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Focus on Faculty: Wayne Pollock

Associate Professor of Sport and Recreation Professions Named 2020 Recipient of Exemplary Teaching Award

University News | October 15, 2020

Associate Professor of Sport and Recreation Professions Dr. Wayne Pollock has been named the recipient of the 2020 Virginia Wesleyan University Exemplary Teaching Award by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church, President Scott D. Miller has announced.
The award recognizes faculty at United Methodist colleges and universities who have demonstrated exemplary leadership, excellence in teaching, service to students and a commitment to education. Recipients are nominated by their institution’s leader.
“Professor Wayne Pollock’s passion for helping improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities is exemplified in his years of work as a recreational therapist,” said President Miller. “He’s dedicated his career to improving the field, working with adults with intellectual disabilities and both adolescents and adults with mental illness and substance abuse problems.”
The presentation of the award, typically during VWU’s Commencement Ceremony, was altered this year because of the limitations presented by COVID-19. Dr. Pollock’s award was instead presented during the October meeting of the Faculty Assembly.
Dr. Pollock has served on the faculty of Virginia Wesleyan since 2000. He earned his B.S. degree from West Chester University, his M.S. degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and his Ph.D. from Old Dominion University.
At Virginia Wesleyan, he teaches all courses in the recreational therapy track and core curriculum courses as needed. His research interests have involved measuring the functional outcomes of individuals with dementia using a technology based intervention and promoting the ethical practice of recreational therapy. He has also served on regional and national boards of directors, working to advance the recreational therapy profession.
An Interview with Dr. Wayne Pollock, Associate Professor of Sport and Recreation Professions

What brought you to Virginia Wesleyan?

A college professor friend/colleague of mine in North Carolina passed along a job announcement from then Virginia Wesleyan College, advertising for a "Practitioner to Professor" position with a note that said, "This has Wayne Pollock written all over it." It was 1999 and I was working as Director of Recreational Therapy and Counseling Services at Durham Regional Hospital in Durham, North Carolina and loving my work as a recreational therapist, assisting individuals with mental illness/behavioral issues and addiction problems improve their health and quality of life. I'd always had a dream of teaching in higher education. My undergraduate degree is in Health and Physical Education and I taught high school and middle school for 7 years before getting my master's degree and becoming a certified therapeutic recreation specialist. I applied, had a phone interview with Doug Kennedy, John Braley and Nancy Montgomery and then was invited to campus for a day long series of interviews. I was offered the job and began in August 2000.

What is most interesting about your field?

The field of recreational therapy has often been misunderstood. I've even heard folks say, “Oh, you get paid to play." Well, not exactly. I attempt to enlighten others by explaining that our field uses recreation, along with other activity-based modalities to help improve health and increase independent functional abilities leading to an improved quality of life. Most people get some level of pleasure from engaging in the recreation activity of their choice. Using their interests to help them improve their physical, social, cognitive, or emotional level of functioning is what is most exciting about this field. Seeing individuals transfer skills they have learned while in treatment to their personal lives is so rewarding.

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

I have always thought that education should be enjoyable, informative, and engaging. I try to instill that same philosophy in my students. I find that sharing experiences I've had with individuals I have worked with when I was a practitioner helps students grasp theories and concepts that might otherwise seem a bit difficult to understand. In some ways I guess you could say I am a storyteller. I, along with all my department colleagues, attempt to have students engage in numerous community-service experiences where they can observe and practice skills learned in the classroom. Experiential learning is wonderful!

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

Showing up and participating in the class discussion is obviously of utmost importance for a student to succeed in my class. Reading assigned material, asking questions, completing assignments, and preparing for quizzes/exams are all vital if a student is to succeed. An unknown author once said, "There are three groups of people in the world. Those that make things happen. Those that watch things happen. And those that wonder, what happened?" I encourage my students to be in the first group.

What's next?

I'm winding down my career so I'm not as engaged as I have been. I recently retired from the board of directors positions with national and regional professional organizations, but remain active in advocating for the advancement of recreational therapy, the need for ethical guidelines in practice, and the use of evidence-based research in delivering our service.   

What do you most enjoy doing in your leisure time? 

Spending time with my children, 'grands', other family members and friends brings me the most joy; although it's been difficult in our current COVID-19 environment. I enjoy reading, walking, playing golf, spending time at the beach, and traveling, especially by car. I look forward to the day VWU/ODAC athletics can be fully resumed, as watching our student-athletes perform is also very enjoyable.

Favorite advice to share with students:

Life is not a dress rehearsal. Find your passion, pursue it, and enjoy life.