Celebrating Commencement: a RecSports student employee appreciates little moments that make up life’s adventure

“I am very detail-oriented, and I try to be mindful of the small but impactful parts of life,” Jacob Poulalion said. “The ‘little things’ reflect so much about the overall quality of an experience, and I’ve implemented that mindset into my education, professional roles and personal journey.”

Poulalion is a “double Gator” who received his Bachelor of Science in Tourism and Hospitality Management from UF in 2020 and is now graduating with his Master of Science in Management. He’s passionate about helping others and appreciating the great outdoors. 

Poulalion’s connection to the outdoors began at a young age exploring the wilderness, visiting national parks and enjoying activities with his family.

At UF, he spent most of his undergraduate and graduate years in multiple roles with Recreational Sports (RecSports). Poulalion began as an American Red Cross Lifeguard at UF’s swimming pools in 2018. Throughout his six positions with RecSports, he has combined his love for working with people, traveling and recreational activities. 

“When I was younger, I didn’t fully appreciate the scenic trips I went on with my family,” Poulalion said. “When I fell in love with the outdoors around middle school age, I reflected on those pastimes and thought, ‘Oh man, those were truly amazing sights.’ I can’t wait to keep traveling and making more memories like that while helping others create those new experiences as well.”

Throughout his life, he’s had many personal experiences with traveling. He has crossed off more locations on his bucket list as a lead guide for adventure trips with the Center for Outdoor Recreation and Education, also known as CORE. Being a trip leader was one of his favorite forms of involvement with RecSports.

Becoming a trip leader is no small feat. To become a trip leader, one must apply and be selected to participate in a semester-long outdoor leadership course, earn certifications like Wilderness First Responder and undergo numerous comprehensive training trips.

“CORE has a unique culture and community built around its trip leaders that forms while training for months together,” Poulalion said. “There are many fun traditions for trip leaders, like the mentoring program, having kilts and passing them down to new leaders and sharing our stuffed turtle Horman. That plush has been around for more than 15 years. It’s all the small things that make being a trip leader so much fun.”

Poulalion began his involvement with CORE in 2019 after completing the outdoor leadership course in 2018. After working his way up in the organization, serving as a lead guide, adventure trips program assistant and program specialist, he ended his RecSports career as CORE’s graduate assistant. 

In his graduate assistant role, Poulalion focused on the administrative and behind-the-scenes operations of RecSports. He trained and developed staff members, wrote financial reports, forecast budgets and enhanced his customer service skills in this role. In addition, Poulalion coordinated and led adventure trips for many different groups on campus, most notably the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars program and the Warrington College of Business MBA program. 

“I’ve gotten to meet a wide variety of students, coordinate their trips and learn from their feedback. We share that feedback with the RecSports’ Board of Directors, which I am also a member of, and we work together to enhance the program,” he said. “I also get to create financial spreadsheets and templates to drive success for both our adventure trips and outdoor gear rental operations. This position gave me an opportunity to apply my business studies.”

Outside of the university, Poulalion enjoys volunteering his time. The Climb for Cancer Foundation and the Johnny Townsend Foundation are two nonprofit organizations that benefit UF Health cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers, which he feels a deep connection to help. Volunteering has offered Poulalion a way to give back to others and get in touch with his values.

Poulalion is excited to tackle any adventure at this stage in his life. Upon graduation, Poulalion will be returning to his hometown of Orlando to begin a new adventure in his first full-time position as a business development associate with KPMG, a financial and consulting firm.

“I’m excited to keep learning within my first full-time career opportunity and to build connections with KPMG. Building relationships is something I enjoy and I’m excited to connect people to resources that will make their life or organization better.”