SUU outdoor programs host opening social: A recap of students’ outdoor opportunities

Southern Utah University’s various outdoor programs teamed up on Thursday, Sept. 8, to host an opening social for students. Students were able to get acquainted with what the programs have to offer, getting to know other like-minded students in the process.

The event was hosted by representatives from the university’s outdoor recreation department, Outdoor Pathways and SUU Outdoors. Students treated themselves to free nachos as they met with the programs’ faculty to learn about their opportunities in the field of outdoor recreation.

Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism

Southern Utah presents some of the most sought-after destinations for outdoor recreation, making SUU a premier location for those looking to enter the field professionally. The school prides itself in offering a comprehensive ORPT program that prepares students to work in a range of occupations related to outdoor recreation. 

“We have fantastic connections with public lands and outdoor recreation-based organizations,” said veteran ORPT instructor Anne Smith. “It’s the access for students that is key.”

Students interested in studying outdoor recreation will get to work with local agencies through courses such as Foundations in Outdoor Recreation, which is available to all majors and has no prerequisites.

Smith notes that the ORPT program contributes to an ever-strengthening regional outdoor recreation community, with many students going on to work for local organizations and even SUU. 

“We’re producing leadership,” she said. “Almost half of the organizations we work with in the foundations class are former students of mine.” 

Jason Burton, a first-semester ORPT professor at SUU, recognizes the student-first culture of the program.

“They truly want to help the students,” he said. “[Students] have the opportunity to learn technical skills and how to be professionals in the outdoors.”

Outdoor Pathways

SUU’s Outdoor Pathways program provides students that are passionate about the outdoors with professional development opportunities such as partnerships with local agencies and internships.

According to Kevin Koontz, an ORPT instructor and Outdoor Education Liaison to Outdoor Pathways, the program is not just for outdoor recreation students. 

“There are positions within places like the National Park Service where they need graphic designers or engineering students to design campgrounds,” he said. “There’s a wide range of internship positions for students.” 

Students interested in connecting their degree with work in the outdoors can apply for internships through the Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative managed by Outdoor Pathways.

“We can place students in positions relevant to their degree even if they are not outdoor recreation students but still have a passion for the outdoors,” Koontz added. “For business majors, parks need accountants.”

For more about Outdoor Pathways, visit their website.

SUU Outdoors

Students interested in southern Utah adventure tailored to them should consider SUU Outdoors, the school’s in-house gear and adventure company. 

For many students that might be interested in the outdoors, there may be limiting factors such as inexperience, money or time. SUU Outdoors seeks to bridge those gaps and provide each student with experiences they might not otherwise get. 

“[The student population] is very diverse, and we have a diverse offering in terms of what we have,” said coordinator Levi Pendleton. “If you want something entry-level, we have that, and if you are looking for something a little more advanced, we have that, too.”

SUU Outdoors offers free local events each week that include slacklining, hiking and disc golf. They also host their bi-weekly Outdoor Education Series featuring local experts on special outdoor topics. Students can also register for certain adventure trips at no cost, as well as longer, more adventurous trips for a relatively inexpensive fee. 

SUU Outdoors’ Basecamp is located in the Sharwan Smith Student Center beside Chick-fil-A, where students can rent gear and get information on trips and events.

“The outdoors can seem intimidating for those not experienced with it,” Pendleton said. “A great first step for those interested would be to stop by our Basecamp location and entertain that curiosity.”

For more information, visit the SUU Outdoors website or follow them on Instagram for updates on local events.


Story by: Jared Clawson
Photos by: Jared Clawson