Guest Opinion: Paving a road for experiential learning

UI Sports and Recreation Management professor Dan Matheson touches on giving back to students in the SRM program.


Ryan Adams

One of the "Phil Was Here" signs is pictured inside Adler Journalism Building on April 1, 2019.

As I write this, I am on a bus with 53 Iowa students heading toward Memphis to begin a three-day field trip involving career exploration, networking, facility tours, and meetings with sports-industry executives. I have led more than a dozen field trips such as this during my eight years as a faculty member in the Sport and Recreation Management Program. As a former pro and college-sports administrator who appreciates the value of practical experience, I am passionate about connecting my students to the sports industry in meaningful ways that contribute to positive student outcomes.

Another one of my passions is reducing financial barriers to higher education. The students on the bus with me pay fees to cover the cost of this extracurricular field trip. As we roll down the highway, I cannot help but wonder how many Iowa students may have been unable to join us because of financial constraints.

When my wife, Bridget, and I considered where we wanted to make a difference with our philanthropy, we settled on the program in which I teach and experiential-learning opportunities such as the field trip I am leading this week. Teaching and mentoring students in Sport and Recreation Management is much more than a career choice for me, it is a lifestyle for my family. At this stage in my professional life, nothing brings me greater satisfaction than helping young people achieve their career goals, and Bridget also contributes an enormous amount of her time and energy to supporting me and my students.

Gifts that Bridget and I make to Sport and Recreation Program go directly to support for students. Our gifts have been combined with many others to create new Sport and Recreation scholarships that are paying the field-trip fee for one student on the bus with me today, as well as the fees for several students involved in other Sport and Recreation experiential-learning opportunities.

Inspired by the effect that the new scholarships are having, Bridget and I have worked with the UI Center for Advancement to make long-term estate plans that will provide endowed scholarships and consistent annual financial support for experiential-learning initiatives in Sport and Recreation down the road. Our goal is to see a day when none of the students on my field-trip bus are charged for the experience — and we are taking steps now to make that a reality in the future.

Dan Matheson

Associate Professor of Instruction

Director, UI Sport and Recreation Management

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