Inside the Source: Training the Next Generation of Recreation Leaders 

July 25, 2019 

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Training the Next Generation of Recreation Leaders 
by Andrea Watts

As was mentioned in the introduction on page 1 of this edition, the recreation industry is expected to increase in the next decade, both in terms of the number of people recreating and the jobs needed to meet demand. To learn how universities are training the next generation of recreation professionals, I chatted with Steve Selin, a professor at the West Virginia University (WVU), and John Daigle, a professor at the University of Maine (UM); both of these universities offer SAF-accredited recreation programs. (“Implementing Sustainable Recreation on the National Forest System: Aligning the Reality and Promise,” an essay by Selin from SAF’s new book, 193 Million Acres: Toward a Healthier and More Resilient US Forest Service, appears on page 1.) Our conversations have been edited for clarity and length.

West Virginia University
WVU offers a bachelor of science degree in recreation, parks, and tourism resources.

When did your program start?
Selin: Our Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Resources program goes back to 1947, but it wasn’t in the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, as it currently is. It started in the Physical Education Department, and it was more focused on recreation within physical education in schools, like K-12. It wasn’t until 1969, when the college was going through a major reorganization, that the entire department transferred to the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources. We’ve always been accredited by the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), and since 2008, also have been accredited by the Society of American Foresters.

How has the program evolved over the years?
Before 2008, the program wasn’t well integrated with the other natural resources–management majors (wildlife and fisheries resources; forest resources management; wood science and technology; and energy land management) in our division; the coursework and goals were separate. In 2005, we started getting serious about being integrated. The five faculty who teach in our program, we all have at least one degree in forestry and natural resources.

University of Maine
UM offers a bachelor of science degree in parks, recreation, and tourism.

How did the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism program develop?
Daigle: The program itself began in 1972 and started, like a lot of initial outdoor-recreation degree programs, within forestry and natural resources–management programs. Ours started within the School of Forest Resources, because there was a growing demand for outdoor-recreation management, both at the state and federal level. Recreation is a relatively young professional field that really emerged in the 1960s, when federal agencies specifically managed their lands for outdoor recreation.

What is important to our program is that it has a very strong component to natural resources–management, because we are in the School of Forest Resources. Students come out having a good foundation in resource management. To me, it’s a good foundation to have in outdoor recreation–management, in terms of understanding the environment in which that’s taking place.

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