Faculty Spotlight: Eric Oba

by Jordana Newman  |   

Eric Oba sitting at table drinking tea with llama
HPER assistant professor Eric Oba poses for a llama tea party during the 2023 Mountain Men of Alaska photo shoot. (Photo by Kayce James/Mountain Men of Alaska)

Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER) assistant professor, Eric Oba, shares his passion for teaching therapeutic recreation courses and how he earned the title of Mr. June in the 2023 Mountain Men of Alaska calendar.

Name: Eric Oba

Email address: etoba2@alaska.edu

Title: Assistant Professor

Unit: School of Allied Health

Hometown: Anchorage

How long have you worked at UAA?

I have been at UAA for about two and a half years.

Tell us about your job. 

I have a little bit of a unique position at UAA. I am doing both academic work at the university and practitioner work at a community agency, which is part of my job. I am a recreational therapist by profession and my position at UAA has been to create and teach therapeutic recreation courses while also developing recreational therapy programming at Denali Family Services to help provide therapeutic activities for the children and youth receiving treatment services there.

What do you love the most about your work?

Some of the best parts of my job include getting to know the students and seeing them progress through the semesters, learning about the colleagues I work with at the College of Health, and seeing the youth I serve have meaningful experiences in their leisure and recreation.

What is the most common question you receive at work?

The most common question I receive at work is "What is recreation therapy?" and it's a great question! At its core, therapeutic recreation is a healthcare field focused on improving the quality of life for people who may have experienced a significant or life-changing injury, or who may be living with a disability that changes the way they are able to participate in leisure and recreation. We work alongside other allied health professionals to help individuals regain independence in leisure, and/or learn how to make healthy leisure and recreation choices.

Eric Oba with carrot in mouth next to llama
HPER assistant professor Eric Oba poses with llama during the 2023 Mountain Men of Alaska photo shoot. (Photo by Eric Oba/University of Alaska Anchorage)

What was your personal and/or professional journey that led you to work at UAA?

I come from a family with a history of dedication to education. My grandfather, Herbert Oba, lived and worked in Dillingham and St. Mary's for a few years in the late '70s/early '80s, where he and his wife were school teachers and a school superintendent. While my immediate family never lived in Alaska, I have always been open to the idea of living here, so when I saw a position open here that would utilize my experience as a recreational therapist, I was thrilled!

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment while working here at UAA?

One accomplishment that I am very excited about has been working with HPER Program Chair TJ Miller and Assistant Dean of Behavioral Health David Moxley to build the therapeutic recreation program at UAA and at Denali Family Services. As part of the 2023-2024 catalog, our students should be able to see the therapeutic recreation track within the kinesiology degree. Students interested in therapeutic recreation can now take all the courses they need to be prepared to take their professional eligibility exam and become certified therapeutic recreation specialists upon their graduation.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

Our first summer living in Alaska, my partner's parents came up to visit and we decided to take them on a guided raft trip with Kenai Riverdog Rafting on the Kenai River. As we floated and chatted, we learned that our guide was also the primary photographer for the Mountain Men of Alaska calendar. She mentioned a couple of photo shoot ideas she had in mind, and the next thing you know, I had agreed to appear on the calendar. Two weeks later she picked me up and we went to Last Frontier Trail Llamas in Wasilla where we had a llama tea party! I didn't consider myself a true Alaska mountain man, but I've done my best to explore all the state has to offer. It may take a few more years to really feel like I earned the right to be Mr. June 2023.

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