Home Outdoor education Outdoor Leadership Certificate Program Celebrates First Graduate – VCU News

Outdoor Leadership Certificate Program Celebrates First Graduate – VCU News


Gillian Fitzgerald has always loved the outdoors and had a passion for education. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Fitzgerald works as a student for the university’s outdoor adventure program. This month, she becomes the first graduate of VCU’s Outdoor Leadership Certificate Program.

“I didn’t know you could do both at the same time until you came to VCU,” said Fitzgerald, who is majoring in English and majoring in environmental studies. “I hope to continue to grow as an outdoor educator through both recreational guiding and mentoring young people in an outdoor setting.

The Outdoor Leadership Certificate is the result of years of collaboration between VCU’s Outdoor Adventure Program and the Center for Environmental Studies. The Outdoor Leadership Certificate was officially approved and launched in fall 2021.

Students of any major can declare the certificate.

“We have everyone from business and engineering to sculpture and environmental studies taking the Outdoor Leadership Certificate courses,” said Karl Schmidt, Outdoor Adventure Program Coordinator. at the Division of Student Affairs, Recreation and Welfare. “That said, the Outdoor Adventure program was intentional in working with the Center for Environmental Studies to offer this certificate because we felt there would be a lot of natural cross-pollination since the subject complements each other so well.”

Students in the program complete 12 credits of core coursework – outdoor leadership, outdoor programming and event management, outdoor team building and facilitation, and wilderness first responder.

Students participate in a variety of field experiences as part of certain courses. (Courtesy of the Outdoor Adventure Program)

Students enter these classes with a wide variety of goals, outdoor experience levels and desired outcomes, Schmidt said.

“Some students are drawn to the outdoor adventure angle, others gravitate towards leadership development. The beauty of outdoor leadership as a field of study is the amount of direct and indirect transfer students receive as they progress professionally,” he said.

VCU junior Nicolas Lopez has acquired a broad base of skills through the Outdoor Leadership Certificate program.

“What’s taught applies to everything you do in life,” said Lopez, who is majoring in environmental leadership and historical archeology in University College’s Interdisciplinary Studies.

He hopes to turn the knowledge he has acquired into a career.

“This certification shows that you already have good knowledge in outdoor spaces. This can lead to a better starting salary or a starting position for future jobs. Even if you’re not entering the outdoor industry, all the skills learned in these courses can be applied to other careers and life in general,” he said.

Fitzgerald, the program’s first graduate, describes the classes as extremely rewarding.

“I had the opportunity to learn more about the hidden aspects of outdoor education, to meet a variety of people with different careers and backgrounds in outdoor leadership and to develop and practice my own leadership style among my peers,” she said.

Interested students can learn more about the certificate and apply here.