WCU’s Parks and Recreation Management Program prepares students to serve as community recreation leaders or administrators, facility managers, camp staff and directors, outdoor activity instructors, adventure travel guides, environmental education naturalists, community health and wellness coordinators, aquatics directors, physical activity instructions and coordinators, park or forest rangers, recreation program directors, or staff positions with resorts and private clubs. A leading outdoors magazine featured WCU in 2014 and 2015 for winning an online poll to select the No. 1 outdoor adventure college in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Located near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two national forests, and a variety of water based recreation, WCU offers opportunities to gain experience with tourism-related parks and recreation programs and businesses, and in outdoor activities such as hiking, paddling, climbing and snowsports.
Coursework prepares students to administer, plan, lead and instruct outdoor and recreational programs and study topics from ethics and hazards connected with back-country pursuits to coordinating commercial recreation services. Students perform service work in the region and gain hands-on experience through internships at sites such as the Nantahala Outdoor Center or local recreation departments. In addition, students have an opportunity to earn nationally recognized certifications such as Wilderness First Aid for course credit. The WCU Parks and Recreation Management Club hosts social activities, assists with a community canoe slalom, and brings students together for activities from outdoor pursuits to trail maintenance. Students may choose to reside and study together in WCU’s Outdoor Adventure living and learning community, and participate in WCU’s Base Camp Cullowhee outdoor program trips.
Graduates go on to lead programs for parks and recreation or community organizations, manage facilities such as a college campus recreation center, or work as a camp counselor-director, resort recreation coordinator or instructor at programs such as Outward Bound or skiing or rafting companies. Some work as outdoor guides, conference organizers, park rangers, trail crewmembers or in administrative positions with tourism-related businesses. Still others may work as group exercise instructors, aquatics directors or health-wellness program coordinators.