A 2012 graduate of the Master of Science in Youth Development Leadership program, Chris Tompkins is the chief mission officer for Muskoka Woods, a youth summer camp organization headquartered just outside Toronto, Ontario.
Tompkins began working with Muskoka Woods in 2005, acting as their director of staff development. In 2007, he assumed the role of managing director, where he was responsible for the leadership of the summer camp business unit. He was promoted to his current position in 2013.
When he began looking for a masters program to continue honing his skills, Tompkins was deeply situated in his career. Therefore, he needed a program at a reputable university that was flexible enough to fit his professional schedule. However, he did not want an entirely distance-learning experience.
"I wanted something tangible," Tompkins said. "Clemson's program had a good mix of that (face-to-face and distance learning), and it still connected to the areas that I wanted to develop."
Tompkins explains that his experience with the program began with an extended, intensive weekend on campus, where he was able to meet face-to-face with his professors, attend classes, and conduct team-building exercises with his classmates. After this point, online collaboration would suffice until another meeting was required.
"To be honest, that's what appealed to me about it," he said about the course setup, as it satisfied his time constraints from work and still allowed him to receive the "Clemson experience."
"I've been to the Esso Club three times, I've drove back down to go to a football game, I've walked the campus, and I've bought the t-shirts — I've done stuff students in other online programs wouldn't do. But I also didn't have to leave my job," Tompkins said. "The program enabled me to have the best of both worlds."
The intertwining of those worlds was part of his graduate research project, which was based upon an aspect of his organization. The data from the project was used not only for his academic benefit but also for the benefit of his organization. "The research allowed us at Muskoka Woods to become better at what we're doing," he said.
Tompkins' Clemson professors and classmates are still a resource to him, and he has also used his professional skills to give back to Clemson. A published author and accomplished speaker, he recently served as a guest lecturer in a Clemson parks, recreation and tourism management course.
"There's a cyclical nature about this," Tompkins said. "Not only has Clemson trained me to contribute back to Muskoka Woods, but I feel I have had a small part in contributing back to students as well."