Dr. Briget Eastep, Southern Utah University’s Director of Outdoor Engagement, began her career as an outdoor educator in 1991 as a Ranger at Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico. She is now an associate professor for outdoor recreation who works with campus and community partners to broaden opportunities in service learning and experiential education. Under her tutelage students gain involvement and leadership skills while giving back to their local public lands.
Eastep received her Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism from the University of Utah in 2004 and previously studied in the University of New Mexico and Cornell College. She began teaching at SUU in 2006 and teaches the following classes:
EDGE 3050 Outdoor Project Proposal and Planning
EDGE 4050 Outdoor Project Reporting and Reflection
ORPT 2000 Leave No Trace Trainer
ORPT 4860 Outdoor Recreation Skills Practicum
ORPT 4900 Senior Seminar
She helped found the Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative (IIC) in 2007, which has since placed thousands of students in internships with regional and public lands. The IIC places more students into successful internships out of any participating university and partners with 19 federal and state land agencies, the Paiute Tribe, and SUU to place students into employment, internship, and volunteer positions.
Eastep also developed SUU’s Adventure Orientation, co-created and implemented the University’s EDGE program (which requires students to complete a capstone project), and has been monitoring recreation impacts for Red Cliff Desert Reserve and the Arizona Strip.
“I believe in learning by doing,” said Eastep. “I strive to offer educational opportunities that connect my students to their community, the natural world, and their future careers. If we do our jobs as outdoor recreation professionals, our society will value the wild outdoors and go there for rejuvenation, challenge, and to become better people. At SUU we’ve created many avenues for the SUU community to connect to the outdoors for recreation, skill development, career development, and to become better people. If my students are successful, I’ll feel successful.”
Eastep was recognized this year as a recipient of the 2016 Director’s Partnership Award for her work with the IIC. The Director’s Partnership Award is a distinguished honor from Jonathan B. Jarvis, director of the National Park Service. She has received more than 15 other awards and honors for her work in Outdoor Engagement.
“I love what I do,” said Eastep. “If you ask my brother, he says I have a Ph.D. in camping.”
In the past 25 years she has spent over 400 days in the backcountry training and educating students. She enjoys rafting, skiing, and backpacking with family and friends. Her work in the community, public lands, and at SUU have helped shape and create a more “hands on” learning environment for thousands of people.