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RLS Majors Work Hard So Others Can Play Hard


RLS Majors Work Hard So Others Can Play Hard


MOUNT OLIVE - With people spending more time engaged in the critical life pursuit of recreation than working or attending school combined, it is no wonder that Recreation and Leisure makes up one of the top industries for the 21st century. At the University of Mount Olive (UMO), Recreation and Leisure Studies (RLS) represents one of our fastest-growing departments.  In fact, the number of students majoring in RLS at UMO has increased by 117% since 2003.  Yet, how many people even know what RLS is? In a broad sense, recreation majors are studying to join a growing economic sector that works so others can play. 


Dr. Jill Mills, Professor and Chair of the UMO Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, said, “UMO RLS students are being prepared for careers that empower individuals to live healthy, meaningful lives; foster a sense of community and support; benefit local and global economies; and protect our environment by preserving natural, historical and cultural resources. This is no short order for a group of six experienced UMO faculty, each with his or her own area of specialty, serving over 150 RLS majors annually.”


At UMO, RLS students can specialize in Recreational Therapy, Sports Management, Leisure Service Management, Exercise Science, and Health and Physical Education. Mills indicated that a sixth emphasis area is beginning this fall—Sports Communication.


All UMO RLS majors complete a core of classes, which include mastering skills in research, writing, program planning and management; understanding the history and philosophy of recreation and leisure; and numerous experiential learning experiences such as the 120 hours of field work required the sophomore year and the capstone 480-or 600-hour, full-time internship the semester prior to graduation.


“These hands-on experiences are great teachers and help students build their skills and confidence,” Mills said.


Mills indicated that by the time a student graduates from the UMO RLS Department, the professional portfolio designed for Senior Seminar will reflect at least 600 hours of practical, hands-on experience with diverse populations; numerous certifications; and practical tools of the trade, such as a year-long workout and diet regimen to therapeutic intervention strategies and risk management plans.


“All students are required to experience professional development by attending and networking at conferences, workshops, and seminars offered by professional associations in their area of interest,” she said. “When students graduate, they are prepared to step from 12- or 15-week internships or student teaching opportunities into full-time positions. Recreational therapy, health and physical education, and exercise science majors can confidently sit for professional certification or licensure exams to begin their careers. Many UMO graduates are accepted into advanced degree programs in Education, Sport Management; Athletic Training; Physical Therapy; and Parks, Recreation and Tourism, among others.” 


UMO graduates work in diverse fields with a common mission to improve quality of life. They are Park Rangers, Community Center Directors, Teachers, Athletic Directors, Box Office Managers, Event Coordinators, Sports Information Directors, Personal Trainers, Clinicians, White Water River Guides, Tennis Professionals, Coaches, etc.


“Just remember, the next time you’re having fun, there’s probably a recreation professional working hard to make it possible,” Mills said. 


The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit