October 6 marks Steve Robinson’s two month anniversary at Beloit. Hired as the first director of the Powerhouse, Robinson has been charged with ensuring that when the doors open next year, the Powerhouse is a space that meets all students’ needs.
Before arriving in Beloit in the summer of 2018, Robinson was the global education director at the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah. As the program director for the biggest adaptive recreation program in the country, Robinson enjoyed the challenge of finding innovative and accessible ways to get anyone and everyone outdoors. “That job challenged me to create and think creatively, remove barriers … and that taught me a lot about inclusion, the power of recreation, and the power of play, in ways that I haven't experienced in the past.”
So, what made Robinson interested in a new challenge? He found out about the Powerhouse project through a friend, and he felt he couldn’t pass up the opportunity. “I was sent the job from a friend, because they thought ‘This looks really cool—you gotta look at this.’ I wasn’t looking, because I was really excited where I was, and then I looked at the job and thought ‘Wow that’s really cool. That's very different.’”
Robinson also has past experience working in higher education. He worked for the College of William and Mary as the assistant director of outdoor recreation and sports clubs, Florida Gulf Coast University as an outdoor recreation coordinator, and Florida State University as an outdoor pursuits head trip leader. With those perspectives, Robinson recognized the uniqueness of the Powerhouse project. “A lot of campuses build a [new] rec center, a new student union, [or a] new sports facility. Very few have combined all three into a unique space and involved students in the process like Beloit College did.”
Along with the bells and whistles of a new, state-of-the art building, the most exciting part of the Powerhouse for Robinson is the potential for a new student employment model to blossom. Ranging from customer service representatives to fitness instructors, students will be offered opportunities in which they can attain solid transferable skills—skills that will stand out on their résumés, post-Beloit. Robinson is demonstrably excited about the new model.
While there is a lot left to accomplish before the Powerhouse is fully up and running next year, Robinson wants to be sure that all stakeholders of the project continue to be consulted during the next stages of the planning process. After years of outlining and projecting the actual building and overall structure, what's left is the nitty-gritty of the menus, club functions, and event planning. "There's still so much creativity that can take place in that building,” he says. One of the first things he did when he arrived on campus was to create a task force of students, faculty, and staff. This group is working together to refine the mission, vision, and values of the project, because as Robinson believes, “Beloit College deserves top notch facilities.”
As for finding his place at Beloit, Robinson enjoys the compelling atmosphere. “Both my wife and I are big social activists and have fought for social injustices our whole lives and in our whole careers. It's what I’m all about. Beloit is beautiful, Wisconsin is beautiful, and there's so much to do outside.” Drawing from the skills he cultivated working at the National Ability Center and previous college campuses, Robinson hopes that in his role as Powerhouse Director he can do his part to make the Powerhouse a truly inclusive place for all students at Beloit College.