Recreation, Tourism and Nonprofit Leadership BA

recreation tourism and nonprofit leadership

Program Description

As a nationally recognized and accredited professional education program, the UNI College of Education's Recreation, Tourism and Nonprofit Leadership program focuses on preparing you with the skills, knowledge and values required to effectively assume professional leadership, managerial and staff positions in varied community, health and human services and nonprofit settings. 

This degree is being offered to students entering University of Northern Iowa as of fall 2020. It reflects a name change for the previous leisure, youth and human services degree. While coursework remains the same, the new name better represents the career preparation today's students at UNI are receiving and the career choices they're making. 

Recreation as a profession focuses on the principles underlying recreational and leisure activities and the practices involved in providing indoor and outdoor recreational services. These services take place in outdoor recreation, parks and recreation, therapeutic recreation programs for people with disabilities, campus recreation, commercial recreation, travel and tourism, and youth-serving organizations. 

Tourism prepares you for work in the tourism and travel industry, gaining skill and experience in areas such as community-based planning, marketing, event management and specialty areas as eco-, adventure and sport tourism. 

Nonprofit leadership provides the foundation to lead and manage populations in the nonprofit and public sectors and meet community needs. You gain both classroom knowledge and hands-on experience in understanding operations of adult and youth human services and nonprofit agencies, including principles of financial management and staffing. 

UNI's program in recreation, tourism and nonprofit leadership is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT). COAPRT accredits baccalaureate programs in parks, recreation, tourism, sport management, event management, therapeutic recreation, and leisure studies offered at regionally accredited institutions within the U.S. and its territories, and at nationally accredited institutions in Canada and Mexico. Recent program retention rates:  Fall 2019 - 99.1%; Spring 2020 - 99.1%; Fall 2020 - 92.9%; Spring 2021 - 100%. 


  • City/county recreation
  • Summer camp director
  • YMCA/YWCA sports director
  • Youth coaching director
  • Community recreation and exercise coordinator
  • Recreation therapist
  • Coaching director for youth sports associations
  • College/university intramurals director
  • Wellness/aquatics director
  • Nonprofit agency executive director
  • Nonprofit agency youth director
  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Education/programming/training specialist
  • Director of development and fundraising
  • Advocacy, policy and research specialist
  • Special event coordinator
  • Park ranger
  • Environmental interpreter
  • Naturalist/environmental educator
  • Outdoor trip guide
  • Inclusion specialist

Why UNI for your recreation, tourism and nonprofit leadership degree?

  • Choice. Find your path in community recreation, nonprofit administration, outdoor recreation, therapeutic recreation and youth development. 
  • Experience. By the time you graduate, you'll have more than 1,000 hours of experience -- something future employers value. From local service learning projects and internships to multiple options like Camp Adventure, Special Olympics, Just for Kicks, Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, Dance Marathon, you will learn and grow, whether close to home or abroad. 
  • Quality. The program is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT), which accredits institutions in the United States, Canada and Mexico, with approved programming in parks, recreation, tourism, sport management, event management, therapeutic recreation and leisure studies.  



Sarah Hanson Limpopo“UNI really gave me a good foundation for my career right after college. I see other people that went to other schools and nonprofits and realize I haven't had to learn things in the field that others do, because of UNI. I also had some really good mentors with faculty and the NonProfit Leadership Alliance. I went to conferences, worked on committees and was doing research. It was a strong foundation. When I was ready to graduate, I knew what I was getting into. Even in my master’s program that followed, I felt I had a lot more public policy awareness gained through my community service experiences at UNI.” Sarah Hanson (B.A., ‘16, leisure, youth and human services), director of US development, Blessman International  Learn more about Sarah. 








Program Faculty and Staff

Primary Faculty and Staff Contacts
Rod Dieser
Professor, Recreation, Tourism and Nonprofit Leadership; Affiliated Faculty: Professional Counseling (Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling)
Julianne Gassman
Professor, Recreation, Tourism and Nonprofit Leadership; Director, Nonprofit Leadership Alliance
Oksana Grybovych Hafermann, Ed.D.
Associate Dean, Academic Affairs; Associate Professor, Recreation, Tourism and Nonprofit Leadership
Christopher L. Kowalski, Ed.D.
Professor, Recreation, Tourism and Nonprofit Leadership
Heather Olsen
Professor, Recreation, Tourism and Nonprofit Leadership & Director, Center for Playground Safety
Kathleen G. Scholl, Ph.D.
Department Head, Health, Recreation and Community Services; Professor, Recreation, Tourism and Nonprofit Leadership and Intensive Study Area Program Coordinator


For summer 2019, 100% of summer 2019 internship students were rated as "Outstanding" by their internship agency supervisors in their final internship performance evaluations.

The Robert and Yvonne Koob Fund for Student Community Engagement is an endowment supporting students who are completing internships in positions of service in Iowa. Click here to see the Koob Fund Impact Report, part of community engagement at UNI.

Please watch this important video regarding degree and accreditation mills.

Degree Mill video image

According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, "Degree mills and accreditation mills mislead and harm. In the United States, degrees and certificates from mills may not be acknowledged by other institutions when students seek to transfer or go to graduate school. Employers may not acknowledge degrees and certificates from degree mills when providing tuition assistance for continuing education. "Accreditation" from an accreditation mill can mislead students and the public about the quality of an institution. In the presence of degree mills and accreditation mills, students may spend a good deal of money and receive neither an education nor a useable credential."