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Nature is a powerful tool for personal wellness and community building. Whether you want to work with at-risk youth, design programs for corporate team building or teach outdoor education to others, the Outdoor Leadership program will provide you skills to make a positive impact in the world.

Program Overview

Follow your passion to your purpose.

The Outdoor Leadership emphasis will immerse you in expeditions, leadership challenges, risk management scenarios and therapeutic recreation in preparation to facilitate adventure programming. You’ll have the opportunity to study in water-, snow- and land-based courses to prepare you for work in diverse environments all over the world. Before you graduate, you’ll earn your Wilderness First Responder (WFR) credentials which will supplement your degree and provide you the skills to handle emergency situations. Through a comprehensive curriculum and experiential learning opportunities, you’ll graduate ready to lead a course in backcountry skiing or work in wilderness therapy programs. No matter what your ambition, the program will impart the knowledge, skills and experience you need to embark on an adventurous career in the billion-dollar outdoor industry.

Becoming leaders

Surrounded by peaks and rivers, Western’s Outdoor Leadership program is positioned to develop decision-makers with self-awareness, emotional intelligence, risk-sensitivity and resilience.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

Program Requirements

A minimum of 57 credits is required, including the 36-credit Recreation and Outdoor Education Core:

Recreation and Outdoor Education Core
ROE 182Introduction to Recreation and Outdoor Education3
ROE 189Principles of Outdoor Education3
ROE 240Alternative Programming3
ROE 283Leadership and Facilitation3
ROE 351Inquiry into Sustainability3
ROE 398Program Planning (with laboratory)3
ROE 454Human Development and Counseling for Outdoor Educators3
ROE 468Leadership and Administration3
ROE 490Recreation Philosophy and Ethics3
ROE 491Senior Seminar3
ROE 499Internship in Recreation and Outdoor Education6-9
Total Credits36-39

Medical Requirement

All Recreation and Outdoor Education majors must obtain a medical competency prior to graduation. Recreation emphasis majors must take ESS 276 Emergency Response or equivalent. Students with an emphasis in Outdoor Environmental Education, Outdoor Leadership, or Recreation and Outdoor Education Major: Comprehensive Program with Five-Year Master in Environmental Management must obtain certification as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR).

And the following courses. Additionally, students must:

  1. become a certified Wilderness First Responder (WFR), and
  2. complete at least 100 hours of certification-based or skill-based courses (not including WFR, Project Wet, Project Wild, or other certifications associated with required courses).
ROE 293Outdoor Pursuits Education- Water Based (with laboratory)3
ROE 295Outdoor Pursuits Education- Snow Based (with laboratory)3
ROE 296Outdoor Pursuits Education- Land Based (with laboratory)3
ROE 391Experiential Education Theory and Pedagogy3
One of the following:3
BIOL 130
Environmental Biology (GT-SC2)
ENVS 100
Introduction to Environment and Sustainability (GT-SS2)
One of the following:3
ROE 230
Interpretation of Natural and Cultural History
ROE 235
Foundations of Teaching Environmental Education
One of the following:3
ROE 333
Recreation and Sport Marketing
ROE 364
Entrepreneurship and Commercial Recreation
Total Credits21

Capstone Course Requirement

The following courses in the Recreation and Outdoor Education Major fulfill the capstone course requirements: ROE 499 Course ROE 499 Not Found.

Graduation Requirements

Undergraduate programs require a minimum of 120 semester credits for graduation.  Of those 120 credits, 40 credits must be in upper-division courses (those marked 300 and above).  Fifteen of these 40 upper-division credits must be earned in courses that are part of the standard or comprehensive major program being pursued. 

Students are expected to review all graduation requirements, which can be found in the Western Undergraduate Catalog: Graduation Requirements

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
HWTR 100 First Year Seminar 1
ENG 102 Academic Writing (GT-CO1) 3
ROE 182 Introduction to Recreation and Outdoor Education 3
Essential Skills MATH 3
Gen Ed Social Sciences 3
Gen Ed Natural Sciences
ROE 240 Alternative Programming 3
ROE 283 Leadership and Facilitation 3
Gen Ed Social Sciences 3
Gen Ed Arts & Humanities 3
Gen Ed Natural Sciences 3
Year Two
COM 202 Academic Writing and Inquiry (GT-CO2) 3
ROE 189 Principles of Outdoor Education 3
Elective ROE Elective (Nat/Cult Hist/Teaching Env Ed) 3
Gen Ed Social Sciences 3
Gen Ed Natural Sciences 3
ROE 351 Inquiry into Sustainability 3
ROE 293 Outdoor Pursuits Education- Water Based (with laboratory) 3
ROE 295 Outdoor Pursuits Education- Snow Based (with laboratory) 3
Gen Ed Arts & Humanities 3
Year Three
ROE 398 Program Planning (with laboratory) 3
Elective ROE Elective (Rec&Sport Mktg or Ent/Com Rec) 3
Gen Ed Arts & Humanities 3
ROE 296 Outdoor Pursuits Education- Land Based (with laboratory) 3
ROE 391 Experiential Education Theory and Pedagogy 3
Year Four
ROE 454 Human Development and Counseling for Outdoor Educators 3
ROE 499 Internship in Recreation and Outdoor Education 3-9
ROE 468 Leadership and Administration 3
ROE 490 Recreation Philosophy and Ethics 3
ROE 491 Senior Seminar 3
 Total Credits85-91

Western is committed to doing our part to provide each student a clear path to graduation. This four‐year degree plan is a sample map for fulfilling requirements in the major and General Education. The pathway that you take to your degree may differ somewhat from this illustration, depending on where you start and the detours and side trips you may take along the way. You are responsible for ensuring your overall, upper division, and major‐specific credits as well as GPA requirements are fulfilled for graduation.


Outdoor Leadership

Kevin Fox


“Western helped me develop soft skills, such as strong communication and problem-solving, through a wide variety of opportunities across campus.”


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Career preparation is the primary focus of every academic program at Western. Our professors and Office of Career Services will help you identify your strengths, hone your skills, define your goals, and prepare for a fulfilling role in hundreds of professional fields after graduation.

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Alumni Association Future Alumni Scholarship

The Alumni Association Scholarship is a one-time scholarship of $1,000 and is applicable for the student’s junior or senior year at Western.

Any child or grandchild of an alumni is eligible to receive the Future Alumni Scholarship.

  • This is a one-time non-renewable scholarship of $1,000.
  • Only one Future Alumni Scholarship will be awarded per academic year.
  • GPA must be 3.2 or above (college).

Due date has been extended to April 1 for 2022. An Alumni selection committee, appointed by the Alumni Advisory Council, will review applicants and select awardee by June 1.


Alumni Legacy Scholarship

The Alumni Legacy Scholarship is a one-time non-renewable scholarship and is only applicable for the student’s first year at Western (incoming freshman or new transfer students are eligible).

Do you have a son or daughter looking at college? Have they considered attending Western? As an alumni, your son, daughter and/or grandchildren are eligible for certain benefits distributed through this scholarship, as follows:

  • This is a one-time scholarship of $1,000.
  • Nominee must be an incoming first-year student or new transfer.
  • The cost of orientation is reduced by half (a $45 value).
  • The admission application fee is waived (a $30 value).
  • GPA must be 2.5 or above (high school or college of transfer).

The applicant must fill out the application form found below. Application forms are accepted year-round. If the applicant meets the GPA guidelines, the scholarship will be awarded.


Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship

The Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship is a one-time non-renewable scholarship and is only applicable for the student’s first year at Western. This scholarship is not available to midyear transfers or students beginning in the spring semester.

Are you an alumni or employee of Western and know a prospective (or incoming) student who would be a great fit at Western? A recommendation from alumni and employees can support any new student and provide them a $500 scholarship their first year. (Western employees may not recommend a spouse or dependent receiving tuition benefits).

  • Any Western alumni/employee may nominate only one student per academic year to receive the $500 scholarship (distributed $250 per semester).
  • The scholarship is good for the first year only and is non-renewable.
  • The recommended student must be a full-time undergraduate student, attending Western for the first time.

The applicant must fill out the application form found here. The nominating alumni/employee must fill out the application form and submit the required documents by June 1. The recommended student must meet university admissions acceptance standards and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Presidential Promise is guaranteed to students who have received a scholarship through the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) and/or GearUp—and are eligible for a Pell Grant.

For students who meet these criteria, Western will cover the cost of tuition and fees through the combination of federal, state and institutional aid. For more information on the Presidential Promise, visit our scholarships page.


The Western Presidential Honors Scholarships, established by the Jack and Marilyn MacAllister Foundation shall be an elite class of scholarships awarded to Western’s highest achieving and most deserving students, celebrating the ideals of academic excellence and service to the campus and community. Recipients of the Scholarships will be members of the Western Colorado University Honors Program.

There are eight Presidential Honors Scholarships of $2500 each. Each year two new Presidential Honors Scholarships will be awarded to two incoming first-year students.

Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) or Central Plains (CP) tuition represents a substantial savings relative to normal, out-of-state tuition. Students eligible for the WUE or CP program will be charged 150% of Western’s total in-state tuition. For 2018-19, total in-state tuition was $8,934. WUE/CP tuition was $13,401. The WUE/CP discount is valued at $4,695.

For more information about the WUE and CP geography-based programs, visit Western’s Tuition Discount Programs Page.

Immediately upon acceptance at Western, every student is considered for a merit scholarship worth between $2,500-$4,500 per year for in-state students and $8,000-$10,000 for out-of-state students. The amount is based on the student’s GPA and ACT/SAT scores. Visit our Net Price Calculator at western.edu/cost to determine whether you qualify for a merit scholarship.

For more information about merit scholarships at Western, visit our scholarships page.

Get Involved

Make your education a life changing experience.

A college education is so much more than just taking classes. Expand your community and network, while gaining hands-on experience in your field.

  • Advanced Leadership Expedition: Students expand their global perspectives and hone their leadership skills by traveling to developing nations.
  • Certifications: Students are required to obtain 100 hours of professional certifications in addition to their Wilderness First Responder certification.
  • Field Courses: Four courses feature multiple days and nights spent in the backcountry.
  • Internships: Students often land full-time professional positions in the agencies they intern with for their capstone experience.
  • Teaching: Many students apply to work as TAs after their freshman year.

Exploring further

Outdoor Leadership students take part in Outdoor Pursuits Education courses that teach skills in areas such as leadership, facilitation, outdoor education, rescue techniques, rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking and more.

News & Research

colleges that offer hands on learning

Western Among Best Colleges that Offer Hands-on Learning Experiences

Read More about Western Among Best Colleges that Offer Hands-on Learning Experiences
Colorado Outdoor Recreation Office Leader Luis Benitez Headed to VF Corp

Colorado Outdoor Recreation Office Leader Luis Benitez Headed to VF Corp

Read More about Colorado Outdoor Recreation Office Leader Luis Benitez Headed to VF Corp

Department Chairperson

Lance Dalleck, Ph.D.

Professor of Exercise & Sport Science

Administrative Assistant

Terri Stinson

Administrative Assistant

Contact Information



Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Paul Wright Gym 209
1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81231

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