Recreation & Outdoor Education

  • Bachelor of Arts in Recreation & Outdoor Education
    • Major
    • Minor
    • Accelerated Master's Degree

    Get Involved

    A college education is more than just taking courses. Meet new people, apply your skills and stretch beyond your comfort zone. Make your education an experience.

    • Advanced Leadership Expedition: Students expand their global perspectives and hone their leadership skills by traveling to developing nations. 
       
    • Certifications: Students are required to obtain 100 hours of professional certifications in addition to their Wilderness First Responder certification.
       
    • Field Courses: Four courses feature multiple days and nights spent in the backcountry.
       
    • Internships: Students often land full-time professional positions in the agencies they intern with for their capstone experience.
       
    • Teaching: Many students apply to work as TAs after their freshman year.

    Profiles

    Anna Johnson

    ~Student~

    Headshot of Anna Johnson in front of Taylor Hall
    Headshot of Anna Johnson in front of Taylor Hall

    Anna Johnson

    “There are so many opportunities at Western. Even if you are or aren’t an outdoors person, there is still a lot of things you can get involved with”

    Anna Johnson is a Recreation & Outdoor Education (ROE) major from Aurora, Michigan.

    Anna was committed to Montana State University at Bozeman in April of her senior year of high school. She decided she didn’t want to attend MSU. Anna then heard about Western through a family friend.

    “We were at breakfast the morning of my tour, and my mom and I didn’t want to go,” said Anna. “Since we had already come all the way out here, we decided we should go. Within the first five minutes, I was in love.”

    Like most freshmen, Anna was not sure what she wanted to do. She did know that she wanted to do something she loved.

    “I took Leadership and Facilitations with Paul Tame, with my friends, and I liked Paul a lot and the ROE program,” said Anna. “The fact that I can play and work at the same time in ROE is super cool.”

    On campus, Anna is involved with Mountain Sports through the Mountain Biking Team and the Nordic Ski Team. Anna is also an Orientation Coordinator, where she helps plan orientation for incoming freshmen.

    “There are so many opportunities at Western. Even if you are or aren’t an outdoors person, there is still a lot of things you can get involved with,” said Anna. “The professors are super cool. I’ve loved every single one that I have had so far. They’re really into focusing on you and what you want to improve in, in your life.”

    Anna loves to get out and get to know the community and meet people who live in the Gunnison Valley.

    “I get lunch every week with a lady named Vicky, and she is 102,” Anna said. “She lives in assisted living in town, and every week her caretaker makes lunch for us. Through that I have met a lot of other people in the community, which is really cool.”

    Anna is also a YoungLife mentor for Crested Butte High School.

    In her free time, Anna loves to read and spend her time outside. Her favorite places in the valley are Hartman Rocks Recreation Area (just a few miles south of campus) and Crested Butte (28 miles north of campus). She also loves to read when she can.

    “My advice would be to get out and do anything that you are interested in,” said Anna. “People are really welcoming at Western. If you join a club and feel like it really is not for you, those people can help point you into the right direction to find something you are interested in. Get out and try new things, because this is a great time to go out, explore and do things you have always wanted to do.”

    Profile by Western junior Taya Olson.

    Uma Costanza

    ~Student~

    Uma smiles for a headshot
    Uma smiles for a headshot

    Uma Costanza

    “I feel like our skills would be difficult to teach in a typical classroom setting. It’s difficult to teach when it’s a teacher, a projector and students in the seats."

    Uma Costanza of Chicago, Ill., decided she wanted to spend her life as an outdoor educator after spending summers in high school as a trail crew member in Yellowstone National Park. After completing her associate’s degree in community college, she transferred to Western upon a friend’s recommendation.

    “My experience as an ROE student so far has been incredible. We focus mainly on experiential education, which makes my experience a lot different than every other student here,” Costanza said. “Of course we have lectures, but at the end of the day we’re really asked to do projects that are meaningful and reflect on our work in order to learn something.”

    Costanza enjoys “anything outside,” especially backpacking, hiking, white water kayaking and hula-hooping. She quickly got involved on campus, joining the Black Student Alliance and attending several symposiums and guest lectures.

    “That’s a great thing about being an ROE major. It forces you to be active outside of the classroom,” Costanza said.

    Inside of the classroom, Costanza describes her professors’ abilities to impart crucial leadership and interpersonal skills.

    “I feel like our skills would be difficult to teach in a typical classroom setting. It’s difficult to teach when it’s a teacher, a projector and students in the seats,” she said. “But everything is easier to understand when it’s experiential education and you have your own ‘light bulb moments.’ I think that’s something really unique to the ROE program.”

    Over the summer, Costanza applied her skills while working as a Youth Conservation Corps Crew Leader in Yellowstone National Park, the place that started it all for her.

    “Experiential education is all about transference and being able to use what you learn in the classroom somewhere else,” Costanza said. “We learn so many people skills, how to be around people, so that transfers super easily. We also learn empathy and compassion and how to put yourself in your clients’ shoes.”

    “Our program helps you build patience. It helps you be a less judgmental person because you want to understand the experience of the other person in order to provide them with a really great experience outside,” she said.

    After graduation, Costanza hopes to work for the National Park Service and other youth programs that facilitate personal growth through outdoor education.

    “My end goal is to take all of my skills back to Chicago, because I think that’s where the youth really need exposure to the outdoors. I want to start an outdoor center or an orphanage that is tailored around outdoor experiences so that I can give those kids a taste of what is out there. I think that would really help heal a city that is in turmoil right now,” Costanza said. 

    Dr. Brooke Moran, Ph.D.

    ~Faculty~

    Brooke Moran smiles for a headshot
    Brooke Moran smiles for a headshot

    Dr. Brooke Moran, Ph.D.

    "The approach-problem-based learning and experiential learning in the ROE program absolutely foster growth."

    On a backpacking trek through Patagonia as an undergraduate, Brooke Moran realized her passion for experiential education and made it her mission to become a professor.

    “On one very, very long day, carrying an 80-pound pack over glacial moraine through the rain and being extremely frustrated, I also realized how critical it was for my personal growth,” Moran said. “I got into my sleeping bag that night, which was soaking wet, and I made it my mission from that point to become a professor so I could train other outdoor leaders so that the availability of experiential and outdoor education was accessible to more people.”

    After graduating from the University of New Hampshire, she worked with adolescent girls in a program called Connecting the Courage, whose mission it is to empower young women to find and use their voice.

    “I also worked for NOLS [National Outdoor Leadership School] and I worked for Outward Bound,” Moran said. “I worked with adjudicated youth. I did corporate leadership executive education and then I went to the Harvard Graduate School of Education for my master’s degree. Then I went straight on to do my Ph.D. back at the University of New Hampshire, again in experiential education.”

    In 2003 Moran brought her wealth of experience to Western, where she has taught in the ROE program, Environment & Sustainability program, Master in Environmental Management program and the Honors Program.

    “I believe that students learn best when they are engaged,” Moran said. “That includes intellectually, socially, emotionally, physically sometimes. Some or all of those at one time. They need to be stimulated and challenged but also be supported.”

    Moran has worked with students on a variety of projects and research endeavors, facilitating personal and professional development. Students have devised and delivered original sustainability lessons in community schools and created online guidebooks for local recreational attractions.

    “The approach-problem-based learning and experiential learning in the ROE program absolutely foster growth,” Moran said. “We expect that students are building their resumes through many of our classes. They’re not simply reading and regurgitating or being lectured to and regurgitating. We expect them to struggle, to make mistakes, fail, succeed and learn from all of those experiences and grow from them.”

    Moran looks forward to continuing to educate the outdoor leaders of tomorrow and encourages students to study in the ROE program at Western for two main reasons.

    “One, is we have the most phenomenal set of classrooms in the world,” Moran said. “We have incredibly diverse landscapes we can access. The other thing is we encourage and support students in tailoring the program to their personal and professional goals.”

    Scholarships

    Program-Based Scholarships

    Eastman Awards in Recreation & Outdoor Education (ROE)

    Eligibility

    • ROE majors who show diversity and outstanding achievement

    There are four Eastman Awards available:

    1.) New Student Award

    Open to both new freshmen and new transfer students. Students must have a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and freshmen must also have a 21 ACT or 990 SAT. Students must also show a documented commitment to recreation as their major field of study at Western. Must show outstanding achievement in at least three of the following five areas:

    • Special Recreational Talents
    • Unique Recreational Endeavors
    • Obstacles Overcome
    • Community Service
    • Leadership 
    2.) Achievement Award

    Available to junior and senior ROE majors with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Students must act as an outstanding role model in and out of the classroom and uphold the values of the recreation and leisure profession.  Must show outstanding achievement in at least three of the following five areas:

    • Special Recreational Talents
    • Unique Recreational Endeavors
    • Obstacles Overcome
    • Community Service
    • Leadership
    3.) Service to Humanity Award 

    Available to junior and senior ROE majors. Must provide documentation of their outstanding service project(s).

    4.) Eastman Academic Award

    Available to junior and senior ROE majors with a minimum GPA of 3.6 in the ROE program. Students must act as an outstanding academic role model.

    Description

    This scholarship is provided by Don Eastman, they are intended to recognize and encourage ROE majors who show diversity and outstanding achievement in the recreation field.

    Amount depends on fund availability.

    Selected by: ROE Faculty.

    Application:

    Contact the RESS Department for application and deadline information.

    970.943.2010 | Wright Gym 209  

    RESS Student Professional Development Fund

    Eligibility

    • Exercise & Sport Science and Recreation & Outdoor Education majors
    • Full-time at Western

    Description

    This scholarship is provided by Alumni Donations. The Student Professional Development Fund is to support professional activities such as professional certification exams, conference attendance, research, or other professional preparation activities. 

    Approximately $400 awarded every semester.

    Selected by: Western RESS faculty committee  

    Application:

    Contact the RESS Department for application and deadline information.

    970.943.2010 | Wright Gym 209

    Learn more about Western's Exercise & Sport Science Program

    Learn more about Western's Recreation & Outdoor Education Program

    Ernest Degutis Scholarship

    The Ernest Degutis Scholarship

    This scholarship is available to Exercise & Sport Science (ESS) majors with demonstrated excellence in academics and outstanding achievement in personal fields.

    Eligibility Criteria:
    • ESS Major
    • Junior or senior class standing
    • 3.0 Minimum GPA
    • Demonstrated excellence in academics
    • Show outstanding achievement in four of the following:
      • Special talents
      • Leadership
      • Obstacles overcome
      • Community service
      • Unique endeavors
    Application Procedures:
    • A written letter of application - please include local address
    • Unofficial transcript (may use DegreeWorks)
    • Two letters of recommendation from Western faculty or staff
      • Letters must NOT be from ESS department members
      • At least one letter must be from a faculty member
    • Essay addressing at least four of the five areas listed above

    The Ernest Degutis Scholarship is Provided by:

    Ernest Degutis

    Amount depends on fund availability.

    Scholarship Recipients Selected by: 

    Western Recreation, Exercise & Sport Science (RESS) Faculty.

    Completed applications must be turned in to Terri in the RESS Department office in Wright Gym no later than the second Friday of April for the upcoming academic calendar year.

    Eastman Awards in Recreation & Outdoor Education

    Eligibility

    The Eastman Awards recognize and encourage ROE majors who show diversity and outstanding achievement in the recreation field.

    There are four awards available:

    1.) New Student Award

    Open to both new freshmen and new transfer students. Students must have a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and freshmen must also have a 21 ACT or 990 SAT. Students must also show a documented commitment to recreation as their major field of study at Western. Must show outstanding achievement in at least three of the following five areas:

    • Special Recreational Talents
    • Unique Recreational Endeavors
    • Obstacles Overcome
    • Community Service
    • Leadership 
    2.) Achievement Award

    Available to junior and senior ROE majors with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Students must act as an outstanding role model in and out of the classroom and uphold the values of the recreation and leisure profession.  Must show outstanding achievement in at least three of the following five areas:

    • Special Recreational Talents
    • Unique Recreational Endeavors
    • Obstacles Overcome
    • Community Service
    • Leadership
    3.) Service to Humanity Award 

    Available to junior and senior ROE majors. Must provide documentation of their outstanding service project(s).

    4.) Eastman Academic Award

    Available to junior and senior ROE majors with a minimum GPA of 3.6 in the ROE program. Students must act as an outstanding academic role model.

    Description

    This scholarship is provided by Don Eastman.

    Amount depends on fund availability.

    Selected by: ROE Faculty

    Application:

    Contact the RESS Department for application and deadline information.

    970.943.2010 | Wright Gym 209  

    Eastman Award In Recreation & Outdoor Education

    Eastman New Student Award

    Eligibility

    • Must be a new freshmen or a new transfer student
    • Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA
    • Freshmen must also have 21 ACT/990 SAT
    • Must show documented commitment to the Recreation & Outdoor Education major at Western
    • Must show outstanding achievement in at least three of the following five areas:

     

    • Special Recreational Talents
    • Unique Recreational Endeavors
    • Obstacles Overcome
    • Community Service
    • Leadership

    Description

    This scholarship is provided by Don Eastman.

    Amount depends on fund availability.

    Selected by: Western ROE Faculty

    Application:

    Contact the RESS Department for application and deadline information

     Phone: 970.943.2010 | Office: Wright Gym 209

    Institutional Scholarships

    Common Scholarships

    Western offers approximately 70 common scholarships for which a wide variety of students are eligible (e.g., locals, veterans, transfers). Apply for any number of these common scholarships using Western’s Common Scholarship Application, which is due April 1. For more information, visit western.edu/scholarships.

    Early Action Credit

    If a student is accepted to Western by Nov. 1 and qualifies for a merit scholarship, the student will receive an additional $500 for the first year. Use our Net Price Calculator to determine whether you qualify for a merit scholarship.

    Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship

    Western Colorado University alumni can nominate prospective students for a $500 scholarship ($250 per semester) for first year only. Application deadline is typically June 1. For more information, visit western.edu/mars.

    Neighboring States Program

    Students with a permanent address from one of the seven contiguous neighboring states to Colorado who have demonstrated financial need are automatically considered for a special $1,000 per year grant, totaling $4,000 over four years.

    The Western Neighboring States program can be added to WUE, CP or merit scholarships. So, if you are a permanent resident of one of those seven states—and show financial need—you are eligible.

    For more information about the Neighboring States program, visit Western’s Tuition Discount Programs Page.

    Presidential Promise

    The Presidential Promise is guaranteed to students who have received a scholarship through the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) and/or GearUp—and are eligible for a Pell Grant.

    For students who meet these criteria, Western will cover the cost of tuition and fees through the combination of federal, state and institutional aid. For more information on the Presidential promise, visit western.edu/scholarships.

    Tuition Discount Programs

    Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) or Central Plains (CP) tuition represents a substantial savings relative to normal, out-of-state tuition. Students eligible for the WUE or CP program will be charged 150% of Western’s total in-state tuition. For 2018-19, total in-state tuition was $8,934. WUE/CP tuition was $13,401. The WUE/CP discount is valued at $4,695.

    For more information about the WUE and CP geography-based programs, visit Western’s Tuition Discount Programs Page.

    Western Merit Scholarship

    Immediately upon acceptance at Western, every student is considered for a merit scholarship worth between $2,500-$4,500 per year for in-state students and $8,000-$10,000 for out-of-state students. The amount is based on the student's GPA and ACT/SAT scores. Visit our Net Price Calculator at western.edu/cost to determine whether you qualify for a merit scholarship. 

    For more information about merit scholarships at Western, visit western.edu/scholarships.

    Faculty & Staff

    Faculty

    Matthew Ebbott, M.S. headshot
    Senior Lecturer in Recreation & Outdoor Education and Environment & Sustainability, Director of First-Year Seminar Program
    Phone: 970.943.2115
    Office Location: Paul Wright Gym 222
    Mark A. Gibson, Ed.D. headshot
    Professor of Recreation & Outdoor Education
    Phone: 970.943.7129
    Office Location: Paul Wright Gym 229
    Brooke Moran, Ph.D. headshot
    Professor of Recreation & Outdoor Education for MEM Graduate Program, Adjunct Graduate Faculty for Outdoor Industry MBA
    Phone: 970.943.2118
    Office Location: Wright Gym 223
    Paul Tame, M.A. headshot
    Senior Lecturer in Recreation & Outdoor Education
    Phone: 970.943.2292
    Office Location: Wright Gym 228
    Jay Whitacre, Ph.D. headshot
    Faculty for Outdoor Industry MBA, Lecturer in Recreation & Outdoor Education
    Office Location: Paul Wright Gym 231

    Courses

    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.

     ROE 182 - Introduction to Recreation and Outdoor Education (3 credits)

    An introduction to the history, philosophy, founders, and principles of recreation and outdoor education, the agencies providing programs, and an investigation of professional employment opportunities in recreation.

     ROE 189 - Principles of Outdoor Education (3 credits)

    An exploration of the theory and practice of outdoor education, with emphases on group dynamics, risk management, leadership, Leave No Trace, technical skills, and teaching, which are applied in a backcountry setting. This backcountry block course is offered outside the confines of the regular semester, so check dates before registering. Students who drop the course within two weeks of the start date will not have their course fees refunded. Prerequisite: Instructor permission.

     ROE 240 - Alternative Programming (3 credits)

    Course participants gain insight into alternative programming for special populations. Students explore case studies, specialized equipment, and profiles of special populations. Guest speakers and site visits will help students understand the intricacies of alternative programming and requisite career qualifications. Field trips required.

     ROE 283 - Leadership and Facilitation (3 credits)

    A study of recreation and outdoor education leadership, including leading activities, managerial leadership, and the art of facilitation. Emphasis is placed upon appropriate theories and techniques for varying populations.

     ROE 293 - Outdoor Pursuits Education- Water (with laboratory) (3 credits)

    Skill development in areas such as leadership, facilitation, rescue techniques, white water rafting, stand-up paddle boarding, and kayaking, as well as a focus on environmental education. This backcountry block course is offered in summer only, so check dates before registering. Students who drop the course within two weeks of the start date will not have their course fees refunded. Prerequisites: ROE 189; ROE 283; and instructor permission.

     ROE 295 - Outdoor Pursuits Education- Snow (with laboratory) (3 credits)

    Skill development in areas such as leadership, teaching, traveling in avalanche terrain, backcountry skiing, and winter camping. This backcountry block course is offered outside the confines of the regular semester, so check dates before registering. Students who drop the course within two weeks of the start date will not have their course fees refunded. Prerequisites: ROE 189; ROE 283; and instructor permission.

     ROE 296 - Outdoor Pursuits Education- Land Based (with laboratory) (3 credits)

    Skill development in areas such as leadership, teaching, rock climbing, mountain biking, and backpacking. This backcountry block course is offered outside the confines of the regular semester, so check dates before registering. Students who drop the course within two weeks of the start date will not have their course fees refunded. Prerequisites: ROE 189; ROE 283; and instructor permission.

     ROE 333 - Recreation and Sport Marketing (3 credits)

    A survey of recreation and sport marketing topics: buyer behavior, segmentation, positioning, demand analysis, information and research, pricing, promotion, channels, 'product' policies, destinations, sponsorship, endorsement, merchandising, and fundraising. Prerequisites: ENG 102 with a minimum grade of C- and completion of at least 30 credits; or instructor permission.

     ROE 351 - Inquiry into Sustainability (3 credits)

    An investigation of sustainability and the interconnectedness of environment, economics, and society. Students are provided opportunities to examine their thoughts and behaviors as they pertain to sustainability. The course examines theoretical and practical examples of sustainable businesses, communities, and other systems. Teaching, applied projects, field trips, and/or participation in conferences may be required. Prerequisites: ENG 102 with a minimum grade of C- and completion of at least 30 credits; or instructor permission.

     ROE 364 - Entrepreneurship and Commercial Recreation (3 credits)

    An analysis of the types of commercial and private enterprises, along with the qualities of the entrepreneur specific to recreation businesses. The student is also exposed to smallbusiness management practices as they relate to commercial recreation. Case study analysis and field investigation methods are emphasized to provide the student the opportunity to learn through active participation. Prerequisites: ENG 102 with a minimum grade of C- and completion of at least 30 credits; or instructor permission.

     ROE 398 - Program Planning (with laboratory) (3 credits)

    Equips students with a variety of program-planning methodologies and skills. Emphasis is placed on the planning, organization, implementation, and evaluation of recreation programs. Theories are applied in an experiential setting. Prerequisites: ENG 102 with a minimum grade of C- and completion of at least 30 credits; or instructor permission.

     ROE 454 - Human Development and Counseling for Outdoor Educators (3 credits)

    An investigation of human development theories enabling students to better understand their own motives in outdoor pursuits and allow them to more effectively program for, manage, and support a variety of client needs. Prerequisite: ROE 182; ROE 189; ROE 283; and one of the following: ROE 293, ROE 295, or ROE 296; and senior standing; or instructor permission.

     ROE 466 - Facilities Management (3 credits)

    A study of management, clientele considerations, facilities, outdoor area planning,and operation. Also addressed are personnel, finance, architectural and environmental barriers, plus equipment as related to recreation areas and facilities. Field visits required. Prerequisites: ENG 102 with a minimum grade of C- and completion of at least 30 credits; or instructor permission.

     ROE 468 - Leadership and Administration (3 credits)

    A focus on the implementation of recreation and outdoor education programs, including planning, management and leadership, administrative duties, risk management, and specialized populations. Practical projects are employed as a means to provide students authentic experience in the field. Field trip(s) may be required. Prerequisites: senior standing or instructor permission.

     ROE 490 - Recreation Philosophy and Ethics (3 credits)

    An exploration of recreation philosophy from Plato to Petzoldt and its implications to professionals in the field. Designed to prepare ROE majors for the ethical challenges and time use dilemmas of the 21st century. Prerequisites: senior standing; corequisite: ROE 491.

     ROE 499 - Internship in Recreation and Outdoor Education (3 to 9 credits)

    A course providing full-time concentration on a specific practical experience at an approved agency. It allows for comprehensive involvement in an agency program with faculty and on-site supervision. Prerequisites: senior standing and instructor permission.

  • Bachelor of Arts in Recreation & Outdoor Education
    • Major
    • Minor
    • Accelerated Master's Degree

    Recreation & Outdoor Education (ROE) is about creating opportunities for people to live healthy, engaged and happy lives. Students learn the technical, interpersonal and leadership skills—as well as managerial know-how—required of a successful professional in the billion-dollar outdoor industry. Located in the magnificent Gunnison Valley, Western’s ROE program combines a tightknit classroom environment with world-class field experiences for students to turn their passion for the outdoors into rewarding careers with organizations like Outward Bound, National Outdoor Leadership School and the National Park Service. 

    The Program

    • The Recreation Management emphasis immerses students in applied and service-learning courses, learning the skills necessary to develop recreation programming in many environments.
       
    • The Outdoor Environmental Education emphasis is for students who want to teach and lead education programs in environmental and experiential education. 
       
    • The Outdoor Leadership emphasis exposes students to expeditions, leadership challenges, risk management scenarios and therapeutic recreation in preparation to guide and facilitate adventure programming.
       
    • The Environmental Management emphasis is for students who intend to enroll in the Master in Environmental Management 3+2 program. All students work or volunteer in their area of specialization for 600 hours over four years.

    Careers & Opportunities

    The outdoor recreation industry in the U.S. is made up of 7.6 million jobs and generates $887 billion in annual consumer spending, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Companies where Mountaineers now work:

    • Adaptive Action Sports
    • Adaptive Sports Center
    • Adrift Adventures
    • Aspiro
    • Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center
    • Bureau of Land Management
    • Cold Smoke Splitboards*
    • Colorado Parks & Wildlife
    • Finca Bellavista Treehouse Community*
    • International Wilderness Leadership School
    • National Park Service
    • NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School)
    • Outward Bound
    • Romp Skis*
    • U.S. Forest Service

    *companies started by Mountaineers

    Learn More

    Reach out to Mark A. Gibson, Ed.D. for more information. 

    Interested in Graduate School?

    Western’s accelerated 3+2 programs allow you to earn your bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in just five years—saving you time and money.


    Students study the snowpack / a student installs a solar panel

    Master in Environmental Management 3+2

    Business
    Natural
    Behavioral
    Accelerated Master's Degree
    Master in Environmental Management, MEM, Western Colorado University, accelerated degree, 3+2, Western State, accelerated graduate degree