News Items - Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education
Mitch Hoffman challenges his fellow members to reframe the impact of their outdoor programs in terms of wellness outcomes.

As outdoor educators, we all know the myriad benefits being outside provides to students, staff, and the greater communities we are connected to. But our programs are about much more than physical activity, healthy competition, and skills building. Within our recreation centers we reach people differently, offering space for social, emotional, physical, and spiritual growth through the activities we lead. Time and time again, we see these experiences bolster people’s confidence, foster learning and growth, and ultimately, provide a sense of belonging in a way that is unique to our field. However, leadership at higher learning institutions often don’t understand that what we provide isn’t simply a backpacking, climbing, or paddling trip.
Luckily, there is great potential for this dynamic to change in the future. Wellness is the buzz word right now on college campuses. You hear the term everywhere. Many of your facilities and departments likely even have wellness in their name, as they do here at the University of Minnesota. We are always looking for better ways to articulate to what we do and how we do it. And the current wellness trend might be the very key to advocating for our work and elevating the visibility of our programs.
When you think about it, wellness has always been at the heart of the experiences we deliver whether we’ve realized it or not. We must articulate this connection to administrators and decision-makers, leveraging wellness as a platform to justify the impact of our work both on campus and at a national level as an association. I truly believe that framing our work within the wellness lens will also allow us to move beyond the comfortable bubble of outdoor recreation. And it is this unified message that will ensure we are a part of conversations that impact the greater outdoor industry as a whole.
I encourage you to look at the wellness campaign at your university and sculpt your program messaging so they fit together more seamlessly. Use your department's wellness initiatives as a guide when developing your strategic plan or re-envisioning your program model, for example. Incorporate language that aligns the work of your department with that of the larger institution to help leadership better understand your program outcomes and become more invested in seeing them succeed in the long run.
We know how amazing our programs and staff are at affecting individuals' lives in a positive way, and now we need to make sure the rest of our university knows what we are doing as well. I look forward to hearing from others on how they are rising to this challenge!

This article was originally published in AORE’s March 2017 issue of Association News and was authored by AORE Member Mitch Hoffman.


Categories: Advocacy, College/University
Published: 03/29/19