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Oct. 9, 2018
Dr. Sue Myllykangas, a professor of recreation in Northwest Missouri State University’s School of Health Science and Wellness, recently received the 2018 Benefits are Endless Award from the Nebraska Recreation and Park Association.
“It is amazing to get honored by your fellow peers,” she said. “I am humbled and very honored to be recognized for my work in the profession.”
Nominees must be involved in the parks and recreation field, work with significant legislation and provide service at the local, state or national level. Additionally, nominees must be donors to agencies, organizations or institutions and demonstrate awareness of life enrichment through parks and recreation.
Myllykangas was selected for the award for her work with Northwest alumna Jeni Durfey during the summer to develop a profession-based learning opportunity for two student interns. The project centered on creating a sensory garden for clients with traumatic brain injuries.
Students completed a needs assessment project and created a plan to organize what the garden needed, therapeutic projects and activities the organization could implement in the space.
Myllykangas is working to establish a new minor and certification program in adapted and recreational gardening, an idea that stemmed from the summer program.
Senior care facilities have central courtyards for residents to enjoy, but recreation therapists are not always trained to maintain these facilities.
“This new minor and certificate offers students a chance to learn the basics that they need to create garden spaces for every ability to enjoy,” Myllykangas said. “This minor and certificate also works well for students in other majors like parks and recreation, GIS (geographic information systems) and education, who might find that they are in charge of community garden spaces or outdoor education spaces.”
Myllykangas joined the Northwest faculty in 2005 and remains connected with former students, who have asked her to present at Nebraska Recreation and Park Association conferences to share research on therapeutic recreation and parks and recreation management issues.
Additionally, Northwest students travel with Myllykangas to Colorado every summer for 12 days as part of a high-impact, three-credit hour course. The course is designed to offer students the opportunity to see and experience a variety of professional options in the field of parks and recreation.
Myllykangas advocates for the importance of hiring a certified therapeutic recreation specialist to provide purposeful recreation opportunities to facilitate improved health and wellness.
She serves on the Nodaway County Senior Center Board and works on projects throughout the county to assist seniors. She represents Northwest as a member of the Missouri Association of Faculty Senates Executive Board.
She received the 2015 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education, served as Faculty Senate President from 2016-17, where she worked to align the efforts of faculty with the University’s strategic plan. Additionally, she earned a Tower Service Award for outstanding leadership in 2017 and said, “several sororities on campus have also recognized me as Professor of the Month. These mean even more to me as everything I do is for the students at Northwest.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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