Cambridge, Mass. (April 14) – In the next installment of the "Meet the Coaches and Staff" series by the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER), we spotlight Michele McCauley, who is in her 7th year at MIT in 2020-21 and her 2nd year as the Manager of Physical Education and Wellness after being promoted in the summer of 2019.
Can you explain a little more about our role as the manager of PE&W. How it fits into the student experience at MIT?
My position manages a major assignment for the institution as the sole registrar for PE&W, which as you know is a general institute requirement.
I assist the director in creating the quarterly schedule in addition to helping hire, manage and observe part time specialty instructors, as well as training new and existing staff. I also work with vendors for the Extreme PE program - parkour, indoor climbing, SCUBA, Backpacking and hiking and during the Independent Activities Period (IAP) ski and snowboarding.
My job is all about the MIT student – from when I meet them at the first-year student swim test to advising the year four student who may need some help with a plan to complete their requirement in time for graduation.
I’ve also had the pleasure of teaching and curriculum development for some of the wellness courses even such as Fitness/Nutrition, Fitness/Stress Management, Fitness/Meditation and Yoga.
What led you to a career in PE&Wellness?
I have always been involved in health and wellness. I played sports growing up (volleyball and softball), and started my career as an exercise therapist for cardiac rehab patients, then became a personal trainer, worked in membership sales and event management for a local health club, and then moved to Customer Service manager and eventually General Manager for several corporate fitness centers in and around Boston. I started teaching with Physical Education and Wellness because of one of my instructors at my fitness center told me about the program and thought I would be a good fit. After teaching several years, the Program Manager position became available and I was excited to try something new but still in the capacity of wellness.
What is the thing that stands out the most to you about MIT students?
The diversity of the careers students chose and their entrepreneurial spirit. We have students working for NASA, starting new businesses and who knows maybe one of them might find a cure for cancer.
How do you think PE and Wellness can benefit the student population specifically at MIT?
Physical Education and Wellness provides students an outlet from their studies. It allows them to meet new people, try new activities (not just sports) and learn lifelong skills outside of the classroom or lab. Also, many students have participated in wellness classes in high school so they can find something that complements their existing program or try something new. We provide so many options to choose from; they are bound to find something!
How has teaching PE&W adapted during the COVID 19 pandemic?
WOW, where do I begin? Back in March 2020, when most were being sent home, our team stayed on campus to come up with a plan for students to complete their remaining Q3 courses. At that point, we didn’t know what remote teaching was! We then created make up options for students to complete those Q3 courses, created remote two asynchronous classes for Q4 then shifted from in-person to remote synchronous classes for Summer 2020.
Through the summer, we reviewed our class schedules and prepared for the fall. Instructors learned some additional best practices for teaching remotely and how to engage our students. We knew for many students this might be their only interaction or movement so we wanted to provide them with a great experience. This year, our instructors taught remote asynchronous, remote synchronous and modified in-person based on COVID restrictions. Although many students (and coaches) still prefer in person classes, our remote synchronous classes have been receiving positive feedback and retention rates have been exceptional.
We have been extremely happy to still be able to provide a variety of activities for our students and continue to assist them in completing their general institute requirement.
What are some of the notable things you have learned during your time at MIT?
Most recently the resiliency of our instructors and students during this crazy time.
Our small team of 4 worked tirelessly to provide many options for students to not just earn points but have some fun too! We invited students into our homes during remote synchronous courses, we became their support system with the asynchronous courses and provided some “normalcy” with in-person courses even though we were much farther apart and wearing masks.
How do you relax when you aren’t at MIT?
My favorite ways to relax involve being outside, which is challenging especially during the winters in Massachusetts. These include paddleboarding and kayaking in the ocean. When its too cold to go in the water, just sitting by the ocean and listening to the waves always relaxes me. I also enjoy spending time with my 5 nieces. Seeing the world through their young eyes helps bring me back to the simple joys in life.
If you could go on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Too many to choose from and most are related to the ocean! My top dream vacations are Bora Bora, British Columbia and Australia.
Bora Bora so I can sleep in a hut above the ocean and be surrounded by beautiful blue water. This to me seems so peaceful and serene. British Columbia for some excitement where I could kayak with the killer whales (something I always dreamed of). Australia to go Scuba Diving on the Great Barrier Reef.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Take care of yourself; you are the only “you” there is or will ever be!
Do you have a favorite quote or saying?
Recently, I remembered an old favorite “Never lose your childish enthusiasm”. To me this means to not be afraid to try new things and to do so with the same wonder and sense of excitement as a child.
What is your favorite spot around campus?
I don’t have a specific spot but I enjoy my walking route from the red line to the Zesiger Center, especially in the spring time when the flowers are starting to bloom and the excitement of graduation prep.
What is your favorite movie?
Too many to mention but I generally I gravitate towards a comedy. I do love Jaws though!
What is your favorite restaurant around Cambridge or Boston?
Before leaving campus, I tried Salonicki Greek and Naco Taco. Both had great food and not too far away.
What are you looking forward to most about being back on campus?
To some normalcy, seeing my coworkers again and playing Pickleball, going to Dunkin to grab a coffee, and listening to the sports teams out on the fields getting ready for a game or practice.
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