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.
Goonan was introduced to the study of Outdoor Recreation by a college professor.
“Toward the end of the semester he showed us a photo of himself and his colleague sea kayaking in Prince William Sound, AK conducting campsite impact assessments for the US Forest Service. That was the first time I realized Outdoor Recreation was something you could study. I decided that was what I wanted to do!”
Now a Assistant Professor of Outdoor Recreation and the Program Coordinator of Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism (ORPT) at Southern Utah University, 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
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.
“In general, people do not realize how much time and effort goes into providing the outdoor opportunities many of us enjoy. Recreation management requires a great deal of skill and finesse to find the proper balance of resource protection and visitor access for any given place.”
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. 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.”
Her proudest moment at SUU is helping students find their passion.
“I recently worked with a student who was trying out SUU after struggling at another university. The student did not think they were going to continue on with college after that semester, but then they got really excited about the things they were learning. Now the student is enrolled at SUU, has gotten involved in research with a faculty member on campus, asks about internships and other opportunities, and says they ‘want to learn everything!’ I am so proud of this student’s accomplishments, personal growth, how they overcame several barriers. It is indescribably rewarding to know that I helped them find their passion.”
Goonan loves talking with students about their goals, learning from them and seeing them progress from start to finish in their academic program.
“I consider most of my classes ‘one of my favorite classes to teach!’ but perhaps the most enjoyable one for me personally is teaching the Outdoor Education course. After covering the basics of education theory and approaches, I turn the class over to the students and they teach lessons to the whole group. I love watching the students’ skills and confidence grow over the course of the semester, and I always learn new things from them.”
Goonan also teaches for Semester in the Parks. Classes are 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. 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.”
“I love the opportunities SUU provides to engage in experiential education and work with community partners. The location and proximity to National Parks and other outstanding areas for outdoor recreation. I always say I have the best job in the world and I really do mean it.”