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Janssen Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Published: April 15, 2014

Maridith Janssen, past chair of the Recreation and Leisure Studies Department at CSULB, was honored recently at the California Parks and Recreation Society’s State Conference in Ontario where she received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the society’s Recreation Therapy Section.

“This award is the highest honor given to a member of this organization. It is reflective of the research, service and commitment to the profession of recreation therapy that I have given over my career,” said Janssen, a faculty member at CSULB for nearly 15 years, who just recently moved over to the CSU Chancellor’s Office to oversee the Sally Casanova Scholarship Program. “I feel honored and humbled by this award. I feel one reason for my recognition is a 30-plus-year career that includes everything from public practice to university instruction. I feel I’ve made an impact in a variety of ways.”

Janssen’s background includes a teaching stint at Modesto Junior College, managing a rehabilitation facility in Fresno and organizing her own conferences—the Central California Therapeutic Recreation Symposium and the BEACH Symposium—held annually in Long Beach.

She earned her bachelor’s degree at Sacramento State and master’s at Chico State. She joined Oklahoma State University on a full-ride, three-year scholarship in 1996, earning her Ed.D. in applied educational studies with a specialization in therapeutic recreation in 1999, the same year she joined CSULB. Janssen has one of the nation’s rare doctorates in therapeutic recreation.

“Maridith Janssen’s recognition with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Parks and Recreation Society is well earned and richly deserved,” said Kenneth Millar, dean for CSULB’s College of Health and Human Services. “She is a nationally and internationally recognized authority in the field of recreation, most notably therapeutic recreation. In her role as a professor of recreation and leisure studies, she has influenced and directed the practice of countless recreation professionals, not only here in California but across the nation. Her sphere of influence extends to Taiwan where she has helped develop international programs in therapeutic recreation.”

Janssen finds her new position in the Chancellor’s Office represents the first time she has stepped away from the field of recreation therapy. “It is a strange feeling to do a different job,” she noted. “I felt at first as if I were abandoning a field to which I still feel connected.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award, she believes, was meant to underline her 17 years as a practitioner in recreation therapy. “I have worked in both physical rehabilitation programs and skilled nursing,” she said. “I’ve worked as a private consultant and in mental health programs. I offer stories to my students from experiences as a practitioner. I want my students to learn more than the text. I want them to learn through personal stories and hands-on experience with real patients.”

Janssen Receives ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from State Parks Society
Maridith Janssen (r) was presented her award by Jamie Hoffman (l), President of the Recreation Therapy Section.

As an example of her real-world orientation, Janssen points to the lab she introduced into Recreation and Leisure Studies’ curriculum in 2001, which earned an honorable mention from the Academy of Leisure Services National Teaching Institute in February.

“It is a state-of-the-art lab that combines students with the VA hospital next door and gives the students the chance to practice what they learn in the classroom with hands-on experience working with real patients, doing assessments, setting up treatment plans, and implementing group leisure education sessions,” she pointed out. “This has been a driving force behind my teaching, to give students as much of a real-life experience as they can have.”

Staying current is one of the toughest professional challenges, she said.

“It’s easy for educators to get far removed from the real world and to forget what it is our students go out and do. As an educator, it is up to me to find ways to stay actively engaged,” Janssen said. “That means maintaining a working relationship with professionals and keeping abreast of health care trends, such as electronic documentation. It gives them an edge on their competitors for jobs.”

Now at the Chancellor’s Office, she has a bird’s eye view of the entire CSU system. The Casanova Scholarship, she explained, is designed to support the doctoral aspirations of CSU students who have experienced economic and educational disadvantages, as well as potentially increasing diverse university faculty.

“I enjoy working with these incredible young scholars looking to pursue doctoral degrees with the goal of coming back to teach in the CSU,” Jannsen said. “I’ve prepared for my new job by serving as Recreation and Leisure Studies’ chair for six years. It gave me the administrative experience to step into this position, and I am honored to be the one chosen to direct such a prestigious program for the CSU system.”