After filing government paperwork and months of waiting, Southern Utah University has officially trademarked the University of the Parks. By incorporating SUU’s academic offerings and its geographic location, the University of the Parks designation sets SUU apart and promotes a unique proposition for students interested in the outdoors and experiencing hands-on learning outside of the classroom.
SUU is a dynamic teaching and learning community where students, faculty and staff immerse themselves in, and are inspired by, the diverse and stunning natural landscape of southern Utah. Professors make the most of SUU’s location by using it to enhance educational experiences and foster lifelong learning.
Many academic departments have incorporated outdoor learning into the curriculum such as the Jumpstart GE program, Rural Health Scholars, geology, biology, fine arts, environmental psychology, anthropology, film studies and outdoor recreation to name just a few. Through high impact teaching methods students have the opportunity to get outside the four walls of a classroom and put theory into practice. SUU professors recognize the benefits of the outdoors and realize students retain abstract concepts from a textbook when it can be applied to real situations and problems. In this way, students are engaged through their sensory experiences in addition to their intellect.
Taking students outside not only gives them rich educational experiences, but it can greatly improve their overall well-being. Kelly Goonan, program director for Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism, points out the many benefits students gain from the outdoors. “Time spent outdoors helps reduce stress, increases your sense of emotional well-being, encourages better physical health, helps retain information and rejuvenates us, which causes productivity and happiness in other areas of life.”
With more than 20 National Parks, Monuments, and Recreation Areas within a five-hour drive of campus, SUU is the perfect basecamp for adventurers of all kinds. Capitalizing on the geographical location, SUU offers free weekly trips for students regardless of their major. Trips include climbing, backpacking, caving, skiing, paddle boarding, snowshoeing and mountain biking. SUU Outdoors provides meaningful adventures for students in a safe, engaging environment.
Students also have the opportunity to live and study in Bryce Canyon National Park. “Semester in the Parks” creates a once-in-a-lifetime experience for students where they spend a full semester in Bryce Canyon taking 18 credits from experienced faculty on-site with classes that include outdoor recreation, communication, biology and library science. The program is designed to provide immersion in the parks for students who are already comfortable with the university experience and want an off-campus opportunity.
With the variety of outdoor related areas of study and recreational opportunities, students find many ways to turn their passion into a career. Partnering with local land agencies and the park service, SUU established the Intergovernmental Internship Corporation (IIC) in 2007. The IIC placed over 300 students in internships last year in a wide range of fields including resource management, trail maintenance, accounting, forestry, communication and hospitality. Internships such as these not only help students develop a relationship with the land, but they gain valuable skills employers are looking for such as teamwork, problem solving, stewardship and leadership.
SUU is committed to giving students every opportunity to explore their natural surroundings and excel outside of the classroom. Whether students get involved academically, recreationally or through volunteer efforts, their opportunities are endless at the University of the Parks.