Ithaca College Quarterly 2004/2  


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Natural Degree
The Making of the Major

Outdoor adventure leadership ,the College's newest major, encompasses philosophy, wilderness conservation, thrills, and career preparation.

by Lorraine Berry

"The tendency nowadays to wander in wildernesses is delightful to see. Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life." -- John Muir, Our National Parks (1901)

A century ago people flocked to the wilderness to escape their overstressed, over-scheduled lives. People today are still at it -- only now they live in a society in which they are further disconnected from nature, separated from it by televisions and modems and the incessant demands of the information age. Cars may now make it easier for them to drive to the wilderness, but because they are generally alienated from the natural environment, they need guidance when they do go out to experience it. This year Ithaca College is formally launching a new major for students who want to lead people in getting back to nature.

Winter trekking in New Zealand

Outdoor adventure leadership will be offered as a major under the auspices of the Department of Therapeutic Recreation and Leisure Services (TRLS) in the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance. Its graduates will be equipped to work as leaders in the burgeoning ecotourism industry, as recreation guides, as entrepreneurs in developing recreation businesses, as camp managers, as staff members in programs that serve at-risk youth, and as policy shapers in natural resources management -- to name just a few possibilities.

When most of us selected a course of study in college, it entailed matching our interests to established majors, many of which had been part of college offerings for years. But in this case, the development of the major (see "The Making of the Major") came about because of intensive student interest and the inability of the department to meet the demand for certain courses. One of these courses was Outdoor Adventure Skills, taught by part-time faculty member Norm Pure. "Every semester, Outdoor Adventure Skills would fill on the very first day of registration, and there was always a long list of students waiting to enroll," says Linda Heyne, chair of TRLS. "Often the students who managed to get into the course were seniors who had been trying to get in since they were freshmen."

The Adventure Recreation Club (ARC), formed last year from a majors club that had been active since the early 1970s, was one way all IC students could pursue activities that interested them -- such as weekend and day trips for white-water rafting, cross-country skiing, kayaking, camping, and rock climbing. "Then," says Frank Olivieri '05, current president of the club, "the ARC informed the TRLS department that there was a large student demand to become professionals in outdoor leadership." The students wanted to make a living promoting and participating in the activities they enjoyed. Faculty noted the tremendous interest, and the idea for the new major was born.

Photos courtesy of TRLSnext


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