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Recreation is a family affair

Generations find passion in the same program

Contact: Dan Digmann

​​Since 1982, people have fallen in love with Central Michigan University's recreation, parks and leisure services administration program. As multiple last names have become recognizable to the department over the years, this accredited major is what some would call a family affair.

Inside of Finch Fieldhouse lives a department fueled by generations of passionate students. Follow the stories below of CMU families who have experienced the contagious energy of this program.​

Howell senior Kevin Troshak’s parents took the same courses he is finishing this August. Though it is not what he originally planned to study, being a self-titled “recreation child,” it was no surprise he ended up in the program. 

“I didn’t really choose the major. The major chose me,” Kevin said. “My parents are both professionals in the field so I’ve always been around it. I think that’s why it was a natural fit for me.” 

 Dennis Troshak, who attended CMU for his master’s degree, says Kevin’s knack for this line of work started when he was volunteering for his parents’ programs. It is a profession where everyday something is different, he said, and that is something Kevin is handling very well. 

 As a well respected professional in the field, Marilyn Troshak, ’79, credits CMU for preparing her for nearly every job in her career. Now that Kevin has found his niche in community recreation and is completing the same program, she is confident her son has a bright and successful future ahead of him. 

 “We are extremely proud, and I get very emotional because he’s so good at it,” Marilyn said. “He innately gets what it means to be detailed in every single facet. Everybody who knows him understands this is what he was meant to do.”

As the son of a parks and recreation director, Ken “Kenny” Grybel II, ’07, was exposed to the industry at an early age. When he first arrived to college, he tried to avoid the recreation career path, but the influence of his childhood eventually led him to CMU’s department of recreation, parks and leisure services administration. 

 “Growing up in the field, it was just something that came very natural to me,” Kenny said. “I originally went into commercial recreation, but ended up in community recreation like my dad, and it’s definitely been the best career decision I’ve made.” 

 Although Kenny and his father share the same name, Ken Grybel I, ’75, says his son has worked hard to make his own title in the industry. Both agree being active in the same profession has developed a new connection between them. Kenny says he always looks to his dad for guidance and insight on various aspects of his job. 

 “We’ve always been pretty close, since I was a single dad. But I think our relationship has grown on a more professional level,” Ken said. “I became a mentor to him, and a father couldn’t be prouder than when their child comes to them for help or asks them for advice.”

Kenny knew exactly where he would go for a degree after seeing the education his father received from CMU. Even nine years after graduating, he says there is not another program out there that can compete with the atmosphere he experienced inside Finch Fieldhouse. 

“Central Michigan University puts pride into their program and does everything they can to make sure their students receive the best education and best experience,” Kenny said. “People see CMU on an application, and they know this person definitely knows the field.” 

After going through the program himself and having a successful career, then seeing his son do the same, it is a no brainer for Ken why there are so many father-son duos who gravitate to this program. 

 “When you grow up seeing someone working a job that is fun and is getting a lot of respect in the community, you want to do it, too,” Ken said. “That’s why these legacies continue on.

Watching their older sister, Marla (Terranova) Vickers, ’08, go through CMU’s recreation, parks and leisure services administration program, Alex Terranova, ’09, and Eaton Rapids senior Mallory Kunkel were sold.

Interested in the business side of the industry, Marla looked to commercial recreation for the best of both worlds. She was offered a full-time position with the Montgomery Biscuits minor league baseball team in Alabama as she was close to completing CMU’s program. Marla took advantage of the opportunity, but says accepting the position while finishing her degree would not have been possible without the support of her professors. 

“In some disciplines, they find the course work is more valuable than the real-world experience, but the professors in that program thought the real-world experience is just as valuable as the course work,” Marla said. “They agreed the point of getting the education is to help you in your career. They were great at helping me find independent studies to allow me to continue to work while I was a full-time student.” 

 Though her transition into a full-time job was toward the end of the program, Marla says the professors help students from the very beginning. She was pushed out of her comfort zone during the introduction to recreation class with the assignment to conduct an informational interview with a professional in the field. After a phone call with the general manager of the Lansing Lugnuts, Marla was offered an internship which she later helped Alex and Mallory earn as well. 

 Working for the minor league baseball team during his summers, Alex knew he wanted to stay active in the sports industry. Marla’s insight on what to expect from the courses, career options after graduation and the department’s tight-knit community influenced him to follow her footsteps. Looking back on his own experience, he says there is no question why families consistently choose CMU’s recreation program. 

 “It takes a certain type of person to want to go into this industry,” Alex said. “I can truly say I don’t have a job. I do, but I don’t. I have a blast at work. I think when other people see that within your family, they want to follow that.” 

 Mallory, the youngest of the three, is grateful for Alex and Marla’s guidance throughout her experience in the program. Now finishing her degree and starting her own career, she says their relationship has shifted and grown in the best way possible. 

 “I go to them for advice all the time,” Mallory said. “They have a lot of professional insight I don’t have. Now that I’m older, not only do we have the traditional sibling relationship, but we also have a professional relationship where we can talk about professional experiences.”

Finding her niche while volunteering at a senior living facility, Holly Ringelberg, ’08, chose CMU’s recreation, parks and leisure services administration department to pursue a career in therapeutic recreation. A degree is not the only thing she walked out of the program with — it also is where she met her husband, Benjamin Ringelberg, ’08. 

Now professionals in the therapeutic recreation industry, Holly says having the similar background has been one of the most important aspects of their relationship because they understand each other’s long and unusual hours outside of the nine to five schedule. It also has been beneficial because they respect each other’s approach to their work. 

“It’s been neat to have a common background because we have similar ways we view the field and our philosophy of the field,” Holly said. “I view our work as healing for our clients, and I know Ben feels that way as well. It’s nice to have a common ground and be able to fully appreciate the work we do with the people at our facility.” 

 Ben always wanted to work with people with disabilities, but his interest in adaptive sports is what lead him to the therapeutic recreation program. Now the assistant coach of a wheelchair basketball team, he says one of the biggest lessons he learned from CMU stays true to his career today. 

 “I learned there’s so much more availability of recreation and activities for anybody to participate in. It’s all about getting the knowledge and awareness of those activities out to people,” Ben said. 

The Ringelberg family welcomed twin boys, Franklin and Maxwell, four years ago. Holly says it has been a fun adventure overlapping all aspects of their lives with the boys, even the activities they choose to do with the toddlers. 

 “We try to do things that are active, outside and fun for all of us because we understand the benefits of recreation and leisure are not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone,” Holly said.

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