FB Pixel Skip to Main Content

If you aspire to become a park ranger, forest school instructor, recreation manager or fly fishing guide, you’ll find your place in Western Colorado University’s Recreation program. Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the Gunnison Valley is the perfect environment to pursue your passion for outdoor recreation.

Program Overview

Make your dream job a reality.

In Western Colorado University’s Recreation program, you’ll gain the skills, knowledge and experience to make your mark on the billion-dollar outdoor industry. Through applied and service-oriented courses, you’ll learn how to develop recreation programming in a variety of diverse environments: urban areas, schools, remote mountain ranges and everywhere in between. You’ll also learn how to craft stories and curate content in sophisticated marketing campaigns that relate the importance of outdoor recreation programs.

To gain hands-on experience in the field, you’ll have the opportunity to travel to developing nations in the Advanced Leadership Expedition and gain backcountry experience in Field Courses. Before graduating, you’ll be required to obtain 100 hours of professional certifications in addition to your Wilderness First Responder certification. Through a comprehensive curriculum and immersive training, you’ll be able to secure an internship or join the workforce at local organizations like Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Coldharbour Institute and Gunnison Valley Mentors.

Reaching the peak

The Recreation emphasis trains students through applied and service-oriented courses, learning the skills necessary to develop recreation programming in many environments: urban areas, schools, remote mountain ranges and everywhere in between.

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

Recreation consists of 51 credits 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).

First Aid/CPR Competency and the following courses:

ESS 282Principles of Sport and Fitness Management3
ESS 450Risk Management in Physical Activity Settings3
Select one of the following:3
ROE 293
Outdoor Pursuits Education- Water Based (with laboratory)
ROE 295
Outdoor Pursuits Education- Snow Based (with laboratory)
ROE 296
Outdoor Pursuits Education- Land Based (with laboratory)
One of the following:3
ESS 382
Management of Sport and Fitness Facilities
ROE 466
Facilities and Administration
One of the following:3
ROE 333
Recreation and Sport Marketing
ROE 364
Entrepreneurship and Commercial Recreation
Total Credits15

Capstone Course Requirement

The following courses in the Recreation and Outdoor Education Major fulfill the capstone course requirements: ROE 499 Internship in Recreation and Outdoor Education

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 Natural Sciences 3
Gen Ed Social Sciences 3
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
ESS 282 Principles of Sport and Fitness Management 3
Gen Ed Natural Sciences 3
ROE 351 Inquiry into Sustainability 3
ESS 276 Emergency Response 3
Gen Ed Social Sciences 3
Gen Ed Arts & Humanities 3
Year Three
ROE 398 Program Planning (with laboratory) 3
ESS 450 Risk Management in Physical Activity Settings 3
Elective ROE Elective (Rec&Sport Mktg or Ent/Com Rec) 3
Elective ROE Elective (Outdoor Pursuits) 3
Elective Elective (Mgt Sport/Fit Facilities/Facilities Mgt) 3
Gen Ed Arts & Humanities 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 Credits88-94

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.


Career preparation starts your first year at Western and is the primary focus of every degree.

Visit Career Services in Library 120 or online to discover your interests, define your goals, and land the career of your dreams.

The data below is automatically collected by Burning Glass Technologies, a firm that sources job market data and provides analytics. The statistics illustrate general trends in U.S. careers, but do not precisely represent every job and salary.


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 freshman 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 freshmen.

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

Take your education beyond the classroom.

Get the hands-on learning experience you need to apply your knowledge and launch your career.

  • 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.

A passion for the outdoors

Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the Gunnison Valley is the perfect environment to pursue your passion for outdoor recreation.

News & Research

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

Take the Next Step

Apply to Western

Apply to Western

We understand that applying to a university can be daunting, which is why we make our admission process as simple and straightforward as possible. Learn more about applying to your program of choice at Western.

Visit Western

Visit Western

The best way to find out what makes Western such a special place is to experience it for yourself. Our student-led tours give you an insider’s perspective on everything from academics to student life.

Alumni Community

Alumni Community

We keep the Mountaineer spirit going strong within our alumni community. Whether getting together with friends at an annual event, making a donation or mentoring a student, graduates continue to play an important role in the Western community.