The Outdoor Industry MBA (OIMBA) and Recreation & Outdoor Education (ROE) programs at Western Colorado University recently took part in the LGBTQ+ Outdoor Equality Index (OEI). Program directors learned firsthand the power the OEI has to transform the industry’s engagement with LGBTQ+ people and help to achieve an inclusive outdoors.
The OEI is a tool that measures where outdoor organizations (and the broader industry) are in their engagement with the LGBTQ+ community. As they learned, due to the accountability it creates, the OEI catalyzes and focuses an organization on where their engagement can be strengthened.
A More Inclusive Path Forward
Western participated in the OEI because it aligns directly with the goals of the OIMBA and ROE programs and helps to further establish Western as a leader in preparing the next generation of outdoor industry professionals. The OEI has identified the need to provide equal representation, access, safety, opportunity and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community in the outdoors, and by helping to compile data for the OEI, Western’s outdoor programs can assist in charting a more inclusive path forward.
The effort was created in partnership with Get Out and Trek, an organization of LGBTQ+ adventurists, through a capstone project by OIMBA alumnus Evan Ferchau,’19.
“One of our core values is ensuring inclusive spaces, and the OEI has helped us to understand where we’re doing well and where we need to do better, specific to this community,” said director of the OIMBA Scott Borden, Ph.D. “This project has come full circle for the OIMBA program. We were excited to participate in the completed OEI as it helps further our core values to include everyone in the outdoors. I would highly recommend any outdoor industry organization take the LGBTQ+ Outdoor Equality Index.”
Advancing Outdoor Recreation
Known as one of the top outdoor education schools in the nation, Western offers renowned programs in Environment & Sustainability, Biology, Geology, Energy Management, Exercise & Sport Science, Business and Recreation & Outdoor Education. Western has a history of advancing outdoor recreation as well. Western athletic director Paul Wright became known as “the father of intercollegiate skiing” when he convinced the NCAA to adopt it as an official sport in 1953.
Since then, Western has seen more than 20 students become Olympians in the sport. Today, Western offers one of the most robust mountain sport programs in the country with teams including trail running, mountain biking, climbing, alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, ski mountaineering and freeride skiing and snowboarding.
Discover New Opportunities
In 2017 Western was charged by former Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper, to create an outdoor industry focused Master of Business Administration program. Western answered the call, creating the nation’s first Master of Business Administration degree specific to the outdoor industry.
The OIMBA’s inaugural cohort was in Fall 2018 and currently supports 47 students across two cohorts. These students come from varying backgrounds and work experiences, including people from populations traditionally underrepresented in the outdoor industry.
Author Credit: Chris Rourke
Photo Credit: Carley Clegg