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Campus News

May 30th, 2023

GC outdoor education seeks to expand reach

Stackable credentials, freshman seminar course, summer camps in OLA plan

andy hershey

Photo by John Rudd

Garrett College Professor Andy Hershey said the College’s Outdoor Leadership & Adventure (OLA) Education program hopes to "take full advantage of Garrett County’s environmental assets and meet as many outdoor-based community needs as possible."

Garrett College is seeking to make its outdoor leadership education program more relevant to more people, according to Andy Hershey.

"We believe there is a larger audience interested in outdoor education beyond those who want to complete the full academic program," said Hershey, a professor who is also director of GC’s Outdoor Leadership & Adventure (OLA) Education program. "And we want to connect with that audience so they understand our wide range of offerings."

Hershey, Associate Professor Terry Peterson, and Adventure Equipment Manager Scott Richardson were the featured speakers at May’s President’s Circle. The President’s Circle, sponsored by the Garrett College Foundation, is comprised of the Foundation’s most generous and regular donors.

The Foundation manages the Scott Hess Adventure Sport Student Fund, which financially supports OLA students for program-related activities.

"The Hess Fund helps with the purchase of equipment and supplies, conference attendance and travel expenditures," said Hershey, noting the fund was created by the family of Scott Hess, a Garrett College graduate who died in a 2020 motorcycle accident. "The fund is having a really positive impact on our students’ experience."

Hershey said outdoor-based First-Year Experience (FYE) course sections, outdoor and adventure summer camps, and stackable credentials are some of the strategies either already launched or in production.

"FYE is a college orientation course required for all Garrett College students," said Hershey. "We’re now offering an outdoor experience FYE, with plans to offer adventure experience and wildness experience FYE sections in the future.

"There are numerous studies indicating an outdoor-based freshman orientation helps freshmen bond and improves student retention and success rates," added Hershey.

Stackable credentials, meanwhile, allow students in other majors to take a limited number of outdoor education courses for specific certifications. Hershey said some students will use these certifications to obtain outdoor-related employment, and others may elect to go on to complete the entire OLA program.

Hershey said planned outdoor and adventure summer camps for children 6-18 will offer progressive skill development as well as emphasizing a connection to nature. OLA is also planning outdoor industry professional development for individuals in the outdoor education and leadership field needing additional training.

Richardson discussed the Transitional Age Youth (TAY) Program, which employs outdoor activities to help assist at-risk youth in a collaborative grant program with Garrett County Government. GC is also planning to bring back competition teams in mountain biking, skiing and snowboarding, whitewater rafting, and climbing that were discontinued during COVID.

"Our goal is to take full advantage of Garrett County’s environmental assets and meet as many outdoor-based community needs as possible," said Hershey.

Peterson summarized the rich history of the program, which was originally known as Adventure Sport Management. She said one of the highlights was the role students were able to play in the 2014 International Canoe Federation World Slalom Champions in Deep Creek.

"It was just such an impactful experience for our students to be involved in an international event," said Peterson.

Notes: As part of the President’s Circle event, the Garrett College Board of Trustees formally honored the 2023 recipients of the Board Award for college and community service. Linda Sherbin – who served 22 years on the Board of Trustees, including multiple terms as board chair – and First United Bank & Trust President Carissa Rodeheaver shared the award. Rodeheaver is currently chair of the Garrett College Foundation Board of Directors.