Outdoor Industry MBA


Scott Borden, Ph.D.

Graduate faculty in the Master in Environmental Management programs and Outdoor Industry MBA at Western Colorado University

Scott Borden is a graduate faculty in the Master in Environmental Management programs and Outdoor Industry MBA at Western Colorado University. 

He coordinates the Sustainable and Resilient Communities track and serves on several committees, including the Environmental Council, Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee, and Sustainable Action Committee. 

His research and lectures are informed by the real world experiences of: publishing a children’s book on rock climbing; being a senior contributor for a climbing magazine; working as the marketing director of an international outdoor education company; serving on the board of directors for a Benefit Corporation Certified investment bank, which has consulted on mergers and acquisitions for socially driven outdoor companies; supervising educators at the largest non-profit outdoor environmental education organization in our National Parks, which receives over 36,000 students annually; running sales for the largest whitewater festival in the U.S.; and owning his own business which has consulted with organizations such as the business certifying organization B-Lab and the conservation non-profit organization The Access Fund. 

Faculty & Staff


D. Scott Borden, Ph.D. headshot
Graduate Faculty for Master in Environmental Management (MEM), Adjunct Graduate Faculty for Outdoor Industry MBA, Coordinator of the Sustainable and Resilient Communities MEM Track, Resilience Studies Consortium Coordinator
B.A., Western Colorado University, M.A., Prescott College, Ph.D., University of Exeter
Phone: 970.943.2294
Office Location: Kelley Hall 108
Ralph Hanke, Ph.D. headshot
Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Graduate Faculty in Outdoor Industry MBA
B.A., University of Waterloo, M.A., University of Waterloo, M.A., Bowling Green State University, Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University
Phone: 970.943.3020
Office Location: Borick Business Building 242
Jim Harriss, Ph.D. headshot
Associate Professor of Finance, Graduate Faculty in Outdoor Industry MBA
BBA., Sam Houston State University, MBA, Sam Houston State University, DBA., Mississippi State University
Phone: 970.943.3005
Office Location: Borick Business Building 215
Brooke Moran, Ph.D. headshot
Professor of Recreation and Outdoor Education for MEM Graduate Program, Adjunct Graduate Faculty for Outdoor Industry MBA
B.S., University of New Hampshire, M.A., Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ph.D., University of New Hampshire
Phone: 970.943.2118
Office Location: Wright Gym 223
Kevin A. Nelson, Ph.D. headshot
Professor of Business Administration, Graduate Faculty for Outdoor Industry MBA, Associate Dean of Business School, Associate Director of Outdoor Industry MBA
B.A., Brigham Young University, M.A., Michigan State University, Ph.D., Michigan State University
Phone: 970.943.2610
Office Location: Borick Business Building 243
Dr. Perry Solheim headshot
Assistant Professor of Accounting
B.A., Claremont McKenna College, B.A., Fort Lewis College, Ph.D., University of Utah
Phone: 970.943.3026
Office Location: Borick Business Building 221
Joel Watson, Ph.D. headshot
Assistant Professor of Marketing, Graduate Faculty for Outdoor Industry MBA
B.S., University of Virginia, Ph.D., University of Utah
Phone: 970.943.3008
Office Location: Borick Business Building 246
Jay Whitacre, Ph.D. headshot
Lecturer in Recreation and Outdoor Education, Adjunct Faculty for Outdoor Industry MBA
B.A., Western Colorado University, M.A., Indiana University , Ph.D., Indiana University
Phone: 970.943.2202
Office Location: Paul Wright Gymnasium 231


FOR REQUIRED COURSES AND DEGREE PLANS, VISIT THE OFFICIAL UNIVERSITY CATALOG. This is a sample of courses offered by Western Colorado University. To ensure the courses you need are offered during the current semester, please visit the university course search.

 MBA 600 - Sustainability Accounting (3 credits)

An integration of the principles of financial and managerial accounting to prepare the manager to use accounting to assess and manage the health of the organization. Students also explore environmental, social and ethical accounting issues, which challenge students to apply existing accounting systems to new settings and critically analyze existing and proposed accounting systems.

 MBA 601 - Managerial Economics (3 credits)

An introduction to the fundamentals of managerial economics, focusing on microeconomics, macroeconomics, with a backdrop of ecological economics. Provides an understanding of the standard or neoclassical microeconomic model and how this model is useful for business decision-making and provides a critique of this model and present a more heterodox view of economics.

 MBA 602 - Managerial Finance (3 credits)

An introduction to financial decision-making theory and practice, which deals with major issues in managing the inflows and outflows from the Chief Financial Officer’s (CFO) perspective. This course includes financial analysis, forecasting financial needs, sources and use of funds, efficient allocation of funds within the firm, risk/return decisions, capital budgeting, and the firm’s relationships with investors, financial markets and financial institutions.

 MBA 603 - Leadership, Ethics and Organizational Behavior (3 credits)

An investigation of how and why complexities increase as individuals form groups or teams, and as various groups form organizational systems. Students learn how to bridge leadership-management roles, how to distinguish between required systems and emergent systems, and how to assess ego-motivation, eco-motivation, and employee ownership in designing effective teams and workplaces.

 MBA 604 - Business Law for the Outdoor Industry (3 credits)

Legal matters encountered in the outdoor industry. Included is an introduction to real property, environmental regulation, water law and contracting. Agreements involving customers, vendors, insurance, procurement, risk management and liability are also addressed.

 MBA 605 - Competitive Dynamics in the Athletic and Outdoor Industry (3 credits)

An examination of the distinctive challenges and insights of the athletic and outdoor industry. Students examine the unique business practices of both manufacturers and retailers in this industry. Students look at issues such as brand management, customer service, innovation and sustainability in the athletic and outdoor industry.

 MBA 606 - Marketing and Brand Strategy in the Outdoor Industry (3 credits)

An introduction to the framework for marketing management. A survey of trends and an overview of concepts and techniques as they relate to the customer experience, marketing opportunities, marketing strategies and communicating effective marketing programs within the context of sustainable management. Effective sales and go-to-market strategies for athletic and outdoor companies of all sizes.

 MBA 607 - Strategic MGT Business Models for the Outdoor Industry (3 credits)

Students develop their ability to analyze the organizational and external factors essential for creating and executing a firm’s strategy for sustained success. The course draws heavily from the key concepts, frameworks and tools of strategic management. Other topics include competitive advantage through commitment, competitor analysis, organizational responses to environmental changes, modularity and increasing returns.

 MBA 608 - Resort and Hospitality Management (3 credits)

Examination the operations and management of resorts, including hotel operations. Guest relations, amenities and facilities design and management, event management, customer service, leadership, communications and problem solving are also covered. Students are also exposed to techniques used for data analysis and service measurement, to assess operational performance and efficiencies and staff turnover. 

 MBA 609 - Sustainable Outdoor Product Development and Material Sourcing (3 credits)

Students work through the product planning process, all the way from concept to consumer. This is not a focus on the design component, but provides students with a comprehensive picture of the importance and value of all the steps from creating to launching a product.

 MBA 610 - Supply Chain and Logistics in the Outdoor Industry (3 credits)

Strategic and tactical issues pertaining to the distribution and delivery of products and services are examined. Also covered are global sourcing strategies and the global supply chain used by the sports product companies including the history of sourcing in Asia and the importance of managing sustainability in this process. Prerequisite: MBA 606.

 MBA 611 - Topics in the Outdoor Industry (0 credits)

An examination of current topics in the outdoor industry.  Graded S/U.

 MBA 613 - Natural Resource Regulation and Economics (3 credits)

Students examine topics in the environmental regulatory scheme, knowledge of which is imperative to operating a sustainable business, including many federal acts and policies. Presentation of the analytical tools and approaches used by economists to examine and assess environmental issues, conflicts and policies. Students use various techniques to investigate a variety of resource-based issues.  Prerequisite: MBA 601.

 MBA 614 - Sales and Customer Experience (3 credits)

Focuses on helping students take advantage of the unique opportunities that outdoor industry businesses have to craft stories that leverage the emotional connection customers have to their personal outdoor experience. Students learn to become qualified, well-trained professional sellers which helps to maximize the potential of the product and the company.

 MBA 615 - Sustainable Finance (3 credits)

An introduction to how sustainability/ESG (economic, environmental, social & governance) issues have become financially material to the global credit, underwriting, insurance, risk management, venture capital and asset management capital markets. These issues have a direct impact on risk exposure and the quality of public, private and government debt/equity investments.  Prerequisite:  MBA 602.

 MBA 691 - Capstone Project (3 credits)

Students develop a project designed to increase the profitability and functionality of their current organization (or another relevant organization if they are not employed in the outdoor industry). By creatively responding to real-world business issues, students deepen the analytical, technical and leadership skills they need to succeed. Projects relate to topics such as the development of a marketing plan, a modified financial tactic, or the development of a legally viable sustainability initiative.   Prerequisite: Completion of all other MBA requirements.

Western’s Outdoor Industry MBA is the first of its kind in the United States and is based in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.  

The outdoor industry is thriving. Many employees in the industry are interested in an advanced degree but do not want a generic MBA. Western’s Outdoor Industry MBA brings professionals the content and connections of a degree geared specifically to their field. Students take a traditional business core along with specialized tracks that focus on the unique social, environmental and structural elements of the outdoor industry. It is for people who want to move up the professional ladder and bring their lifestyle with them.

The Program

The two-year, online program includes an MBA Core as well as specialized tracks for either the product or service side of the industry. The MBA Core includes traditional MBA courses with content focusing on the outdoor industry. The Product Concentration has specialized courses in Sustainable Outdoor Product Development and Material Sourcing; Supply Chain and Logistics in the Outdoor Industry; and Sustainable Finance. The Service Concentration has specialized courses in Resort and Hospitality Management; Natural Resource Regulation and Economics; and Sales and Customer Experience. Unlike most MBA programs, students take their specialized courses first so they can apply class content immediately to the workplace.

Western is located in beautiful Gunnison, CO. Residencies and immersion experiences will take full advantage of the natural resources surrounding campus and nearby Crested Butte. Other opportunities include guest talks from industry experts, networking at trade shows and leading businesses in the industry. Students will complete a culminating Final Capstone Project paired with a company in the outdoor industry during their second year.

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Tuition costs are $20,887 each year ($41,774 tuition & fees total for both years - 36 credits at $1,160.40 per credit hour). Tuition costs are the same for in-state and out-of-state students. Tuition covers the cost of room and board during immersion experiences.
Tuition may be tax deductible; please consult with your tax advisor.

Tentative Schedule

 Start DateEnd DateHolidays/Immersion Location
Fall 2018September 24, 2018December 21, 2018Thanksgiving Break Nov 19-23
Spring 2019 Immersion January 27, 2019February 1, 2019Outdoor Retailer Show
Spring 2019February 11, 2019May 10, 2019Spring Break March 18-22
Summer 2019 ImmersionAugust 12, 2019August 16, 2019Crested Butte
Fall 2019September 23, 2019December 19, 2019Thanksgiving Break Nov 25-29
Spring ImmersionFebruary 10, 2020February 14, 2020Crested Butte
Spring 2019 Capstone ProjectFebruary 10, 2020May 8, 2019 
GraduationMay 9, 2020 First Cohort Graduates

Program Prerequisites and Admissions Criteria

All admission requirements to the MBA Program will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis with respect to work experience, including managerial experience and leadership roles.

  • Students must be prepared for graduate level courses in business. Contact Peter Sherman, Ph.D., for more information.
  • Minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale is desirable. Official transcript required.*
  • More than three years of work experience.**

* Those candidates with significant work experience with less than the minimum GPA will be considered.
** Candidates with less than three years of experience will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Provisional Admission: If an applicant applies without all of the requirements listed above, they will be reviewed for provisional acceptance. Students who enter the program with prerequisite deficiencies can make up those deficiencies at Western during the first year. In that case, MBA students will enroll in the needed course(s) once accepted to the program. These students will be considered “provisional admits” (this status will be removed once a student has completed the prerequisites).  

International Students: see Graduate Academic Catalog section, Criteria for International Admission.

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