PRT Students Highlight Value of Industry Connections

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Written by Emily Prickett, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Major.

As we kick off 2024, we wanted to highlight the perspective of current students who will soon be entering the tourism workforce. We interviewed three of our own Parks, Recreation, and Tourism (PRT) students. Below you can read about their experiences within the degree program and their interest in the field. Each has a different background and goals for the future, providing a variety of insights for those working in the field already. The PRT Management program at NC State, which they are all a part of, exists to educate and prepare students for the evolving and exciting world of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. In addition to their education, they are all leaders in the Tourism Management Association (TMA), a student club that creates connections in the tourism industry and educates those who may not know how their careers are affected by tourism. 

Group of students posing with director of fair in front of fairgrounds building and ferris wheel in the background.

PRTM students and faculty from NC State and Meredith visit with NC State Fair Director Kent Yelverton (center in the blue shirt) before the 2023 NC State Fair kick-off.

Riley Pittman (pictured third from the right above) is the president of the TMA and is in her third year at NC State studying PRT. As president of the club, her duties include planning and organizing events, facilitating club meetings, and communicating and connecting with partnering professionals. When asked about why she joined PRT, Riley answered, “The event planning industry drew me to Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management! I also really love to travel, so I thought this would be an interesting major to pursue.” 

Riley says of the program, “Everyone is so friendly, and the small class sizes are really nice! It is very comforting to see familiar faces year after year.” This is a typical response to the environment of the PRTM program. She shared that her dream job would be a wedding planner, but the general event planning and hospitality career options also interest her. The efforts Riley has put into achieving this goal and furthering her professional development have been assisted by TMA. She explained the positive effect it has had saying, “I have made strong connections with our faculty advisor, Dr. Knollenberg. She has been really helpful with my classes, attending conferences, and planning events. I have also learned how to be a leader, be organized, and manage my time well.”

Elle Nichols (pictured second from the right above) is the vice president of the TMA and is a second-year student majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and minoring in PRT. She is currently working with Dr. Whitney Knollenberg on a project for Live It Up! Hillsborough Street. Elle wanted to be a part of the PRT department because she loves tourism’s impact on local communities and the economic growth potential it has on businesses and shareholders. The part she enjoys most is “getting to meet people in the field who share about their spectacular jobs, creating an often unique experience for people.” 

Elle chose an interdisciplinary education in Business and PRT with hopes of being a town manager or a director of a tourism development authority one day. TMA has helped her grow a network. After a recent TMA event, she exclaimed, “I was able to meet the man who runs the NC State Fair! It was an amazing opportunity to see how passionate he was about his job and be able to share it with other students. He has a lot of insight on the events and shared with students about every aspect of the large scale events.”  Many students have also appreciated the events organized by the TMA, which educate them on the behind-the-scenes of numerous tourism career options.

Dylan Murray is the treasurer of the TMA and is a senior majoring in PRT. Over the summer, he worked as a research assistant for a Tourism Extension project partnering with the North Carolina State Parks collecting data on visitors perceptions of potential management actions.. In response to why he chose the PRT program at NC State, Dylan shared, “I initially was interested in PRTM because I saw the concentration in Tourism and Event Management. I have always been interested in event management, so I was drawn to this major in hopes of pursuing it as a career.” 

Dylan’s favorite part of the education experience is the hands-on applications within the courses. In most of the classes, it is highly application-based instead of just knowledge recitation. He explained, “It is so beneficial to get to put what we learn to practice within a class setting.”  The future career he is pursuing is an urban planner working for a city, specifically within a downtown setting to plan engaging events for the community. TMA has helped Dylan reach this goal by giving him opportunities to gain valuable insight into the industry that is only available through the club. He further shared, “These opportunities allow me to learn from industry professionals while also networking with these professionals. Which definitely benefits me in the long run within my field.”

These students represent a motivated group of current PRT students at NC State, but they prove the importance of working with your local university to connect with students. If you have a Tourism Program near you, see if there are student groups or speaking opportunities with faculty and let them know you are interested in connecting. This provides students with a broader understanding of opportunities in the field and helps them expand their network at a valuable time in their lives. These students are excited to learn about the different opportunities in the industry and will likely remind you why you love it too!