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Southern Oregon University

The Department of Health, Physical Education and Leadership (HPEL) offers a BA/BS in Outdoor Adventure Leadership (OAL). For information about OAL contact Adam Elson at 541-552-6857 ( or Erik Sol at 541-552-8037 (

The Outdoor Adventure Leadership program has been designed from an integrative perspective offering comprehensive coursework in outdoor leadership, outdoor recreation management, adventure planning, tourism, risk management, stewardship, conservation, and preservation. The curriculum will help prepare students for a variety of certification opportunities in the outdoor recreation profession including Avalanche I (Forest Service), Leave No Trace Instructor, Swift Water Rescue (ACA), Open Water Diver (PADI), Introductory Canoe and Kayak Instructor (ACA), Wilderness First Responder (WSI), Safe Serve, Challenge Course Facilitator, and the National Recreation and Parks Association Certified Parks and Recreation Professional certification. Graduates from this program will be prepared to pursue studies in higher education and/or vocational pursuits in the areas of adventure services, outdoor recreation leadership and management, tourism, camp management, parks and recreation services, guide services, adult and youth recreation, adventure programming, etc.

The curriculum is offered through the HPEL department. Detailed information about the courses for both the major and the minor is available below.

A Growing Field in a Spectacular Region

There is growing opportunity to work in this field. The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) declares that "participation in outdoor activities is at an all-time high" and that "69% of the population age 16 and over participated in an outdoor activity during each of the last two years" (2003). Two-thirds of Americans participate in outdoor recreational activities monthly, up from 50% five years earlier, according to Outdoor Recreation in America (1999). This indicates a growing trend in the field of Outdoor Recreation.

We are now one of only two regional OUS institutions offering a program in outdoor recreation (OAL).

The program provides for transferability from regional and national institutions offering coursework and/or associate degrees in related fields. This program would be particularly beneficial to the many 2-year institutions in our region that offer coursework in outdoor recreation, AAOT programs, or offer an associate degree in outdoor recreation or related fields (Rogue Community College, RCC; Umpqua Community College, UCC; Southwest Oregon Community College, SOCC; Central Oregon Community College, COCC; Klamath Community College, KCC; Mt. Hood Community College, MHCC; Feather River Community College, FRCC, etc.).

SOU operates under permits issued by the Klamath National Forest.
SOU is an equal opportunity service provider.

Check out our region! Work and play in the Southwest Oregon.

  • Proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
  • Access to a large number of rivers and extended seasonal whitewater opportunities.
  • Optimal climate for “all-season” experiential based learning.
  • Convenient access to several local mountain regions and lush interior valleys, national parks and monuments
    (Siskiyou, Klamath, Marble, Trinity Alps, Russian and Cascade Mountains, Klamath Basin, Rogue Valley,
    Valley of the Rogue State Park, Oregon Caves, Lassen National Park, Crater Lake National Park,
    Kalmiopsis Wilderness, etc.).
  • Opportunities for study at the Deer Creek Center for Field Research and Crater Lake Science and Learning Center.

Jobs in outdoor recreation

  • Recreation Leader or Superintendent
  • Recreation Specialist or Supervisor
  • Recreation Programmer
  • Special Events Planner
  • Military Recreation Director
  • Director of Parks and Recreation
  • Recreation Center Director
  • Natural Resources Manager
  • Correctional Recreation Director
  • Community Recreation/Recreational Sports Director
  • Therapeutic Recreation Director
  • Leisure and Fitness Director for the Elderly
  • Wilderness Expedition Director
  • Rafting/Mountaineering Guide
  • Ski Instructor
  • Travel and Tour Director
  • Resort, Hotel, Motel Manager
  • Camp Director

Interested but can’t declare OAL as a major? Check out our Minor in Outdoor Adventure Leadership

Coursework for SOUs major in Outdoor Adventure Leadership 

 Lower Division and Pre-Requisites:  
 HE 325 Nutrition 4
 HE 250 Health and Society 4
 OAL 252 Wilderness First Aid/CPR 3
 MS 223 Land Navigation 2

Take one of the following:


Introduction to Environmental Studies: Earth Science
Introduction to Environmental Studies: Biological Science
Introduction to Environmental Studies: Social Science
Intro. to Geographical Methodology: The Rogue Valley

 OAL 250 Foundations in Outdoor Adventure Leadership 3
 OAL 275 Adventure Based Facilitation (prereq. PE 194) 3
 PE 194 Professional Activities: Outdoor Rec. & Rhythms 2
 *Activity Classes  
 *Land (Choose 3):  
 PE 180 Rock Climbing I, II                1
 PE  180 Rock Climbing III Instructor Development  (Spring only) 1
 PE 180 Mountaineering I, II   (Winter only)  
 PE     180 Skiing/Snowboarding   (Winter only) 1
 PE 180 Ski/Snowboard Maintenance   (Winter only)  
 PE 180 Hiking/Backpacking   (Spring only) 1
 PE 180 Mountain Biking  (Spring only) 1
 PE  180    Bicycle Maintenance   (Winter only) 1
 OAL  290 Challenge Course Facilitation 2
 *Water (Choose 3):  
 PE 180 Whitewater Activities  I, II   (Spring only) 1
 PE 180 Sea Kayaking  I, II   (Spring only) 1
 PE 180 Whitewater Kayaking  I, II   (Fall only) 1
 PE 180 Fly Fishing  I, II   (Fall only) 1
 PE 234 Scuba Diving  3
 PE 236 Advanced Scuba Diving  (Fall & Spring only) 2
 PE 298 Lifeguard Certification   (Fall & Spring only) 2
 PE/OAL 410 Swiftwater Rescue Technician I   (Fall only) 2
 PE/OAL 410 Technical Ropes Rescue   (Winter only) 2
 PE/OAL 410 Swiftwater Rescue Techn. Advanced   (Spring only) 2
     6 - 9
 Upper Division:  
 OAL 362 Outdoor Recreation Programming and the Environment (prereq OAL 250) 3
 OAL 375 Advanced Techniques in Adventure Leadership (prereq OAL 250 and PE 275) 3
 OAL 425 Program Evaluation (research component; prereq Math 243) 3
 OAL 444 History of the Pacific Northwest Wilderness (writing component; prereq USEM 103) 3
 PE 372 Kinesiology 3
 OAL 309 Practicum in Outdoor Adventure and  Leadership min. 3
 OAL 409 Practicum in Outdoor Adventure and  Leadership min. 3
 PE/OAL 430 Outdoor Survival 3
 OAL 443 Senior Capstone 3
 PE 470 Environmental Physiology 3
 HE 331 Environmental Health 3
 BA 312 Hospitality and Tourism Marketing or 3/4
 BI 386 Forest Ecology and Management
     Total of 65-68
 Recommended Courses:  
 OAL 370 Therapeutic Recreation 3
 ECON 399  Economics of Tourism 4
 BA 310 Hotel and Motel Operations 4
 BA  311 Food and Beverage Management (Safe Serve certificate) 4
 BA 211/213 Financial and Management Accounting 4-8
 Psych 438 Group Dynamics 4