Did you know UAS students just completed a 10-day expedition across Juneau’s Icefield?

June 13, 2023

Did you know students at the University of Alaska Southeast just completed a 10-day expedition across Juneau’s Icefield while earning college credit?

The Expedition: The expedition is the Field Expedition course, a major requirement of the UAS Outdoor Studies (ODS) program. After weathering a storm early on, the group enjoyed ideal spring glacier conditions, climbing, and skiing a variety of peaks on and around the Taku Range, including mountains Snowdrift, Rhino, and Emperor. 

What is Outdoor Studies? ODS is an intensive humanities program at UAS that helps students develop skills essential to success as a leader in outdoor and adventure settings, and better understand the human relationship to the natural world. You can find similar programs at UAF and UAA.

  • ODS students learn how to act responsively in the backcountry, taking courses on rock and ice climbing, backcountry skiing and snowboarding, and mountaineering, as well as swift-water rescue and wilderness medicine. These courses often require full-day and multi-day outings. 

  • The program incorporates outdoor risk management, leadership skills, specific outdoor activity skills, and academic work. The combination of outdoor and academic courses is designed to develop skills of self-reliance and good judgment in diverse settings.

  • Each student has their own reason to pursue the program, whether they aim to become outdoor professionals, are curious about better understanding the natural world, or simply want to achieve more general goals related to personal development and leadership. Program options include a two-semester intensive certificate program, a four-year bachelor program, or a minor.

The Big Picture: People from all over the world travel to Alaska because we have some of the best opportunities for outdoor recreation in the country. Tourism is Alaska’s third largest economic driver, and the individuals who guide excursions are experienced in everything from mountaineering and backcountry survival to group communication and emergency management.

The Economics: In 2019, tourism was the second-largest private sector employer in the state. Outdoor recreation accounts for 6.4% of the jobs in the state and is a 2.2 billion dollar industry (Alaska Travel Industry Association). 

  • The vast network of outdoor recreation businesses across Alaska are still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These outdoor degree programs provide the training and resources for this workforce to continue to rebuild.

  • Summer 2023 tourism workforce in leisure and hospitality is projected to gain 1,400 job openings. 

  • Study here, stay here - Students who attend college in Alaska are more likely to stay in Alaska. These programs draw future outdoor recreation leaders from around the world because of their ideal location here in Alaska.

The Bottom Line: What better way to Empower Alaska than by training and educating the next generation of outdoor leaders? It’s clear - these outdoor education students are an essential component of our economy.

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