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Senior gets ready to lead in the outdoors through new Outdoor Leadership minor

October 13, 2017
Outdoor Leadership Minor York College
The new program will give an edge to anybody whose career is going to have an outdoor element.

Sarah Hurley thought she had hit the right educational mix to fit her career goals. 

Take a Recreation and Leisure Administration Therapy major with an emphasis on Recreational Therapy, add in two minors – in Psychology and Fine Arts – and that would give her the foundation and skills to become a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS). 

But this fall, as Sarah began her final year at York College of Pennsylvania, an opportunity arose she just couldn’t pass up. It meant adding a third minor, as one of the first students in York College’s Outdoor Leadership minor program. 

“While I'm going a bit of an unorthodox route with the minor by trying to cram most of it into two semesters worth of classes, I love that I am able to do so,” Sarah says. 

She says the work of adding a third minor is worth it, because the outdoor leadership program augments what she has already learned and better prepares her to pursue work as a CTRS. 

Enhancing their education

Adding skills is the goal of the minor, says Dr. Brian Malcarne, assistant professor of Recreation and Leisure Administration. 

“The minor will give an edge to anybody whose career is going to have an outdoor element,” he says. “It gives them a solid foundation to be successful in that environment.” 

What Dr. Malcarne and others in the department had found, he says, is that many of their students were getting internships, summer jobs and other work experience in outdoor-related positions. His minor proposal listed 12 outdoor locations at which York College students had recently worked, such as Ski Roundtop, Boulder Parks and Recreation and the National Outdoor Leadership School. 

He felt it was time the college added some curriculum to support that. 

“We put together the proposal with the idea that they’d be a little better prepared for an outdoor-related job,” he says. “And it could benefit other professions that work outdoors, like natural scientists, or educators that are working outdoors, or biologists. We think the outdoor-leadership component is really important.” 

Students take a foundational level course and then choose from several “advanced programming Rec classes, outdoor skills courses such as backpacking and rock climbing, and a course from another department that fits the students’ end goals,” Dr. Malcarne says. 

“It’s very diverse. They get to customize it to what fits best,” he says. “So, if they’re interested in education, they would take a course that focuses on, perhaps, science curriculum and the outdoors.” 

Worth the effort

Sarah’s career goals make this minor a perfect fit, and she feels it’s worth the accelerated pace to finish before May. 

She has always loved the outdoors, which is why she wants to pursue a career as a CTRS, and this minor will help her get there. 

“I feel this minor helps provide additional experience in addition to knowledge that I can rely on if I do get a job using adventure-based therapies,” she says. “I find nature to be personally beneficial, so to be able to help others benefit from something I love would be a wonderful job and overall experience.” 

While she may not become an expert on some of the adventure-based areas, such as snowboarding and horseback riding, just learning about them will make her better at her job. 

“Gaining more knowledge on the various subjects, even if not quite being an expert at them all, allows me the ability to safely aid individuals in achieving a therapeutic end-point using the outdoors as a backdrop for therapy,” Sarah says. 

That is one of the goals for the program, Dr. Malcarne says – preparing students to create a quality experience in the outdoors, facilitate groups and enhance safety in their programming. 

“It doesn’t give them everything they need, but it gives them a solid foundation to be successful in that environment,” he says. 

For Sarah, it’s a lot of work, but she is excited about adding to her York College experience. 

“The classes are a lot of hands-on work, which allows one to learn and then practice what you are discussing in class,” she says. “And it highlights some amazing classes the college offers and opens up opportunities one wouldn't have otherwise.”

Click here to learn more about York College's Recreation program

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