Building New Opportunities
PROVO, Utah – May 08, 2022 – While she enjoyed being a student teacher for high school history, Jasmine Townsend realized she wanted to spend more time outdoors. Through a master’s degree in youth and family recreation from BYU, Townsend learned she could continue to teach while also having the chance to be outside.
Townsend student taught at Mountain Crest High School from 2004–05 to complete her bachelor’s degree in history, with an emphasis in history teaching, from Utah State University (USU). “I taught near the mountains in Hyrum, Utah, and had a big window across the back of my classroom,” she explains. “In the winter, as students were pulling into the parking lot, I would see their snowboards on their cars and think, ‘Oh, man, this sucks. I don’t want to be stuck in the classroom for 20 years, I want to be outside.’”
A self-described “outdoorsy” person, Townsend began exploring career options that included more outdoor time. She was already working in wilderness therapy for Red Cliff Ascent in Enterprise, Utah, a company using outdoor activities to improve teenagers’ behavior. While originally only working during summers as she completed her undergrad, Townsend continued the job after graduating from USU in 2005, eventually being promoted to senior instructor. She loved her position but had no idea she could have a career in the field. Her boss at the time was a BYU alumnus and encouraged her to look into a master’s degree in youth and family recreation, which the university still offered at the time through the Department of Recreation Management, now known as the Department of Experience Design and Management at the BYU Marriott School of Business.
“I found that BYU’s master in youth and family recreation was 100 percent aligned with what I’d already been doing,” Townsend says. “When I got to Provo and started taking classes, I realized I could actually do recreation as a profession. The program also helped me realize I could be a professor, fulfilling my love for teaching. Thanks to BYU, I could pursue all my interests in one career. The whole experience felt like the stars and planets had aligned for me.”
With her dream career sector realized, Townsend prepared to become a professor after graduating in 2008. “What’s cool about higher education is I have a ‘build your own adventure’ career,” she adds. “I wanted to feel a connection to others in my field outside of an academic setting, and I have the chance to do that through several programs I run at my university and in the local community.”
Townsend earned a leisure behavior PhD from Indiana University Bloomington in 2012. After teaching for two years at the University of Mississippi, she accepted a position with Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina. She is an associate professor of recreational therapy and is also the university’s recreational therapy program coordinator. Townsend hopes to stay at Clemson until she retires.
Through her job, Townsend runs adaptive sports programs. She is in the process of developing a varsity adaptive athletics program so Clemson students who are unable to participate in traditional athletics programs have the opportunity to play college athletics. Townsend and the university also have related programs in the local community for people of all ages.
“For the general able-bodied population, sport pathways exist from the moment they can walk all the way up through the skill levels. Those pathways do not exist for kids with disabilities,” Townsend explains. “My colleagues and I are trying to build that community pathway.”
Townsend says her mission to provide more adaptive sports is extra meaningful because her husband is a wheelchair user. “Between me and my husband, we feel pretty qualified to build these programs,” she says. “He went to college on a wheelchair basketball scholarship at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, so he’s lived this experience.”
In addition to their work with Clemson and the local community, Townsend and her husband have opportunities to partner with organizations spreading adaptive sports around the world. These experiences further reinforce to Townsend that she is in the perfect career, because she can help others receive the same benefits she sees in her own life.
“My husband and I keep doing these programs because it’s our life,” she says. “I tell my students all the time, ‘Yeah, this is my job, but it’s also my life because this is what my partner does.’ Personally, I’m glad my husband and I are able to bring adaptive sports to people and develop something that will last forever.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Mike Miller