Call to Action from New Recreation Chief

Mike Diorka

Photograph by Candace diCarlo

New Recreation Director Mike Diorka

A bowling tournament.
A golf outing.
A fishing rodeo.
And there's more coming. And you can find out about it and sign up for activities on the new Recreation Department home page, http://www.upenn.edu/recreation.

All this is part of Mike Diorka's plan. Enthusiasm bursting from every pore, Diorka this year assumed the position of Penn's head of Recreation. With major plans to restructure the department, he expects to make recreation a more visible aspect of campus life.

And he's out to motivate each and every one of you couch potatoes and sedentary thinkers.

"Exercise and recreation is a good part of leading a healthy and productive life," Diorka says. "It gives your body a change from stress."

One of his motivational tricks is the Quaker Fitness Club. To understand how it works, just think summer reading club at your local library -- a star for each book you read, rewards for the number of stars you earn. Here at Penn, you give yourself the stars -- we're all adults here, after all. You self-report your recreation accomplishments by keeping a personal log. You pay $10 to join, and you write down every mile you run, every mile you swim. Handouts and t-shirts are to keep you motivated. Then there's that bowling, the tennis tournament, the other tournament events, aimed at all parts of the university. For the fishing rodeo he'll rent a boat. Diorka hopes he has something to appeal to everyone. And he sees the events as giant social events giving all parts of the university a chance to mix in non-academic circumstances.

Besides offering all these forms of recreation, Diorka is evaluating the recreation needs of Penn's campus with the help of a consulting group. Focus groups are examining the recreation habits and interests of students, faculty and staff. He's also doing a facilities audit. And he's figuring out how communication of recreation opportunities has been done, so he can figure out how to do it better.

Communication is where the World Wide Web home page comes in. He has already improved and shortened the recorded message on the Gimbel and Hutchinson Gym phones.

Diorka's plans are aimed at everyone on campus, but he is especially interested in attracting sedentary students to join in recreational activities. He emphasizes the importance of student ability to organize leisure time. "The question is, how do they relieve stress."

He hopes to integrate the department of recreation into student orientation to "plug" into students upon their arrival at Penn. Next year's freshman class will be instrumental in Diorka's plans to generate more student involvement and excitement around campus.

Diorka plans also to incorporate large-scale single events to hook student interest into the recreation program. He offers such ideas as late-night coed field events like field goal kicking, soccer goal kicking and timed obstacle courses.

Having spent eight years at Tulane University prior to arriving at Penn, Diorka is excited to have his work cut out for him. "Part of the job is finding out what would make it work for people. We want to be user-friendly," says Diorka.

To make recreation more user-friendly, Diorka plans to overhaul programs such as aerobics, dance, and Yoga classes. He says, "We would make the program more customer-service oriented. We would change the hours the facilities would be open, the hours for the classes and the type of classes."

One of Diorka's principal goals is to open the Department of Recreation to students, faculty and staff not involved in organized sports by updating the fitness and personal training programs. "We are instituting certified personal trainers, with a fee."

Diorka hopes to plunge full-force into restructuring the recreation programs. He confidently says, "At the end of four years, we want students to be able to say that recreation was a good part of the out-of-classroom experience."

With exuberance he extolls the benefits of recreation and expects, by next year, to have aroused the university into action. "All of the resources are already here; the students and faculty are just waiting to take advantage of them."

Health and Fitness Club Discounts

The Division of Human Resources offers Penn faculty and staff, and their family members, discounted monthly fitness/health club memberships through the GlobalFit program. With a network of over 80 Delaware Valley clubs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, this plan offers month to month billing, and the ability to freeze or transfer membership to other locations. Most monthly dues are $19.95. A one-time affiliation fee -- two payments ranging from $29.50 to $49.00 -- must be paid during the first two months of participation. (Note: This arrangement is available for new memberships only. Existing memberships cannot be converted to the discounted rates.) More information is available from Global Affiliates at 1-800-294-1500 or Marilyn Kraut, Human ResourcesÕ Quality of Worklife Program Coordinator, at 898-0380.

Disclaimer: While the University of Pennsylvania encourages faculty and staff to become healthier and stay fit, none of the specific clubs or fitness programs offered through the GlobalFit program are endorsed by the University. The University does not warrant or assume any liability for any products or services offered by the GlobalFit Network or Global Affiliates, Inc. All financial obligations arising from membership with the GlobalFit program are solely the responsibility of participating faculty or staff.

Originally published on January 14, 1997