Outdoor Recreation Studies

Montreat College’s outdoor recreation studies (ORS) program provides training and experience to teach adventure activities, team building, and environmental stewardship, all from a biblical worldview.

Training in the Outdoor Recreation Studies program goes beyond nature to cultivate essential skills. Students develop strong communication, problem-solving, and leadership abilities. Effective teamwork and adaptability are honed through organizing and guiding outdoor activities. The program also instills a commitment to environmental stewardship, aligning with the demand for sustainable practices in today’s job market and the importance of caring for God’s creation. These transferable skills serve as a solid foundation, opening doors to diverse career pathways.

Prepare to lead professionally in education, business and program administration, and ministry—all within the outdoors!

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Montreat College is located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, an internationally renowned destination for outdoor adventure and education.

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Join a flourishing industry, which generates $28 billion in consumer spending annually in the state of North Carolina.

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The Department of Labor projects a 16% growth in outdoor recreation job opportunities by 2030.


Conservation Law Enforcement

This concentration focuses on developing students who are interested in becoming federal, state, or county rangers with various governmental agencies. The main foci of this concentration include environmental knowledge, interpretation, and criminal justice. Students who begin the program with Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) will meet some of the requirements for this concentration.

Environmental Education

This concentration focuses on developing students as professional environmental educators/interpreters. The two main foci of this concentration include increasing environmental knowledge and mastering educational/interpretive techniques. The concentration includes all the requirements to be certified as a North Carolina Environmental Educator and an Environmental Interpreter through the National Association of Interpretation.

Outdoor Leadership and Adventure Education

This concentration focuses on the essential skills and practical experience needed to become competent and confident outdoor adventure leaders. Students will be prepared to make sound decisions and demonstrate effective risk management in a variety of outdoor environments. Students in this concentration should expect to receive a mixture of both traditional in-class instruction as well as opportunity for a variety of field experiences.

Outdoor Ministry

This concentration focuses on developing students with a strong ministry mind-set and prepares them to utilize the outdoor environment for evangelism and discipleship. This concentration is particularly suited to students who have a heart for ministry and see themselves providing life-shaping experiences at summer camps, Young Life camps, church retreats, and in ministry.

World-Class Facilities

Montreat College’s Team and Leadership Center (TLC) boasts a world-class high ropes course, climbing tower, low initiatives course, and outdoor pavilion.

Sample Courses

OREC 1130 Discovery Wilderness Expedition

An 18-22 day wilderness expedition that may include backpacking, rock climbing, whitewater canoeing, camping, route finding, a solo experience, and a personal challenge event. Through these experiences, students focus on individual and group development in four core areas: stewardship, discipleship, community, and leadership. Emphasis is on spiritual growth and Christian fellowship. A reflective paper will be required. Discovery is a physically challenging course but possible for participants in average physical condition. Challenge and risk are part of the teaching methodologies of the program, and although managed to provide as much safety as possible, all risks cannot be removed. Completion of OREC 1130 is required in the first year for ORS majors. Completion of OREC 1130 will fulfill one PE credit requirement. (Every spring semester). Fee.

OREC 3320 Environmental Policy and Law

A course designed to acquaint students with the history of natural resource management, agencies that manage public lands, and laws created to protect natural resources. Students will also explore policies of the United States government, and current agencies and laws that govern use or abuse of the environment. Students travel to Washington, DC as a part of this course. (Even spring semesters). Fee.

OREC 3222 Outdoor Programming and Leadership: Expedition Management

A wilderness leadership course which offers advanced instruction in leadership skills such as judgment and decision-making, group management, route and ration planning, land navigation, teaching and facilitation techniques, and risk management. Emphasis is on professional leadership development. Course includes a required backpacking trip. Pre-requisites: OREC 1130, OREC 2221 and OREC 2330 or permission of instructor. (Odd spring semesters). Fee.

Career Opportunities

  • Adventure and Environmental Educator
  • Outdoor Program Administrator
  • Outdoor and Expedition Trip Leader
  • Outdoor Recreation Industry Professional
  • National or State Park Ranger
  • Conservation Law Officer
  • Camp Director or Administrator
  • Outdoor Leader for Youth Ministry Programs
  • Wilderness Skills Instructor
  • Counselor for At-risk-youth or Wilderness Therapist
  • Challenge Course Facilitator


Dottie Shuman

Dr. Dottie Shuman
Professor of Outdoor Recreation Studies
Studies in Education and Outdoor Recreation
Faculty of Science and Human Services

Whitney Simms

Whitney Simms
Director of the Team and Leadership Center
Instructor of Outdoor Recreation Studies
Studies in Education and Outdoor Recreation
Faculty of Science and Human Services

Ryan Zwart

Dr. Ryan Zwart
Assistant Professor of Outdoor Recreation Studies
Studies in Education and Outdoor Recreation
Faculty of Science and Human Services

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Wetzel-Hagaman Awards

Description: The Wetzel-Hagaman Awards were established at Montreat College to prepare the next generation of Christian outdoor leaders and educators. Penny Hagaman and Jake Wetzel invested their lives in many Montreat students over the years. The ORS program established this award in their honor (see below).

Amount: Awards are for $2000 each ($1000 each semester) for incoming majors in ORS. Awards are only for the freshman/first year of study at Montreat College.

Number of awards: Up to ten awards will be given.

Application criteria: An application form and essay are required for each applicant.

Due date: The deadline for all applications and essays is April 1, 2024.

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