Tourism class travels the Northeast


Photo courtesy of Michael Raycraft

Professor Michael Raycraft and his RST 180: Professional Applications class stand in front of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY during their trip around the Northeast from May 23 to June 3.

By Azucena Gama, Night Editor

Students in a typical Illinois course look forward to the last day of instruction. It signifies wrapping the class up and heading home, but not for clinical associate professor Michael Raycraft’s Recreation, Sport and Tourism course. For RST 180: Professional Applications, the semester ending is only the beginning. 

After a two-year hiatus, this summer, from May 23 to June 3, Raycraft took his RST 180 class on a 12-day bus trip to the Northeast to visit various sports spots and historical landmarks. 

On any given day of the trip, they were busy from morning to night visiting tourism destinations. For example, the group of 26’s first stop was Cleveland, Ohio. They visited the Cleveland Cavaliers’ basketball arena and did a Q&A session with Illinois alumni. From there, they went to the Cleveland Guardian’s baseball stadium. Then, they ended the day at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. 

“It’s a pretty intensive time together,” Raycraft said. “So it’s important to establish ground rules about who we are, what we’re trying to accomplish, and how we’re going to interact. Because we’re very busy once we’re out there.”

In the eight-week spring course, Raycraft focuses on building connections with the students and giving them information about where they will be going. 

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Zain Bando, a recent graduate, said the main part of the class started during the trip.

“I really don’t feel like the class actually starts until you get to your first stop,” Bando said.

In class, students also focused on presenting the trip online by learning to use hashtags and other social media initiatives. 

In New York, the class visited Niagara Falls, Lake Placid, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Saratoga Racetrack and Woodstock. For many, it was their first time seeing these locations. 

RST 180 students at Niagara Falls on May 26. (Photo courtesy of Michael Raycraft)

Madeleine Larson, sophomore in AHS, said Niagara Falls helped to get the group ready for what was to come.

“I especially loved Niagara Falls; we did Cave of the Winds, which is going underneath the falls and getting soaking wet,” Larson said. “I think that ripped the Band-Aid off for everyone.”

At the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the group interacted with professional baseball players such as Ozzie Smith, Fergie Jenkins, Lee Smith and Ted Simmons. 

Afterward, the group visited Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., to look at Ivy League athletics and compare them to Big Ten athletic programs. 

On their way south, the group stopped in Philadelphia, Penn., to see historical tourist spots such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. They then visited the national park of Gettysburg and the 9/11 memorial in Shanksville, PA.

“(It’s) one of the most solemn grounds in the United States,” Raycraft said. “It was an important experience just to go there to see and understand the historical implications of that whole experience.”

Their next stop was the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, where they participated in a session panel to learn and ask questions about career opportunities in the NFL.

Coming back, they visited the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind., where they had a panel discussion to learn more about the association and met Indiana Pacers players.

On their last day, they visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the Indy 500 was held just about a week before. The group got to do a lap around the track and kissed the bricks at the start/finish line of the course.

The RST 180 class kiss the brick finish line at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 6. (Photo courtesy of Michael Raycraft)

“It’s a jam-packed 12 days, but it’s the best 12 days you’re gonna get,” Larson said.

Raycraft chose these locations because of how close everything is to each other, compared to the west, where things are far apart. This helped create the class’ jam-packed itinerary. 

“That part of the country is great in terms of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Indiana because it’s so dense,” Raycraft said. “There’s not another part of the country that I can think of where there’s so much that’s right there.”

The trip ran smoothly, the only hiccup being that their bus broke down a few miles after leaving campus on the first day, and this delayed them about five hours.

The class is open to all majors and years, but being a more expensive course to take, Raycraft is upfront about the class’ cost. Fortunately, about 50% of this year’s fees were covered by scholarships from Orange Krush and alum Carmen Rossi. This opportunity opened the doors so anyone who wanted to take the class could. Furthermore, Raycraft was the only chaperone on the trip. 

“I want to spend as much money as I can on the students and the student experience,” Raycraft said. “If I bring in more chaperones, you gotta pay them.”

Bando said the different blend of ages was also no barrier to their bonding. 

“Every single person on the trip was at a different stage in their college experience,” Bando said. “Some people have already graduated like me, whereas others were just starting their Illinois experience.”

Regardless of what the rest of their summer brings, they will forever hold these memories for years to come.


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