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OE has new identity at YHC

October 26, 2010

By Kathleen Layton, Editor-in-Chief

Earlier this month, the Outdoor Education program at YHC was rebranded as the Outdoor Leadership program as the program does not provide "a licensure of teaching education." Photo by Jacob Stone

On Thurs. Oct. 14, the Outdoor Education Program was renamed Outdoor Leadership. This semantic change was announced to the students majoring in outdoor leadership prior to the official announcement, which was sent out through an M.E.T.A. e-mail to YHC faculty and staff. Students not majoring in outdoor leadership learned of the change at the Majors Fair held in Enotah Hall also on Oct. 14.

As a result of this change, both the department and degree program have changed. YHC’s Outdoor Education Center is now called the Center for Outdoor Leadership. Students who were majoring in outdoor education will now receive a degree in outdoor leadership.

The swift conversion from outdoor education to outdoor leadership has many students and faculty curious about the motives behind the renaming as well as reasons for the suddenness of the title change.

The change to outdoor leadership resulted out of an administrative review of the program. These reviews are lead by administration and are exercised with the intent of finding ways to improve each program of study.

“One thing we talk about is how to improve the education program, and one way we do this is to see how marketable to program is,” said Dr. Ron Roach, vice president of academic affairs.

While doing this review of outdoor education, administration found the definition of the Outdoor Leadership Program varied with each prospective student. Instead of associating the term with experiential education in an outdoor environment, some students mistakenly equated the program with a “classroom or licensure of teaching education,” Roach said.

Though evidence of prospective student confusion is not based on any numerical data, Roach said that evidence of this confusion was “based on word of mouth from the admissions folks, who talked to prospective students, and also from observations from the administration. This decision was a gut-decision.”

Once YHC administration recognized a need for clarification in the department’s title, word was sent to the outdoor education professors. After much debate, the outdoor education professors decided that outdoor leadership would be the new department name.

“We were given complete ownership of the name. And, when we decided on outdoor leadership, [the faculty of the department] all agreed,” said Rob Dussler, professor of outdoor leadership.

Even though the term outdoor leadership is new to YHC, several other colleges and universities have used the term ‘outdoor leadership’ for their own outdoor programs, such as Brevard College. The outdoor program at Brevard College is called Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, making the name change at YHC in line with other colleges and universities.

This congruency has led Roach to believe that the change is “another positive step.”
However, Roach added that the name change “is not written in stone. We’ll keep assessing it.”
With the rationalization behind the change explained, the next big question concerned the swiftness of the the decision.

The speed of the change is attributed to the publication of promotional material for YHC.
Roach said the speed of the change “has a lot to do with the fact that we are producing a lot of publications. We talked about delays, but we didn’t see a compelling reason to delay. So, we went ahead and made the change now.”

Even though the name of the department has changed, “all the classes and the approach to the degree will remain the same. Even our mission statement is the same as before,” Dussler said.
Though the publication materials are identical, the degree will emphasize leadership roles in an outdoor environment.

“I wouldn’t say that outdoor education and outdoor leadership have the same meaning, but we’re preparing students for leadership roles in outdoor education,” Dussler said.
Both Roach and Dussler believe that the marketability of the Outdoor Leadership degree program will not be harmed by the change. Administration and the Outdoor Leadership Department agree that this is a positive change for the program of study.
However, several of the outdoor leadership majors expressed concern about the change of their degree program.

“It sucks. What’s the point of changing from outdoor education to outdoor leadership? We promote experiential learning so it doesn’t make sense to change it,” said Ben Garner, a senior outdoor leadership major.

Junior outdoor leadership major, Katie Holcomb from Hampton, said, “they didn’t tell us. They didn’t ask us. We just found out it was changed. The school didn’t’ consider us or ask our opinion. It’s kinda disappointing.”

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