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Steve Staples

Alumni Spotlight—Steve Staples

Alumni of the College of Applied Health Sciences have myriad career options thanks to the tremendous diversity of programs. We periodically will put the spotlight on an alum to find out what they're doing now, what experiences they had and what AHS means to them. This week, we talk to Steve Staples, an RST alum who is now Executive Director of International Development at Princeton University.

Q: Why did you pick AHS?

A: I wanted to pursue a career in sports management and AHS (then known as Leisure Studies) was just starting to offer a M.S. in Sport degree at the time (early 1990s).

Q: Which professors had the most impact on you?

A: Bill McKinney had the most impact on me, academically and professionally. The vast majority of students in the program at that time were planning to pursue careers in parks and recreation. As the chair of the department at that time, Bill made sure that the handful of us interested in sports management, were not overlooked. While working on my master’s degree, I became interested in pursuing a Ph.D., as well. Bill was very supportive and became a terrific advocate and friend throughout the process. I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to thank Bill in person in Arizona before he passed away earlier this year.

Q: What course did you most enjoy?

A: I can’t remember the specific course, but I recall really enjoying Dr. (Joseph) Bannon’s class. He emphasized the importance of theoretical concepts in practical settings. His insight had a significant impact on my career and he was an excellent role model.

Q: Did you enter AHS knowing your career path, or did AHS help you decide?

A: I did enter AHS knowing that I wanted a career in sports. What I didn’t know is how much I would like working in athletic administration. After volunteering at (Division of Intercollegiate Athletics), I became a graduate assistant for the athletic department and spent 12 years of my career working in intercollegiate athletics.

Q: Did your AHS experience lead to your current job?

A: I feel that my experience as a master’s and especially a Ph.D. student prepared me well for my current role at Princeton. Writing a thesis and dissertation helped improve my writing skills and critical thinking. Being able to write articulately helps me every day in my job as a major gifts fundraiser.

Q: What was your favorite on-campus experience?

A: My favorite on-campus experiences were Illinois athletic events. Whether it was football at Memorial Stadium, basketball at the Assembly Hall or volleyball in Huff Hall, I attended a lot of games during my three years on campus and I loved every minute of it.

Q: What does AHS mean to you?

A: It means a great deal to me. It was a transformative experience for me. I help to support the study tour that Dr. (Michael) Raycraft leads each year because in my mind, it is the perfect blend of academic and experiential learning. I had a similar experience through my academic training and work at DIA. To understand the theoretical and practical sides of any industry is incredibly important. I am a proud alum of RST, AHS and the university as a whole!

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