A new degree program aimed at expanding and diversifying Wyoming’s economy, retaining enterprising graduates in the state and recruiting highly qualified students to the University of Wyoming will launch in fall 2018, following action by the UW Board of Trustees.
The board voted Thursday to approve the new interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in outdoor recreation and tourism management, a collaborative effort between UW’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources and the College of Business.
“This degree will give students the skills, knowledge and experience needed to find meaningful employment and become leaders in the outdoor recreation and tourism economic sectors,” says Dan McCoy, the new degree program’s coordinator. “This success may, in turn, allow them to reside in Wyoming and help these sectors evolve to meet their full economic potential while enhancing Wyoming’s ethic of natural resource stewardship.”
Students in the program will take a core curriculum that includes courses in business fundamentals, recreation and tourism, environment and natural resources, and social science. They then will choose an area of concentration from one of five different options: business and hospitality management; management of recreation resources; cultural and international tourism; outdoor recreation leadership; and creative studies in recreation and tourism. Each student also will participate in a “professional semester,” in addition to an internship, to gain intensive experience with a Wyoming business or agency.
Graduates will be well prepared for jobs in Wyoming’s extensive tourism industry — the state’s second largest economic sector — as well as in government agencies involved in recreation, tourism and natural resource management.
“This degree program has been designed with job placement, and the growth and diversification of Wyoming’s recreation and tourism economy in mind,” McCoy says. “Industry and government employers have been consulted throughout every stage of degree development, and they will remain involved through guest lectures, student internships, and hosting of professional semester activities and projects.”
In addition to having the support of the state’s tourism industry, the new program is backed by Gov. Matt Mead and his Outdoor Recreation Task Force, which sees outdoor recreation and tourism as an important component of efforts to diversify Wyoming’s economy.
The new program will involve phasing in 11 new courses at UW over the next two years, starting with two new classes this fall, although most of the courses in the program already are offered across the university. Plans call for eventually hiring several faculty members.
UW expects enrollment in the degree program to start with 50 students in the first year and grow to 150 by the fourth year. Efforts are underway to establish articulation agreements with several Wyoming community colleges, allowing students to begin working toward the bachelor’s degree before transferring to UW.
The new degree program is not without some precedent in UW’s history. For about a decade in the 1930s and ’40s, UW offered a degree in dude ranching, with training in institutional management, cuisine, animal production, zoology, geology, Western lore, veterinary science and agronomy. And, recreation and tourism were part of a Department of Geography and Recreation in the 1980s and ’90s.
For more information about the new outdoor recreation and tourism degree, go to www.uwyo.edu/haub/academics/undergraduate-students/bs-in-ortm.html.