RST majors take leisure seriously

By Kyle Betts

Although their program has a new name, Recreation, Sport and Tourism majors are proud to be a part of a curriculum that has them working just as hard as engineers.

Called leisure studies when it became an official major in 1990 in the College of Applied Life Studies, the program changed its name to Recreation, Sport and Tourism in 2004. The major offers its 400 undergraduate students – one of the smallest programs compared to the 8,000 students in Engineering – a specialization in either recreation management, sport management, or tourism management.

So what is a major in RST all about?

“It’s all about people,” said Ryan Gower, a faculty member in RST and a graduate of the University’s Leisure Studies program. “We’re all about looking for ways to make people’s quality of life better.”

Created because of a higher demand for specialists in the leisure market, the RST major starts off teaching the basics of society and the importance of leisure throughout different cultures. Students then use that basic knowledge to understand leisure as a business and how to supply people with that leisure.

“There are a lot of core classes focused around understanding leisure and its relationship to society, but then there are a couple classes that separate the three different specializations of our program,” said Dr. Cary McDonald, head of the RST program. “After those classes, there are a variety of courses in business, marketing and sociology that our students can explore.”

This preparation in leisure activity can lead to careers in fields like professional sports, community organizations, tourist bureaus, sporting-good companies and sports agencies.

Although there is a strong emphasis on business in this major, RST is not to be confused as a business degree under a different name.

“A major in business prepares you to sell a specific item, like a shoe,” Gower said, “but in our program, we teach you to sell a leisure activity.”

This separation from the business major also allows the students who choose to pursue this degree to be unique. McDonald said these students are people who care about the well-being of others, and they are dedicated to improving the lives of everyone. Along with caring about other people, McDonald said, those enrolled in the major also seem to have a life-long passion for sports, traveling, or just leisure in general.

“I absolutely love sports and have always been interested in the business aspect of them,” said Alex Robson, a junior in RST. “I was the kid who was listening to sports talk radio instead of (music).”

With their passion for leisure and recreation, students can have dreams about future careers like becoming the general manager of their favorite sports team, running a major-market park district, or even owning their own 5-star hotel resort.

“My dream job would be coaching and staying around sports,” said senior Dee Brown, sport management specialist in the RST major.

While reaching their dream jobs is always something students in all majors will use as motivation to work as hard as possible and get the best grades that they can, RST majors think that other students on campus don’t take them and their passion seriously.

Brown said RST students work extremely hard in their classes to achieve their career goals.

But some students in other majors are misinformed about the program and think it’s an easy major, said Robson.

“People don’t see it as a real major, especially since I switched from computer engineering,” Robson said. “No one seems to take it seriously.”

While there may not be a way to convince everyone on campus that RST is a serious degree that has students who are passionate about what they do, Gower offers this simple challenge to try and break that stereotype: “Come take some of our classes.” ÿ

The idea that leisure is an activity that people need as an important part of their lives is something that the instructors in RST courses stress to students on a daily basis. They understand the importance of people’s free time, along with those who want to provide that leisure for them.

“My major is life,” Brown said. “Leisure is life.”