RTNL: New name for community- and service-focused degree

Beginning fall 2020, University of Northern Iowa students interested in building the livability of their communities through community recreation, tourism, nonprofit and youth administration, therapeutic recreation or outdoor recreation can turn to a renamed degree: recreation, tourism and nonprofit leadership (RTNL).

RTNL is a UNI College of Education program within the Department of Health, Recreation and Community Services (HRCS). Previously known as leisure, youth and human services, the RTNL name change reflects program strengths which respond to national trends and changing community needs. 

“In these changing times, the skills and knowledge we are offering our students are more important than ever. It is exciting and rewarding to see our graduates making a difference in their communities,” says Kathleen Scholl, professor and HRCS department head. 

The value of community service is a shared characteristic that draws students to the recreation, tourism and nonprofit leadership major. The degree prepares students for leadership, managerial and staff positions in a variety of community, health and human services, and nonprofit settings. A core set of classes culminate in students participating in a required recreation, tourism and nonprofit leadership internship. 

“RTNL students are actively engaged in learning via group projects, community endeavors and their internship,” says RTNL professor Christopher Kowalski. 

The diversity of the course options within the RTNL degree gives students choices to match their interests upon enrollment at UNI:

Community recreation correlates most strongly to leisure services and programming found in community facilities such as municipal recreation centers and local parks.

Tourism is an important economic driver by making significant contributions to job creation as well as improving the social and cultural livability of a community. This includes managing any potential impacts of tourism. 

Nonprofit leadership connects to youth and human services, as many organizations integrate critical community services with philanthropic and governmental agencies. 

Therapeutic recreation addresses the needs of individuals with illness or disabling conditions by using recreation and other activities to improve quality of life and well-being. 

Outdoor recreation professionals strive to protect our natural and cultural resources while providing sustainable recreation access and outdoor education experiences. 

RTNL students are being prepared for expanding roles. “Park and recreation agencies as well as many nonprofit organizations are finding themselves extending their services well beyond community-based recreation programming,” Scholl says. “These community and nonprofit agencies are often now on the front lines of providing after-school care, food and nutrition assistance, as well as addressing impacts of homelessness and community emergencies such as flooding, extreme weather or wildland fire evacuations.”

As a trusted community gathering place, recreation agencies and nonprofits now often provide interconnected wellness hubs and multiservice centers, she adds. 

A number of RTNL courses are often embedded in other majors and certificates, including the sustainability certificate, the public relations major’s special events emphasis and the interdisciplinary environmental resource management major. 

The RTNL undergraduate program remains accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT). The HRCS department also offers a newly merged graduate degree (M.A.) supporting professional leadership roles in community health and recreation