WKU a good fit for new director of Campus Recreation and Wellness

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Justin Cato says the job of director of Campus Recreation and Wellness at WKU “checked all the boxes.”

Cato spent the past four years as Senior Associate Director for Campus Recreation at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

“The location was a huge draw,” he said, noting that Bowling Green is several hours closer to family in Florida. “The campus is beautiful. It is a great opportunity that gave me a chance to achieve a goal I had set for myself when I started my career.”

Cato grew up in Keystone Heights, Florida, and graduated from the University of North Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Education with a concentration in Sport Leadership in 2004 and graduated from the University of Arkansas with his master’s degree in Recreation with a concentration in Sport Management in 2007. His professional career began with 10 years at the University of North Florida, where he served as Intramural Coordinator, Assistant Director and Associate Director for Campus Recreation.

“A dream of mine when I got into collegiate recreation was to one day be a director,” he said.

As director, Cato is responsible for recreation and wellness programs that include the Raymond B. Preston Health and Activities Center, the Hattie L. Preston Intramural Sports Complex, the WKU Challenge Course, Outdoor Recreation Adventure Center, Health Education & Promotion, Health & Fitness Lab, intramural and club sports, and more.

Cato, who arrived at WKU in September, said the transition has been smooth and he’s feeling more comfortable. “The staff is great. They’ve really helped bring me along,” he said. “It doesn’t feel as surreal as when I first started. It’s starting to feel normal.”

A return to normal has been one of Cato’s goals for Campus Recreation and Wellness. “COVID hit us hard so we are still trying to recover and get back to where things were pre-COVID,” he said. “We are getting there. I think we’re closer, but we are still trying to get fully staffed with students.”

In addition to providing recreation and fitness programs for the campus community, Campus Recreation and Wellness prepares its student workers for their professional careers. “We just want to bring that experience back to students and help get them prepared for their first job out of college,” Cato said. “That’s why we do what we do to be able to develop our students professionally.”

Student participation in intramurals, sports clubs, outdoor programs, recreation activities and fitness programs also is improving. “We’re seeing a lot more students in the Preston Center,” he said. “It’s nice that we are at a point where our participation numbers getting pretty close to what they were pre-COVID.”

When he’s not working, Cato enjoys spending time with his family — wife, Julie; sons, Logan and Nathan; and four cocker spaniels. “We definitely have fallen in love with the area and really like this part of the country,” Cato said.

The family has had a travel trailer for about five years and has several trips planned already.

“We love being outdoors, going camping, exploring and enjoying this beautiful country,” he said. “It’s great family time. We love being able to see different parts of the United States. Unplugging and getting out into nature for a few days at a time is really nice.”

For more about Campus Recreation and Wellness programs, visit https://www.wku.edu/crw/

  • Save the Date: The 64th annual WKU Faculty & Staff Golf Tournament is scheduled for July 15 at Cross Winds Golf Course in Bowling Green.



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