Bulletin News

Recreation conference focuses on inclusion


Ambika Rajyagor, a co-founder of Disabled & Outdoors, an independent organization run by Black, Indigenous and other people of color for the diverse community of people with disabilities, will deliver the prestigious Metcalf Endowment Lecture at the 73rd annual SUNY Cortland Recreation Conference.

The conference, set for Thursday, Nov. 2, and Friday, Nov. 3, on campus, is the nation’s oldest continuous collegiate-sponsored recreation education conference.

Rajyagor, a writer, activist and digital creator who works for disabled rights and outdoor conservation, will discuss “Advocating diversity, equity and inclusion in the outdoors: creating space for every body,” from 1:20 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3, in Corey Union Function Room. The keynote lecture is free and open to the public.

Conference registration is open. The full conference registration costs $60 for students and $125 for professionals; one day registration is $40 for students and $80 for professionals; and to attend only the internship fair costs $25.

For additional information and to register online for the conference, visit cortland.edu/recconf or call 607-753-4972 or email recconf@cortland.edu.

“This year, we do not have a conference theme, but we have a goal, ‘to educate, inspire and celebrate inclusion and diversity among recreation professionals, students and organizations,’ said conference chair and event organizer Alexis Stiles of McGraw, N.Y., a senior majoring in recreation management with a minor in outdoor education and interpretation.

“The conference is an amazing opportunity to build community and recognize all the important elements within the field of recreation,” Stiles said.   

The two-day event will feature numerous presentations in the field of recreation, parks and leisure studies. Check the conference website for updates on the sessions and schedule.

A student in the Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department, left, spars playfully with a client of the J.M. Murray Center. In the top image, students and center members form a dance line.

The Recreation Conference annually hosts 300 to 400 students and professionals in the fields of recreation, parks, and leisure studies from all over New York state, the greater New England area and beyond.

Presented by the university’s Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department and students in the Special Events Planning class led by Jason Page ’08, M ’12, assistant professor of recreation, parks and leisure studies, the conference receives additional support for the Metcalf Keynote Address from the Metcalf Endowment Fund.

This year’s alumni presenters will include SUNY Cortland Alumni Volunteer Award recipient John Silsby ’69, M.S.Ed. ’70, Jack Fass ’77, Erin Norris ’98, Esq., Patrick Mercer M ’03, Jessica Kreuger Middleton ’06, Jacqueline Dyke M ’08, Jason Page ’08, M ’12, assistant professor of recreation, parks and leisure studies, Caralie Fennessey ’15, Esther VanGorder M ’15, Nicholas DeLissio ’20, Rebecca Gonzalez ’21,  Gwynivere McGee ’21 and Catherine Troiano ’21. 

Ambika Rajyagor

Inspired by a younger sister Devika, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, and by her own experiences with autoimmune disorder and atypical brain function, southern California resident Rajyagor has dedicated her life to raising awareness, fostering inclusivity and empowering others to challenge norms for equality.

Ambika Rajyagor

In 2018, Rajyagor launched the Disabled & Outdoors Instagram site @DisablednOutdoors, which led her to co-found a small, independent, BIPOC-run account amplifying disabled voices, and providing resources about accessible spots for the disabled community around the country.

“Disabled & Outdoors is about creating outdoor access for all,” she said. “Through this platform, our goal is to showcase the incredible members of our community and fight for more inclusivity in both the outdoor community and industry.”

Three years ago, at age 24 she partnered with AllTrails, a health and fitness app that provides detailed, hand-curated trail maps and reviews and crowdsourced photos of millions of hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers and trail runners. Her work as a co-founder of Disabled & Outdoors, celebrating accessibility in the outdoors and promoting disabled representation, was featured in September 2020 in the ForbesWomen newsletter. Outside of her academic writing, since 2017 she has released her writing online through digital platforms including her personal blog.

Rajyagor also works as a photographer, social media consultant and a model for lifestyle, fitness and outdoor apparel. Since 2020, Rajyagor has also offered consulting services as a brand marketing manager through her Blue Sky Color of Imagination.

Her three-year-old platform, Ganges Gal®, has grown to include self-care and wellness tips, pop culture guides, outdoor and adventure blogs and her own personal storytelling. Through that platform, she also operates the online community service platform, “Do Good Things Club,” which has raised more than $3,000 for charities including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Cancer Research at City of Hope, Adopt-a-Family and various special needs classroom events.