Preparing students to be future leaders is a primary aspect of the campus recreation profession. Every day, professionals in campus recreation departments are creating and managing recreational activities that research suggests may have a positive effect on facilitating the development of leadership related attributes. Since 2012, NIRSA has collaborated with the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL)—an international research program focused on advancing the understanding of how higher education can best contribute to the leadership development of college students—to look specifically at campus recreation’s potential influence. In 2014, NIRSA published Leadership in Intramurals and Sport Clubs: Examining Influences to Enhance Educational Impact which identified key insights into how experiences in these two forms of campus recreation programs influence leadership attributes in participants.

This first look into the relationship between campus recreation activities and socially-responsible leadership development provided valuable information but was limited in the breadth of campus recreation activities investigated. In 2017, with the support of the NIRSA Foundation, a new analysis and report was commissioned to look specifically at the potential influence of additional recreational activities on leadership development. The new report—which builds on the 2014 findings—is titled Campus Recreation and Leadership Development: Pathways for Student and Community Transformation, and is authored by Dr. Benjamin Correia-Harker, Director of Assessment & Research at Interfaith Youth Core, and Dr. Stacey Hall, Director of Campus Recreation at the University of New Hampshire.

Download the full report

Dr. Correia-Harker states, “We are excited to see how this report will continue to spark conversations about the ways recreation activities contribute to broader student development. The report provides new insights into the ways recreation activities, both in general and for specific activities, relate to students’ leadership development. We hope recreation staff can use this information to showcase potential benefits of their programs as well as consider new ways to deepen the impact of their work.”

Dr. Hall adds, “I share Ben’s excitement for sharing this report with colleagues. I look forward to the dialogue the results and to future studies to enhance the understanding of leadership development of our students.”

Major findings from this report include:

  1. Campus recreation participants are more engaged and feel more like a part of their communities.
  2. The development of leadership attributes varies across recreational activities.
  3. Participation in campus recreation activities varies by student demographics.

Many of the elements presented in the report may correspond with what campus rec professionals have known for years—that is, students inevitably benefit from participating in the myriad of programs and services that campus recreation has to offer. However, this report may challenge assumptions and/or inspire new thinking about how best to engage students.

The report will enhance the campus rec professional’s understanding of how to positively influence leadership development in students. At a time when the college landscape seems to be changing rapidly with an increasingly diverse community, the need for such resources is critical.


  • For questions regarding this report, please contact NIRSA Research Coordinator Ruben Guzman.
  • For questions regarding the NIRSA Foundation’s support of research, please contact NIRSA Foundation Coordinator Kameron Carroll.
Research Coordinator at | NIRSA Profile

Ruben Guzman is currently the Research Coordinator at NIRSA