About Outdoor Adventure Leadership
Follow your passion and build a better world through adventure.
Follow your passion and build a better world through adventure.
Crest out at 17,000 feet in the Himalayas, scale towering columnar basalt, whitewater kayak down the slamming California Salmon, mountain bike down single track that you help build, sleep in a snow cave on the flanks of a Cascade volcano, monitor avalanche conditions after a 3-foot Pacific Northwest dump, teach how to tie a figure eight to a first-time rock climber, navigate through giant Red Wood forest, and plan a multi-day expedition around Crater Lake. If you like how this sounds, then a career in the world of Outdoor Adventure Leadership awaits you. Gain the technical skills, confidence, and advanced knowledge to help shape the ever-emerging fields of outdoor recreation, adventure therapy, outdoor education, adventure tourism, and international expedition planning.
Outdoor Adventure Leadership encompasses a wide variety of disciplines and activities, but a common thread runs through all experiences, focusing on developing and increasing intra- and inter-personal relations, leadership abilities, personal well-being, and ecological mindfulness. Leadership skills gained on expeditions to remote areas of the world transfer to any context where high quality leaders are needed. There is a reason why Fortune 500 companies hire expedition leaders to teach their employees, because being on expedition teaches tenacity, perseverance, the power of teamwork, grit, overcoming obstacles, and reaching a common goal. OAL students learn all these skills and know how to transfer them to all aspects of life.
OAL majors further test their skills and build confidence by completing the required intensive spring quarter, spending over 35 days in the field. Student plan and execute multiple expeditions, ranging from 5 to 10 days in the field. Spring in the Pacific Northwest presents the perfect environment, starting with the deep spring snowpack for winter exploration, then transitioning to water activities such as rafting and kayaking, and culminating in mountain bike, multi-day rafting and backpacking excursions. OAL students graduate with the confidence and experience to follow their passion and dreams, shaping the lives they were born to live.
The SOU community embodies the spirit of adventure, from the upper administrator who wakes at the crack of dawn to run the world class trails around Ashland to the librarian who rides his bike 15 miles each day to work; or the numerous adventure based student clubs such as the whitewater and scuba clubs; to the outstanding student organizations such as the Outdoor Program. OAL majors have ample opportunities to apply their leadership skills throughout the campus. The Outdoor Program provides the perfect setting for exploring adventure through student-led trips, the Raider Wilderness Experience, gear rental, and opportunities to work as specialized coordinators who help manage and run the OP alongside its director. The OAL and OP have a long history of collaboration that is unparalleled in college settings. Some students focus their leadership skills in other areas, such as working at The Farm, SOUs center for sustainability, bringing wilderness Leave No Trace ethics back to our communities. OAL utilizes the finest and most up to date gear including rafts, kayaks, climbing gear and any equipment we need to run successful expeditions. In the Winter of 2018, OAL will move into a brand-new facility to meet the needs of our ever-expanding degree program. Students are exposed to faculty and instructors that bring expertise and vast experiences to the classroom and field environments.
SOU students will live in and experience a community that embraces the tourism and outdoor industries. Surrounded by mountains, the Siskiyou-Cascade National Monument, the Rogue and Klamath Rivers, Mt. Shasta and Crater Lake National Park, Ashland supports a plethora of outdoor activities, from skiing and whitewater kayaking, to mountain biking and mountaineering. SOU was also recently recognized by Backpacker Magazine as the sixth best Hiking College in America. The region supports a host of rafting companies, guide services, outdoor schools, mountain bike shops, the United Bicycle Institute, and other interests that serve and support the thriving outdoor industry. These include Sawyer Oars, local outdoor stores such as Ashland Outdoor Store and Mountain Provisions, Mt. Ashland Ski Resort, and a host of national outdoor retailers such as REI, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Field & Stream. Several prominent non-profit agencies, such as Rogue River Keepers and KS Wild, engage matters related to the outdoor and adventure industries. SOU Outdoor Adventure Leadership students currently get hands-on practicum experiences with local outdoor-related businesses and other entities, creating lasting relationships and connections.
The outdoor adventure industry is rapidly expanding in all sectors including politically, economically and socially. Outdoor adventure and recreation falls within the tourism sector of Oregon’s economy and, according to the Oregon Tourism Commission, 95 percent of Oregonians believe the industry is important to Oregon’s economy. This sector contributed $8.8 billion in direct visitor spending in 2011. In addition, 82 percent of Oregonians see tourism as environmentally friendly, and 70 percent believe the industry improves the state’s quality of life. In addition, 66 percent of Oregonians voted for Measure 99, ensuring funding for Outdoor School Education. OAL graduates would be particularly prepared for the Outdoor Recreation component of the tourism industry. The Outdoor Industry Association reports that states such as Utah, Colorado, and Washington have recognized outdoor recreation as a core priority for the health of their citizens and economy, creating and investing in high-level positions charged with the dual role of supporting the outdoor industry and improving outdoor recreation opportunities in the state. Oregon is following suit by creating the Office of Outdoor Recreation to act as a central point of contact for recreation projects, land management agencies, the outdoor retail industry, and advocate for outdoor recreation for all Oregonians. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Earl Blumenauer introduced the “Recreation, Not Red Tape Act” in 2016 to help remove barriers to outdoor recreation, making it easier for more Americans to get outdoors and enjoy its benefits, and to generate jobs. The bill states that, “Congress supports the creation of outdoor recreation sector leadership positions within the economic development offices of States or in the Office of the Governor to guide the growth of this sector.” In addition, in December 2016, President Obama signed into law the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act, recognizing the outdoor recreation industry as a significant economic driver and instructing the Department of Commerce to assess and analyze the U.S. outdoor recreation economy, which supports an estimated six million jobs and $646 billion in economic activity. These trends clearly show a growing and diverse outdoor recreation industry and with an OAL degree, SOU students are shaping its future.
Students enrolled in the OAL degree have opportunities to apply their learning through direct practicum and senior capstone experiences which can include paid or unpaid internships and part-time or full-time jobs. This page outlines requirements for each and includes directions for searching and for posting opportunities through Handshake, an online career community.
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Handshake is SOU’s official job and internship board and will let you post full-time, part-time, internship, and volunteer opportunities to SOU students. Posting your positions on Handshake provides you with a tool for collecting and reviewing applications, messaging applicants, and storing your position descriptions in a single place for future use that is accessible to all of your team members.
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