New Outdoor Recreation major to offer experience-based curriculum

Alexa Hudson, an adjunct professor at Westminster College, teaches her indoor climbing class on the rock wall. Hudson said she believes the college’s efforts to incorporate experiential learning into its new outdoor education and leadership major will have positive impacts for enrollment and retention. Photo by Meghan Mendez.

Alexa Hudson, an adjunct professor at Westminster College, teaches her indoor climbing class on the rock wall. Hudson said she believes the college’s efforts to incorporate experiential learning into its new outdoor education and leadership major will have positive impacts for enrollment and retention. Photo by Meghan Mendez.

Many Westminster College students come to Utah for the unique outdoor experience both the state and the college have to offer. Due to the popularity of Westminster’s outdoor education and leadership minor, the college is tentatively offering the program as a major beginning in the fall 2017 semester.

“[Environmental education] is an increasingly viable field with more and more people wanting to get outside,” said Tiana White, the assistant director of outdoor programs, fitness, wellness and recreation. “There will still be an outdoor education leadership minor. It is really popular because it takes full advantage of our location, so we decided to make it a major.”

White said one of the highlights of the major is the chance for students to spend an immersive semester out in the field.

“[Students] would be out [in the field] at the start of classes through November,” White said. “[They] would be away from campus, traveling all over the mountains, the rivers and canyons of the Intermountain West.”

Harrison Buck, a student trip leader and outdoor recreation assistant minoring in outdoor education and leadership, said he believes the major will bring even more students to the college to pursue their passion of spending time in the outdoors.

“A lot of students come to Salt Lake City—I know I did—because of the location and its proximity to the mountains,” Buck said.

Some possible classes for the new major include alpine climbing in the fall, mountaineering in the spring and avalanche ecology. White said the new curriculum will be catered specifically to help students graduate with certifications that make them more marketable to employers.

White said she recognizes that the outdoor education and recreation field is not historically diverse, so the program’s new curriculum will also address social justice issues—challenging students in new ways both inside the classroom and in the field.

“Getting the degree for your own knowledge or to take people out [into the field] may have the reputation for being an easy play major, but it is just as rigorous as other programs and even more so because of the field work,” White said.

Alexa Hudson, an adjunct professor at Westminster, said she believes the college’s efforts to incorporate experiential learning into the new major will have positive impacts for enrollment and retention.

“I think the integration of the cross-disciplinary major and experiential education practices contribute to Westminster’s broader curriculum and have a lot of positive benefits,” Hudson said. “There is a trend in United States as a whole for education to incorporate more outdoor education experience.”

Although White said she hopes the new major will be available to students in fall 2017, she said there are still a few hoops to jump through to complete the process.

For more information on the outdoor education and leadership major, contact Tiana White at twhite@westminstercollege.edu.