Students pause for a break during an Outdoor Living Skills backpacking trip.

U of A College of Education’s Outdoor Leadership Minor Celebrates Early Success

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The new outdoor leadership minor, which prepares students for various careers and is open to any major, is in high demand at the U of A.

The College of Education and Health Professions’ Recreation and Sport Management program launched the minor in the second eight-week session of the fall 2022 semester. The number of requests to enroll in fall 2023 courses was approximately 31% greater than the available seats in the classes, said Michael Hoover, Ed.D., a clinical instructor in outdoor leadership.

Students pause for a group photo while scouting a rapid during an applied outdoor leadership course on the Rio Grande River.
Students pause for a group photo while scouting a rapid during an applied outdoor leadership course on the Rio Grande River.

“As the spring 2023 semester comes to a close, student interest in the minor is very positive,” he added. “Current enrollment is 33, which surpasses our May 2023 goal of 24 students. We have had 138 students in outdoor leadership courses through May and expect some to complete the minor by December.”The program partnered with local organizations, resulting in diverse events and course offerings.

“Over the past semester, we’ve worked closely with Pedal It Forward, Rogue Trails, and Brannon Pack, Director of Cycling Tourism for the city of Fayetteville,” said Director of Outdoor Recreation Anya Bruhin. “Our partnership with Pedal It Forward featured the showing of the Kendal Mountain Film Festival in March. We partnered with Rogue Trails to offer a trail stewardship and maintenance course and Brannon to offer a bikepacking course during the fall 2023 term.”

Students are enthusiastic. “The new minor is nothing but great. It provides hands-on experiences in outdoor settings and ways to learn new skills while sharpening old ones,” said Evan Lemons, a junior recreation and sport management major. “I have been able to learn more about outdoor endeavors and how to lead others well. Many skills talked about directly apply to my job as a llama trekking guide this summer in Kalispell, Montana. I’ll be able to lead the participants well and use the skills I learned in class. It’s awesome this minor is available, and I feel very prepared to lead others.”

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Students assist each other with a stream crossing during an Outdoor Living Skills course.
Students assist each other with a stream crossing during an Outdoor Living Skills course.

Jacklyn Beres, a freshman pre-nursing student, said the minor directly translates to her job as a trip leader and climbing wall manager for UREC Outdoors, and climbing club president. “The minor has empowered me with specific knowledge that I am able to apply to things that contribute to my growth as a person while expanding my knowledge and skill set,” she said. “I feel more equipped with the skills necessary to teach, lead others, and facilitate impactful outdoor experiences.

Beres noted that outdoor activities are a fun way to spend time away from class, but they also provide unique challenges especially relevant to leadership positions. “The challenges require creative thinking, mental toughness, and perseverance,” she said. “These three skills alone are incredibly useful and applicable to any career. Furthermore, they are skills that cannot be taught in a classroom. The roles that I play at this university are temporary. The specific knowledge I am learning in the outdoor leadership classes will not directly transfer to my career after these four years, but I am able to apply them to my life in such a way that will serve me well in my career and in my everyday life.”

The new minor was made possible by a gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation supporting outdoor recreation programs on the U of A campus.

Students who want to learn more about the minor should contact Anya Bruhin at adergaz@uark.edu.

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About the College of Education and Health Professions: The College of Education and Health Professions offers advanced academic degrees as well as professional development opportunities and learning communities in service to the education and health systems of Arkansas and beyond. The college provides the education and experiences for a variety of professional roles, ranging from community mental health counselors to schoolteachers and leaders. Programs in adult and higher education, along with educational technology and sport management, offer a broad range of options. In addition to education-related opportunities, the college prepares nurses, speech-language pathologists, health educators and administrators, recreation professionals, rehabilitation counselors, and human performance researchers.

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About the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation: Established in 1987, the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation supports education initiatives and community initiatives in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Students learning caving skills.
Students learning caving skills.
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