Outdoor Adventure Leadership

Outdoor Adventure Leadership (B.S.)

The mission of the outdoor adventure leadership (OAL) program is to develop visionary outdoor educational leaders who are prepared to be agents of change in the world, whether in a wilderness context or a context where these transferable skills are implemented. Through an innovative, intensive, and experiential curriculum, you’ll learn the technical, teaching, and management skills necessary to help others appreciate, respect, and enjoy the natural environment. Our major is accredited by the Wilderness Education Association, which is recognized across the country for enhancing the safety standards of adventure travel and promoting environmental ethics.

The program emphasizes outdoor program administration, problem solving, leadership, wilderness literacy, and recreational land use. Using the wilderness as a catalyst for personal growth, both in yourself and in those you work with, you’ll develop your sense of responsibility, appreciation of independent thought, respect for others, a spirit of collaboration, awareness of our environmental and cultural connections, and a commitment to lifelong service and learning.

A living lab of gorges, forests, and lakes, the greater Ithaca area provides numerous opportunities to learn and test your backpacking, kayaking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, orienteering, and outdoor leadership skills. 

The Ithaca College Outdoor Adventure Leadership Immersion semester program is collaborating with the Colorado Outward Bound School to provide a 90-Day immersion experience.   The collaboration provides a unique student centered experience featuring both Ithaca College courses* (18 credits) and Colorado Outward Bound School’s experiential wilderness curriculum featuring challenge and adventure to instill personal growth and character development (*RLS21800 Wilderness First Responder; RLS 22000 The Wilderness Experience; RLS 22300 Wilderness Literacy; RLS 35400 Organization and Supervision of Outdoor Pursuits; 37000 Recreational Land Use Ethics; and RLS 42100 Wilderness Expedition Leadership).

Consistence and Complementary features highlight the primary strengths in the IC COBS Immersion Semester collaboration.  The Colorado Outward Bound School ‘s mission is to provide exceptional character education by inspiriting self-discovery, fostering teamwork and compassion, and developing interpersonal and leadership skills through transformational wilderness experiences.  Consistent with IC 20/20 objectives the COBS mission further complements the principles of IC ‘s mission, which in part promotes the acquisition of knowledge through discipline, competence via experience, and ultimately character development through service to others.  Lastly, the mission of the Outdoor Adventure Leadership program is advanced (develop visionary outdoor leaders who are prepared to be agents of change in the world). 

Collaboration with COBS allows IC students without any previous wilderness experience to take the course, to develop a new foundation or in some instances continue to build outdoor skills for multiple and varied environments. Wilderness, both as a destination and philosophy will run central to the immersion experience and serves to provide the challenge and adventure that helps promote learning and personal and team growth. In addition to the Immersion Semester student learning outcomes, collaborating with COBS will help facilitate student self, peer and environmental understanding leading to greater potential of learning transfer to life contexts beyond the Immersion experience, including but not limited to improved relationships with one’s family, friends and community.

The Immersion experience will involve traveling through mountainous terrain; climbing steep rock faces; exploring canyons; and navigating the length of the Green and Colorado Rivers through Utah.  This dynamic classroom provides not only an opportunity to explore and learn about our surroundings; their beauty and their risks; their needs and their possibilities; but also the perfect experiential medium to, for example, examine social, philosophical and historical forces that influence recreational land use ethics. The ability to survey literary works which inspired writers, poets, artists and scholars of the wilderness movement among and within the features and sources of their inspiration.  The opportunity, space, and perspective to focus on one’s relationship with the natural environment and the effect humans have on wilderness.  Finally, collaborating with an industry leader in COBS, IC students will be able to intimately examine an organizational model for outdoor programming, supervision and risk management practices, and gain hands on experience with trip planning, packing, leading, and evaluation. If you are interested in reserving a spot in the Spring 2014 program please follow this link: /hshp/depts/rls/docs/majorinfodocuments/OAL/OALISPApp.pdf.

Career opportunities for OAL majors exist in outdoor leadership, ecotourism, outdoor education, camp management, natural resource management, environmental interpretation, youth-at-risk programs, and the adventure education and travel industry. As these industries flourish, the demand for skilled outdoor adventure leaders will grow. And as an Ithaca graduate, you will be at the top of the list.


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