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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

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The course enables students to participate in adventures including a canoeing trip on the Colorado River. The course enables students to participate in adventures including a canoeing trip on the Colorado River.

Off the Beaten Course: RTM 489

A unique course explores the realms of adventure programming and outdoor leadership.

Off the Beaten Course is a series that delves into SDSU's course catalog to share unique and non-traditional classes.

Course title: Recreation and Tourism Management — RTM 489 Outdoor Leadership and Adventure Programming
Professor: Jim Lustig

Jim Lustig is the coordinator for the Aztec Adventures Outdoor Program for Aztec Recreation. He is the advisor for the San Diego State University Climbing Club and helps advise the Recreation and Tourism Student Association.

1) What inspired you to create this course?

In my first years of employment with SDSU, I learned that our Outdoor Resource Management emphasis did a great job teaching and professionally preparing students for careers as park planning and policy makers, environmental and cultural interpreters or park naturalists, outdoor educators, park rangers and summer camp administrators, to name just a few.

However, we offered very little in the way of adventure programming and outdoor leadership.  I felt we were missing an opportunity to expose our recreation and tourism majors to a very important and growing sector of the outdoor profession. Annually, the adventure programming field in the U.S. alone is a multi-billion dollar economy.

I wanted to attract more students to our Aztec Adventures Outdoor program where they could continue to put classroom learning into real professional practice leading adventure trips on a year-round basis.

2) What can students expect to learn from this course?

I place a big emphasis on an appreciation and understanding of judgment based decision making. When taking a group into the wilderness, an outdoor leader must be able to confidently make decisions, often complex, based on sound judgment. So many factors are ever changing such as itinerary, weather, group dynamics, terrain and time of day, that an outdoor leader must be ever vigilant and prepared for both the best and worst possibilities.

Students are also required to participate in a weekend wilderness field trip through Aztec Adventures where they can experience the content of the class “in real life.”

3) What makes this course different from similar courses?

No other course in our curriculum is similar. I will say that many students enroll in the course with enthusiasm for learning outdoor survival skills. Unfortunately, I have to disappoint by letting them know that good outdoor leaders are always preparing to avoid the survival situation.  I enjoy T.V. survival shows as much as anyone, but in a real crisis there is no fun, entertainment or romance — only stress, frustration and fear.

4) Is there one day on the syllabus for this course you most look forward to? If so, why?

I enjoy the second class meeting. I provide a backpacking trip scenario where the group comes to a stream at the end of a long physical day on the trail that is swollen from snow melt and rainfall. I have each student assume the trip leader role, and make a decision based on what they identify as the biggest problem. We then break up into small pairs as if we are a leadership team and begin again looking for further clarity or calamity.

We use a decision-making model where we better identify the problem through clarification and analysis of such things as facts, assumptions, constraints, values and dynamics. It’s a fun activity that allows most students to confront their inexperience as an outdoor leader and sets the tone for the rest of the semester. In case you are wondering, there are always a few students that are willing to risk life and limb to get to the other side of the stream. Don’t worry, I show them the error of their ways.

5) What’s your favorite thing about teaching this course?

Of all the courses I am fortunate to teach within the recreation and tourism management curriculum, Outdoor Leadership & Adventure Programming is my favorite because I am able to share both my professional and personal passions. Because the title of the class is also my livelihood, establishing rapport and credibility with my students comes quickly. In addition, telling real life stories and providing timely anecdotes always enhances the textbook reading and other assignments.

6) Any other thoughts?

I often feel that we need an additional lower division course that is more introductory to the outdoor leadership profession.  Many of our students take 489 in their senior year missing out on the opportunity to get involved with Aztec Adventures or a similar program where they can further learn the skills and abilities necessary to pursue a career in this field.

Have an interesting course? Contact the SDSU Marketing and Communications team to share your story.