I loved being a member of the Student Recreation Association at Central Michigan University. As an undergraduate outdoor and environmental recreation major, two hours each Monday evening were dedicated to socializing, laughing and developing our leadership abilities with fellow students from the Department of Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services Administration. We had an absolute blast!
Today, whenever I reflect upon the skills that promote success in our field, things like organization, communication, networking, flexibility, politicking and so many others, my gratitude for that opportunity continues to grow. Joining the academic department's student club can be a marvelous and enriching experience for many students during higher education.
Across the country, student club participation varies widely from program to program, and some of the numbers are surprising. Although both North Carolina State University and the University of North Alabama have thriving recreation degree programs, neither has a student association. Texas A&M boasts almost 500 recreation, park, and tourism science undergrads, yet only 15 of those students are actively involved in RPTS Club. At Eastern Kentucky University, however, almost 70 of the 110 recreation majors are members of the Recreation Club. Indiana University and Western Illinois University are two that offer more than one club; recreation students there can choose between different organizations depending on their academic achievement, area of concentration or professional interests.
Many of the wonderful colleagues whom I contacted for this article spoke to the welcoming social nature of these clubs. Dr. Brooke Burk, an assistant professor at the State University of New York-Cortland, says, "Students enjoy the friendly culture and enjoy having opportunities to get to know one another better. The club helps a lot of our transfers and new majors feel like they have a home." Dr. Michael Bradley, an assistant professor at Eastern Kentucky University, agreed, sharing that, "Recreation Club helps develop a sense of community among the students. They are a family, so to speak. I think the students enjoy seeing the faculty outside of the typical faculty roles. I played on the intramural basketball team with the majors, and they really thought that was the coolest thing."
Interaction with instructors in an alternative setting is seen as beneficial at multiple academic programs. Dr. Kyle Woosnam, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University, also considers "time with faculty outside of the classroom" as one of the major benefits for students. These alternate settings can be exciting places. Dr. Burk reports that the SUNY-Cortland Recreation Association supports its active members by sending them to conferences all over the United States. Zack Breeding, president of the University of Mississippi's Park and Recreation Management Association (PRMA), attends the state conference each year with his fellow undergraduate students. He says, "By utilizing the Mississippi Recreation and Park Association and other sources, we are working to create a fun atmosphere of learning where the students build off of each other's connections."
Meeting professionals at the state convention is a great advantage to the employment search process. …