University Of Colorado Taps Into Surging Outdoor Recreation Interest With New Degree

Walking the dogs at Boulder Reservoir
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Walking the dogs at Boulder Reservoir, Monday, May 18, 2018.

As young, mid and mature career professionals eye their next move in an economy shaken by COVID-19, the University of Colorado will soon have a new option: a masters of science in outdoor recreation economy.

At a lower price of $725 per credit hour, the completely virtual program is geared toward prospective students who want to transition to a new career, program director Joel Hartter said.

“We wanted to and we do provide opportunities for students that are amid their professional career, looking to transition into new career opportunities, looking to come into the outdoor industry,” Hartter said. 

The University of Colorado Boulder is well-positioned to host the program with the Outdoor Retailer Show and VF Corporation now in Denver. But Hartter said students will look beyond how to build the next lightweight jacket and into how supply chains can be made more sustainable, why public lands policies matter for outdoor recreation and how to help build outdoor recreation communities that are resilient and more diverse.

“We believe that the outdoor recreation economy is much bigger than an industry,” Hartter said. “We’re looking at ways to change, promote and create access for people of all kinds through innovative policy on public lands and waterways.”

Professional environmental degree programs have seen an enrollment boost since President Donald Trump was elected in 2016. While job placement has slowed some amid COVID-19, Hartter said program job placement rate in the adjacent CU Masters of the Environment degree program is at 89 percent.

“We think our students are well-positioned to be able to react and adapt to the things that are happening,” Hartter said.