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Find Your Niche at Kennedy Mountain Campus

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Curt Olson


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KMC Mountain Climbing

The University of Denver’s Kennedy Mountain Campus helps students experience Colorado’s outdoors. It’s also helping students who are interested in working in the outdoor industry by offering several certification and one-credit-hour classes to enhance their leadership credentials.

“A big reason students come to DU and Colorado is for the outdoor activities,” says Nathan Page, assistant director of The Outdoor Experience and Programs at Kennedy Mountain Campus (KMC). While there is a fee for the classes—which include Wildlife First Aid and First Responder and Leave No Trace Awareness—it’s usually nominal. Those that require a larger fee are offered to students at a steep discount compared to what it would cost them to take the same classes through a private organization.

An important part of KMC is the Outdoor Leadership Lab (OLL), which trains students to lead in the outdoors and in life. The OLL course combines classroom time on the DU campus supplemented by learning outdoor skills at KMC.

OLL graduates can be hired to be Outdoor Peer Mentors, who help guide DU students on outdoor activities at KMC. The peer mentor program, which is run by The Outdoor Experience, recently hired its first three students and will be hiring more.

Ty Hoagland, a 20-year-old international business major from Plymouth, Minn., graduated from OLL last spring and is one of the three hires.

“Going in, I didn’t really know what to expect,” he says of OLL, “but I enjoyed it a lot. I really learned a lot, how to help other people experience the outdoors and how to be a leader in that setting. It was nice to get to spend some time with a group of people I grew to respect,” referring to his instructors, Page and Matt Jensen, director of The Outdoor Experience and Programs at KMC.

The Outdoor Leadership Lab aligns with the wellness and character components of DU’s 4D Student Experience. “We work on emotional intelligence for leaders and situational leadership,” Page says. Leadership development is not one size fits all, he adds. “We look for a style that resonates with their backgrounds and personality, what makes them unique culturally or any other facet of their identity,” he says.

Wilderness First Responder

Tess Carson, another hire, says she picked up leadership skills when she earned her Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification last spring. That class, along with Wilderness First Aid, are offered at KMC. Page recommends Wilderness First Aid, also a certificate class, for anyone who participates in outdoor activities that takes them away from traditional emergency services—trail runners, climbers, mountain bikers, and backcountry users like skiers, snowshoers or backpackers.

Carson, a 20-year-old sophomore from Park City, Utah, used her skills over the summer working as a raft guide on the Weber River in Utah, as well as leading backpacking trips. Page says WFR certification usually is a requirement for anyone leading overnight, multi-day trips. “It prepared me to educate and lead people on the river,” she says.

Carson, a geographic information science major, had a different motivation for taking the class. “In my personal life, I end up in the backcountry a lot, and I wanted to be prepared for things that could happen,” she says. The course includes diagnosing medical problems and care for severe injuries, like severed limbs and traumatic brain injury. She wants to be prepared to help those with her, if needed.

Hoagland had a similar motivation. “Now, when I go into the backcountry, I can be a contributing member of those I’m with who contributes to safe decisions.” He likes that the class emphasizes enjoyment, not how good a person is at a particular skill. “The outdoors is part of my life, and I feel very strongly everyone should be able to enjoy the outdoors.”

KMC Rock Climbing

Both Hoagland and Carson came to DU with a moderate amount of experience in the outdoors —climbing, hiking, backpacking and rafting. However, whether someone is a beginner or more advanced, Page says the certifications provide a valuable experience to all students. “It’s nice to have folks with a broad spectrum experience,” he says. “The more variety of experience in a class, the more interesting it is.”

The programming at KMC also offers something different students that they can’t get on DU’s urban campus.

“I think in college we can get stuck in a rut,” Carson says. “It can be kind of hard to get out and experience something new like this, and I think if more kids did, they would really enjoy it. You meet so many kids who are interested in things like you, and you’re bonding in the outdoors, which is great.”

Who should take these courses?

Wilderness First Aid (certified) – Any outdoor enthusiast. This is where you start; it’s a prerequisite for any outdoor leader. Most land agencies require staff guiding on their public land to have taken this. 

Wilderness First Responder (certified) – Much more advanced than first aid, anyone can take it. It is the standard level of medical training for outdoor professionals. It’s usually required for anyone working multiple day/overnight trips.

Outdoor Leadership Lab (1 credit) – Designed for a beginner looking to start the outdoor journey or someone more experienced who wants to expand their facilitation skills. If you want to work in an outdoor job where one person is in charge of a larger group, this is for you.

Leave No Trace Awareness Course (content changes with the season) Anyone interested in furthering their understanding of outdoor ethics.

Trainer Course (1 credit) – This is for the more experienced backcountry user who wants to share his/her understanding of outdoor ethics.

To learn more and register for any of the certification programs, please click here.

To learn more and register for any of the skill building classes, please click here.

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