Dr. Kelly Goonan developed a passion for the outdoors while working at summer camp in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. For ten summers during her high school and college years, she worked at the Boy Scout camp, Sabattis Scout Reservation. Her duties included teaching outdoor skills such as swimming, snorkeling and lifeguard certification and taking scouts on wilderness trips.
While deciding on a career path, Goonan’s environmental studies professor showed a picture of himself and a colleague conducting campsite impact assessments on National Forest lands. She was immediately enchanted by the idea that she could get paid to spend time outdoors, in beautiful places, helping manage public lands. She went on to earn a Master of Natural Resources degree from the University of Vermont, and earned a Ph.D. in Human Dimensions of Ecosystem Science and Management from Utah State University. When Goonan saw an outdoor teaching position open at SUU, she knew it was exactly what she wanted to do.
Goonan teaches the following classes:
- HONR 2040 Honors Inquiry and Analysis
- ORPT 2040 Americans in the Outdoors
- ORPT 3030 Recreation Resources Management
- ORPT 3060 Behavioral Aspects of Outdoor Recreation
- ORPT 4030 Interdisciplinary Outdoor Education
- ORPT 4500 Recreation Ecology
- ORPT 4740 Organization and Administration for ORPT and lab
- ORPT 4860 Outdoor Recreation Skills Practicum
Goonan is a Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism (ORPT) at SUU. A self-described “hybrid recreation ecologist/recreation social scientist,” her expertise is in management of outdoor recreation in parks and protected areas. She is passionate about providing students with opportunities for hands-on experiential learning and self-discovery in the outdoors.
“I hope my students gain an appreciation for the complexity of managing outdoor spaces for a variety of uses and users,” said Goonan. “I do my best so they can leave class with a tool kit of frameworks, techniques and knowledge they use to address the questions that will confront them as outdoor recreation professionals.”
As a professor, her primary goals are to inspire curiosity and passion in her students, encourage them to explore and develop their passions, and help them share it with others. In her classes, she likes to challenge students to consider perspectives different than their own when it comes to the outdoors, and to grapple with problems or questions related to outdoor resource management.
Goonan also teaches for Semester in the Parks, an SUU program where students can earn up to 18 general education credits in classes taught on-site at Bryce Canyon National Park. Students live at Ruby’s Inn, right outside the entrance of the park, and meet in the park or at nearby public lands locations for class. In addition to coursework, students learn a variety of outdoor skills and gain valuable in-the-field experience.
“Semester in the Parks students are immersed in the history, ecology, politics, and use of an iconic national landscape,” said Goonan. “This means they are physically confronted with the issues we discuss on a daily basis. You just cannot recreate this kind of experience in a classroom.”
Her favorite experiences at SUU include when she went canyoneering with her recreation ecology class to measure recreation-related impacts in the canyon and taking freshmen on their first trip to the Grand Canyon. She also loves talking with students about their goals, learning from them and seeing them progress from start to finish in their academic program.
“I always say I have the best job in the world,” Goonan said, “and I really do mean it.”