Illinois State graduate finds home in Texan campus recreation department
Ben Piper ’03, M.S. ’05, loves going to work every day, and for good reason.
As associate director of recreational sports, Piper gets to facilitate exciting extracurricular opportunities to enhance the lives of students at the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas). Piper earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in the area of recreation management here at Illinois State before joining UT Dallas more than 12 years ago.
One of his most rewarding work challenges came from a university gift that students chose to use for a climbing wall at UT Dallas’ recreational sports facility. Piper dove in head first to research potential climbing wall companies and to become knowledgeable on risk management policy and procedures. In addition to becoming a certified climbing wall instructor, he leaned on the UT Dallas climbing club for advice ranging from surfaces and wall pieces to setting routes. The popular wall offers a welcoming environment for those who want to learn climbing basics, gain confidence, and build strength.
Another exciting aspect of Piper’s job has been hosting regional and national flag football tournaments. Teams come from universities all over the country. His work behind the scenes involves bids for lodging, student officials, professional staff, apparel and giveaways, meals, promotions and marketing. He even hosted a team from Illinois State!
Piper has many fond memories from Illinois State including intramurals, the rec majors’ club, and many great friends. (Speaking of friends, fellow Illinois State alum Dan Goodwin ’07, M.S. ’11, is the new UT Dallas student union director.)
When asked what advice he would give to current students Piper says to get as much experience and exposure to the field as possible. He thought he wanted to focus on professional sports, but his experience as a student worker in campus recreation at Illinois State made him realize the vibe and energy of a college campus was more rewarding. Today he enjoys the opportunity to help his student workers develop their professional and leadership skills.