students to explore career opportunities within sport and recreation. 

How did you decide on your current field as your focus of study?  

I value the lessons associated with sport and recreation. Competition on teams contributed to life lessons I still draw on and reinforce with students: teamwork, leadership, hard work, learning how to win and lose, etc. 

In college, I became involved with campus recreation and went on to become a graduate assistant in facilities and programming. I enjoyed conducting research on the ways in which sport and recreation positively impact the human experience, and ultimately discovered that I wanted to spend a career sharing content and experiences with students in the classroom, facilitating experiences for them outside the classroom, and conducting my own research to grow the body of knowledge in my field. I work to continue to discover ways to become a more effective and impactful educator. Lifelong learning is a priority and I feel extremely fortunate to spend my career doing so. 

What's the best thing about your chosen field?

Sport and recreation bring people together in meaningful ways. The ways in which physical movement, outdoor exploration, and participation in sport and recreation contribute to improved physical and health and sense of belonging are the best benefits. 

How would you describe your teaching style or philosophy of education?  

It's my goal to make my classroom a space where students are comfortable. I'm intentional about creating an atmosphere where students can feel free to inquire, share, respond, and participate in conversations that help us all learn. While I'm the expert in the room on content, I greatly appreciate learning from students. My classroom is a space where we create knowledge together in many cases! 

What does it take for a student to be successful in your class?  

To be successful in my courses, students need to stay organized, plan ahead, pay attention to detail, think critically, and engage well verbally and in writing. 

How do you most want students to remember you?

I want students to remember me as someone who cared about them and their success in and out of the classroom. I want to be the type of professor that they remember who had high, clear expectations that maximized their potential. And that we had a bit of fun along the way! 

What do you consider to be indicators of a successful career/life?  

Indicators of a successful career/life for me are that my colleagues, students, and family knew they could count on me. They knew I was someone who gave my best, treated them with respect, and was honest all around, even when I wasn't delivering the best news. 

In my leadership and management class, we talk about leading with integrity, and it would be important to me that the people who I was closest to knew that I was an honest, selfless team player. I would also like for people to know that I never took myself too seriously! 

What are your current projects/research?

I am currently working on a textbook for program and event planning. My progress really slowed (actually, halted) during COVID, but I'm thrilled to be working on it again with hopes of publishing within the year. In addition, I'm researching potential ways our department can contribute to online and master's level coursework. 

How do you like to spend your time?   

I am a Mom to three young kiddos - Maxwell (8), Jude (4), and Amelia (4). Spending time with them and my wife, Kimberly, is how I like to spend my time. We enjoy outdoor activities and sports - swimming, hiking, the beach, playing in the backyard, soccer, basketball, etc. 

Personally, I enjoy running, cycling, and reading. Finding time for my own hobbies and leisure is a bit of a challenge, but I try to carve out time each day to do a little something for myself. It didn't take me long to learn that when I am able to take time for a run or bike, I'm a better mom, professor, wife, friend, etc. 

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment(s) to date?

Conceiving, carrying, and nurturing twins! I love to challenge myself, mentally and physically. Before giving birth, I considered endeavors like marathons, a Ph.D., publishing, etc. to be accomplishments I held in high regard. However, I can say without a doubt that my journey to conceive, deliver, and nourish my children challenged me in every way and I consider my work as a parent to be my greatest accomplishment thus far. 

If you weren't a professor, what would you be? 

If I wasn't a professor, I would work in campus recreation or some other aspect of student affairs within higher education. In my opinion, a college campus is the best place to work!  

What are some of your favorites--favorite food?:

I love trying new food and restaurants! I appreciate how food can be a way to bring people together, create community, and contribute to building relationships. Sushi and steak are my favorites. 

Is there a person whom you most admire?

Within the past three years, I lost both of my Grandmothers. I would say that they are two of the people I most admire. They both had four children, worked outside the home (when it wasn't common for women to do that), and were married for over 50 years. They each had the ability to approach life with a sense of humor and seemed to navigate the challenges of family and careers with ease and a smile. They worked hard, but made it look easy. I think about each of them daily and as I get older, I think of them in different ways. They both also had a wonderful way of making their children and grandchildren feel loved and secure.  I aspire to those types of achievements!