RST 180 ‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ trip for students
- Mike Raycraft
- Recreation Sport and Tourism
- College of Applied Health Sciences
- University of Illinois
RST 180 has a rather dry course title: Professional Applications. But for the students who take the class, it is anything but.
RST 180, which returned in 2022 after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, is a three-credit course that concludes with a 12-day tour of recreation, sport and tourism-related destinations in Indiana, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. This year’s trip included stops in sites such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Niagara Falls, the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Olympic training site in Lake Placid, the site of Woodstock in Bethel, N.Y., the 9/11 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., and the Ohio State Reformatory, the site of the movie “The Shawshank Redemption.”
On May 23, more than two dozen students, along with RST Clinical Associate Professor Mike Raycraft, boarded a bus and set out from the University of Illinois campus on their way east.
As much as the trip is about learning the logistics and operations of iconic RST sites, it is also an epic road trip—complete with a five-hour delay due to a bus breakdown.
“My favorite part of the trip was meeting some of the best people and friends that I have ever met,” said rising sophomore Matthew Wargo. “From the beginning, we had to hang out with each other while we waited 5-plus hours for a new bus, and those hours really helped us to bond as a group before we embarked on the bus journey.”
Rising sophomore Nicole Dudek agreed.
“My favorite part of the trip was bonding with all my classmates and making lifelong friendships,” she said. “One instance that sticks out to me is when we all went on a cruise around Glimmerglass Lake in Cooperstown [upstate New York]. We had a free day to spend however we liked, but all of us chose to spend it with each other. It was really a moment where we bonded despite being from different walks of life.”
Rising senior Olivia Butters was another student on the trip. Butters is studying business management and is minoring in RST, with an emphasis on Sports Management. Ideally, she would like to work in a collegiate athletics department in operations or facility management,and this type of trip allows her to see those operations up close.
Butters said she was especially excited to meet with Mark Thomas—the recently retired Western District Director for State Parks in New York—whose role included oversight of Niagara Falls.
“I was very excited to hear about his experience running such a large state park,” Butters said. “He had so much knowledge and gave us such a great experience at the Falls.”
Dudek, who plans to pursue a career in outdoor recreation/tourism, was also excited to meet with Thomas, but the most important visit to her was unexpected.
“Cooperstown ended up being the site that was most significant to me, which initially came as a surprise,” she said. “Going into the trip all I knew the town for was the Baseball Hall of Fame, which I was interested in but didn’t expect to fawn over. It ended up being two of my favorite days of the trip.”
Visiting new places and spaces is fun for the students, but they also understand the importance of the trip, in terms of their futures.
“I wanted to explore what career options there were in the field, as well as network with professionals across the country,” Dudek said.
As much as the journey provided students and future professionals with lifelong benefits—especially crucial experience that will inform their future careers—it also included something unique.
“My favorite part of the trip was meeting everyone. I got onto the bus on the first day only knowing two people in the class, and by the last day I could easily call each person on the bus a friend,” Butters said. “I couldn't say no to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Matthew Wargo agreed.
“We all had a great time together—even now, a few weeks after the trip ended, we are already making plans to hang out with each other in the fall and later this summer,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade the friends I made on this trip for anything in the world.”