CBSHS Alumni Spotlight: Joel and Sarah Agate, professors and mentors
Meet husband and wife, Joel and Sarah Agate. They’re both 2010 Ph.D. graduates from Clemson’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, and both teach in higher education. Joel is an associate professor at The College of Brockport and Sarah is a new assistant professor at her Alma Mater, Brigham Young University. In between their research and courses, we caught up with them to talk about their Clemson experiences and careers.
Q: What is one of your fondest memories of Clemson?
For both of them, graduation was one of their fondest memories at Clemson.
Sarah: I was sitting at graduation between my two mentors and was absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude for them, knowing I would not have made it to that graduation without their endless support and encouragement. Afterward taking a picture with my 3-year old and newborn baby in their little graduation gowns, I realized we had accomplished this together, even though many times along the way this journey had seemed impossible.
Joel: That was a special day to celebrate the hard work we all put into earning our Clemson degrees.
Q: Where did you two meet?
Joel: We met in 2003 at Brigham Young University while completing our master’s degrees. Sarah enrolled the year after me but finished 2 years before me—she was much more efficient in completing her degree than I was. We got married in 2006, and we enrolled at Clemson together in 2007.
Q: How did Clemson prepare you for your current career?
Sarah: Through work with mentors at Clemson, I developed my skills as a researcher and teacher. I had amazing opportunities for teaching, and support for publishing research and presenting at conferences. I also learned how to work harder than I ever had before, and that I could do really hard things that seemed impossible. I learned how to juggle the different responsibilities of academic life.
Joel: Clemson did so many things for me. While providing me the flexibility I needed to complete a Ph.D. and an MBA while my wife completed her Ph.D., we figured out together how to parent an infant and fulfill other responsibilities in our lives as well. The PRTM faculty were constantly supportive, flexible and encouraging while also demanding and inviting my best work.
Q: Describe your career path. What led you to this?
Sarah: I earned my both my bachelor’s degree in Family Sciences, and my master’s degree in Youth and Family Recreation at Brigham Young University (BYU). I spent two summers working at Florida Sea Base in the Florida Keys and taught part-time at BYU in the Recreation Management and Youth Leadership department. I then went to Clemson to get my Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. After graduating from Clemson, I taught part-time at Southern Illinois University and online for Southwestern College. We moved to New York, and I taught part-time at Brockport for a few semesters before I was hired as an Assistant Professor at Brockport. I was in that position for four years and now we’ve just recently moved back to Utah where I’ll be working as an assistant professor at BYU in the department of Experience Design and Management. I am excited for the opportunity to be back home at BYU, near family and the mountains. I love teaching and research and have really enjoyed working with so many different students and colleagues across the country.
Joel: During my undergraduate degree I worked in residential treatment and discovered therapeutic recreation. I was immediately fascinated by the therapeutic and developmental nature of recreation, and when I enrolled at Clemson, I sought to better understand how I could provide recreation services that would benefit people of all abilities. My research while at Clemson focused on positive psychology and outdoor recreation, and I continue to explore how recreation and play facilitate emotional growth and psychological strength.
Q: What does your job entail?
Sarah: I’m excited to be starting at my alma mater, BYU, teaching in the department of Experience Design and Management. I’ll have similar responsibilities as I had at Brockport—teaching, working on research projects, and working with students. While at Brockport, I chaired the university’s Institutional Review Board, and was involved with some groups in the community advocating for play and empowerment through recreation. I look forward to being involved at BYU and the community here. I am also currently guest editor for a special issue of The Journal of Park and Recreation Administration which focuses on social justice issues in parks and recreation.
Joel: I love the diversity of experiences and the flexibility my job offers. I teach classes, conduct research, and have a variety of service responsibilities at the college and in the community. I enjoy advising students and developing relationships with recreation professionals throughout the community to provide new experiential opportunities for the students, such as internships, volunteer opportunities, or other hands-on experiences. I also have the opportunity to work off campus with community agencies advocating for healthy communities through recreation and play.
Q: Are there any job experiences that stick out as particularly memorable?
Sarah: One of the areas of my research is exploring how to empower women and girls through running. I was planning a research project where I was hoping to look at how two organizations are doing this: Girls on the Run and 261 Fearless, which was founded by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon 50 years ago. She finished the race and started a movement trying to empower women through running. A couple of years ago I was running a 19k race in Seneca Falls, New York called the “Right to Run,” which commemorated the 19th amendment. I saw Switzer during the race, introduced myself and told her about the research project. I asked if I could contact her sometime to speak about it, and she said, “I’m not doing anything other than running for the next couple of hours, so let’s talk now!” We ended up running together and talking about my project for the next few miles. Afterward, she introduced me to the woman in her organization that would be my liaison for the project. It was surreal to not only meet one of my heroes, but to spend that kind of time running and talking with her.
Joel: I have always enjoyed helping students find and pursue ambitious paths and learning about the success of our alumni. I was recently pleased to recognize an outstanding alumnus who dreamed of working abroad. In pursuit of this vision, he interned at a hotel in Prague and was hired as the resident manager for a new property that company was opening. Immediately after opening, he took the hotel to the top rating on Trip Advisor and in the two years since, he has consistently maintained a top three rating out of over 1,000 specialty hotels in Prague. He was recently promoted to the managing director of the brand, overseeing three hotels and developing a brand throughout the Prague. I am glad to be a part of a program that prepares students to be leaders right from the beginning of their careers.
Q: Do you have any advice for students interested in your line of work?
Sarah: Find good mentors to work with and learn from. Work hard and don’t give up. Take any opportunity you can to work on research projects and get experience in teaching. Find what you are passionate about and get experience working in a variety of settings to find what you are good at and what you enjoy. Ask hard questions and try to find where you can make a difference in the world.
Joel: The faculty care about your success. They will mentor you and provide you with the tools you need to thrive as a student and as a future professional. From the beginning of my time at Clemson, I was given opportunities to work beyond my experience and to rise to the task that I was given. I am grateful for these opportunities and I would advise others to be ready and willing to take such opportunities and to be equal to them.