Internal Profiles: Tim O’Connell

Internal Profiles is a brand new segment for the internal news section at The Brock Press. The purpose of these pieces is to highlight those special individuals in the Brock community who have made an exceptional contribution or impact; those who deserve to be accredited for their accomplishments and who give an example to the Badger populace. These profiles are meant to serve as inspiration for those students who are eager to get involved but simply don’t know how or even where to begin.

If you would like to nominate anyone for an internal profile, contact

Tim O’Connell is a highly recognized and decorated professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies at Brock University. He has been part of Brock’s faculty since 2006 and specializes in outdoor recreation. To date, he has won six awards for his teaching practices from various institutions and organizations. Most recently, he was one of five recipients of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Teaching Award for 2014/2015, beating out 17,000 other faculty members across Ontario. Clearly, if you’re lucky enough to have Tim O’Connell as a professor, you’ll realize that he is a robust proponent of experiential learning, making students feel like the theories that they learn in class can actually be applied to the real world. He humbly accredits his pedagogical success to “the quality and the excitement of the students and colleagues who support student learning at Brock. [His job is] really easy because of the energy and excitement of students and faculty.”

Photo Courtesy of: TheBrockNews

Photo Courtesy of: TheBrockNews

However, it’s not O’Connell’s accolades which make him such an interesting person at Brock University. Not to discredit the professor’s outstanding achievements, but what I find most remarkable about his rich biography is how relatable it is to the experiences of so many undergraduate students who feel lost or unsure of what they want from their education.

Like so many of us, O’Connell didn’t know what he wanted to study after high school. His main focus after he graduated was working as a lifeguard for his local swimming pool. He loved his work there and eventually one of his supervisors recommended that he study recreation and leisure at university. “I didn’t even know you could study Rec and Leisure,” O’Connell admits. He quickly transferred and, realizing he had found his passion, went on to specialize in outdoor recreation. After his graduation, O’Connell began working as a guide for a company called Wilderness Inquiry. He lead people with varying degrees of ability on canoe, kayaking, hiking, snowshoeing, and ice climbing expeditions all across North America. Eager to learn and contribute more to his burgeoning field, O’Connell went back to school and completed his PhD. After working as a professor for some time at Lakehead University, he was offered a position at Brock to help restructure the outdoor recreation curriculum.

During this process, O’Connell used his expertise as a wilderness guide to create and implement one of his best known legacies in the Brock community. O’Connell knew from his research that first year students’ most typical anxiety about coming to university was making friends. He also knew that many of his own students were not getting summer jobs in their field of recreation and leisure simply because there were so few opportunities. So, he, along with two others, created Brock’s Base Camp Program.

This program organizes wilderness trips which are lead by current Brock students for incoming students to the university. Leaders also develop and teach a few lessons to the new students about the transition from high school to university life, including: life on residence, dealing with alcohol and academic expectations. The overall program is extremely successful at creating social networks between Brock students while also providing a fun and safe outdoor experience. Base Camp has been met with huge praise as the impact has been twofold for both existing and arriving students.

It’s refreshing to meet a person who struggled with the major decisions that we, the students, are going through right now in our lives and see how successful they can become. It gives one a sense of hope, the knowledge that as long as we follow what we love to do we can have a fruitful career and make an impact in the communities we call home.

“The main thing is to network with students, faculty and staff in the Brock community, ask questions and find like minded people. [If you] find the right person and ask the right question, that’s the gateway to making your ideas happen. Start small and watch your ideas grow, just like planting a seed and helping it grow,” O’Connell said.

If you’re a Brock student who is interested in being a leader for the Brock Base Camp Program, it’s open to all students. The organizers post jobs and take applications in the late fall and early winter. They typically look for students with first aid and outdoor experience.

If you have any inquiries they can be answered at

Nicholas Blasiak
Assistant Internal News Editor

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