Western Colorado University’s new Outdoor Industry Business Certificate (OIBC) program has produced its first graduate just six months after the program was launched.
Katie Lasak, a content marketing specialist with Backcountry, an outdoor gear and apparel company, has completed three courses offered through the program. Lasak began her courses in Responsible Business with the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) last August and finished earlier this year.
“As an outdoor industry professional looking to grow in my career, this program struck the perfect balance of everything I was looking for,” Lasak said. “It allowed me the time and financial flexibility I needed while providing me with a valuable curriculum that touched on everything from marketing, personal and leadership development and crucial DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion points].”
Online-Based and Self-Paced
OIBC is offered in partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder (CU), Utah State University (USU) and Western. Through these universities, the OIA offers online-based and self-paced, non-credit certificates focusing on OIA’s three pillar areas: public policy, increasing outdoor participation and sustainable business innovation.
The three specified courses that allow students to build fluency in an outdoor industry-focused topic. The topics were chosen and the courses developed with industry input to ensure that information taught in the online classroom is readily applicable in the outdoor business world.
“It is an honor to continue growing our relationship with OIA, working together to re-skill, or skilling-up, the workforce that keeps our industry moving,” said Outdoor Industry MBA Director Scott Borden, Ph.D. “These courses are for anyone looking to grow in their profession, interested in our Outdoor Industry MBA program, or wanting to take the first steps in making a career change. We have heard from industry partners that they want a workforce with cutting edge management skills. These certifications can differentiate applicants and elevate them in the eyes of perspective employers.”
Working Toward a Shared Goal
Borden approached Extended Studies Director Kirky Swift about how to make enrollment in the program a smooth process.
“I worked heavily with Information Technology to make our registration system up to par with the much bigger universities that were also working towards this shared goal in collaboration with OIA,” said Swift, who noted that adaptation had to be made in light of the pandemic. “All of the instructors that have been involved created beautiful online courses and nonetheless moved ahead. It was truly a labor of love for the industry, I believe. We carried on with the program and it is now beginning to have certificate graduates.”
Growth Through Education
As the first graduate, Lasak said the coursework flowed seamlessly with the outdoor industry, thanks to the instructors. But it was the deep dive into related issues which captured her attention.
“What I especially loved is how introspective some of the course material was, forcing me to look inside myself as an industry professional, a marketer, a leader, and an individual, and evaluate what I found there,” Lasak said. “I knew I would learn, but never imagined how much I would grow from these courses as an individual.”
Her course work, she said, provided teachings that she will take with her as she grows as a professional in the years to come.
Learn more about the Western OIBC program.
Author Credit: Chris Rourke