Outdoor Recreation Programs: Contract Out or Keep in House?
July 14, 2011
Director of Campus Recreation
University of Nevada, Reno
With just over 20 years in the outdoors industry in both the private sector and college/university setting I have experienced both sides of this equation. The request to research this topic came at the same time my university was making a significant change concerning its outdoor recreation program. The two dovetailed nicely and while many readers may disagree with the findings and the eventual outcome, it is an example to learn from.
For the past decade, the program at UNR was ‘home-grown’ and operated exclusively in-house. Everything from instructors to equipment, permits and transportation was owned and operated by the program. We held commercial permits for rafting, kayaking and climbing. Class offerings included white water guide school, wilderness skills, sea and white water kayaking, rock climbing, mountaineering, nordic and alpine skiing, snow boarding, fly fishing, wilderness first aid, swift water rescue, rafting and level one avalanche certification. All instructors were certified though national organizations and we followed accepted industry standards for all programs. While all courses were offered both for credit and on a non-credit basis, the University did not offer a degree in the discipline of Outdoor Recreation or anything remotely related. Depending upon the semester and course offerings, participation swung between a peak of 1,200 students and a low of 300. In an average year, the program would offer field trips about 25 weekends per year. Read more