Suggested Master of Arts in Wilderness Leadership:
A Forty (40) Unit Program
The purpose of this program is to fully prepare the participant to become an active member of the professional wilderness leadership programs now currently in existence in the United States and abroad. Participants that have completed the program will have the skills and knowledge needed to successfully create, establish, and direct their own independent wilderness programs with some kind of inter-program quality assurance. All courses are required, with the exception of one (l) 4 unit elective.
An outline of the eight (8) courses, one of which is taken twice, plus the elective follows:
Course: Survey of Professional Wilderness Education Programs (4 units)--This course explores the major features of seven (7) different wilderness programs. Included in the evaluation of these programs are skills emphasized and taught, course difficulty, age/sex grouping, balance of group/individual time spent, etc. Sample courses from Outward Bound, N.O.L.E.S., School of Lost Borders, and other "Vision Quest"-oriented programs are evaluated. Students individually design a course/program that includes factors from each of the 7 programs studied and submit this as a term project.
Course: The Business of Wilderness Leadership (4 units)-- This course focuses on the business, legal, financial, and ethical aspects of wilderness work. Includes how to set up a program of one's own, marketing, networking, personnel management, incorporation and outside investment, taxes, licensing, information gathering, government agencies (federal, state, county, and local) and private foundations involved with wilderness and environmental education, standards for wilderness work, organizational development and sustenance, international travel concerns (passports, visas, permits, medical concerns) and working in the global village.
Course: Physical Fitness Training and First Aid in the Wilderness (4 units)--This course focuses on health, safety, and emergency medical procedures to effectively deal with possible wilderness dangers, and to learn techniques and attitudes to prevent such accidents. Includes practice and theory of several different approaches to body building and fitness training, such as aerobics, yoga, tai chi, aikido, weight training, and others. There will also be an investigation into common pharmacological considerations regarding participant medication needs (vocabulary and physiological action of common over-the-counter and some prescription medicines). In addition, a forum for consideration of issues regarding sex and sexuality, infectious diseases, parasites, and other wilderness trip related health concerns will be offered as a group discussion on a regular basis throughout the course. Participants will become Red-Cross certified in First Aid and Cardio-Pulminary Resuscitation (CPR).
Course: Group Process Workshop (4 units)-- This class will focus on meetings facilitation skills, group communication, roles of participants in group activities, planning sessions, negotiation techniques, conflict resolution theory and practice, and practical solutions to working with difficult individuals and/or non-cooperative group situations. Participants will each have an opportunity to act as group facilitator during one or more class meetings.
Course: Counseling and Interpersonal Skills (4 units)-- This course explores emotional and intellectual challenges to human relations. Basic interpersonal communication skills are taught with an emphasis on crisis and pathology management. Participants learn to become "skilled helpers" and will develop an important set of skills that will enable them to become more empathic and effective wilderness leaders and group participants, as well as more self-aware and possessing greater self-esteem. Co-counseling practice among all participants is required.
Course: Culture and Personality (4 units)-- This course explores the basics of child development and the building of social relations. The influence of society and culture upon the personality is the main area of concern. The formation of values and beliefs, personality change and stability, and issues of personal transformation are considered within the context of modern and traditional cultures, and post-industrial, commerce-oriented economies and their interface with developing nations. The course will hopefully inspire a respect for the diversity of both individuals and cultures. Participants will gain a better understanding of the influence society and culture have upon their personalities, and will learn to apply such understanding to wilderness leadership in both domestic and foreign situations.
Course: Wilderness Environments (4 units)-- This practical course involves a survey of seven (7) different ecological zones, or environments, where wilderness trips are likely to take place. Includes such considerations as survival techniques, peculiar and common challenges encountered, climate and meteorological events, and other related factors. Two (2) weeks are spent on each of the 7 zones, including desert, mountain, coastal, forest, swamp/jungle, grasslands, and glacial/snow/winter environments. Participants will be prepared to encounter a wide variety of environmental situations and to deal with them effectively, alone and in groups.
Course: Wilderness Leadership: Practice and Theory of Planning and Executing Group Wilderness Trips (4 units, taken twice for a total of 8 units to graduate)-- Weekly meetings involve all participants in the design, planning and carrying out of a 10-14 day/night wilderness trip. All aspects of the trip will be covered, including diet, exercise, democratic assignment of tasks. development of leadership skills, and special group processes and dynamics. Two (2) students from each class will be designated as nominal leaders. Each program graduate will have acted as "leader" during at least one trip, but two trip leadership experiences are strongly preferred. (It is assumed that not all trip participants will be in the degree program. Additional trips may be formed to allow all program graduation candidates the opportunity to lead as least one trip.) Course includes exercises in survival skills, map and compass work, journal keeping, and additional communication skill practice (i.e., consensus process, simple speaking, verbalizing emotions, etc.). This is the “core course,” along with the three courses on different programs, wilderness environments, and physical fitness/safety.
Course: Elective (4 units)-- Any area of interest is acceptable so long as it relates to the practice, theory and process of becoming and being an effective and balanced leader of group wilderness trips, as a qualified professional. Examples may include courses in art, music, group or individual therapy, anthropology, native American studies, economics, ecology, botany, biology, environmental sciences, sociology, history, or whatever area of academic or individual study most passionately interests the program participant. Additional electives may be added at the discretion of the student/participant and that person's advisory committee.
This 40 unit program should take at least two (2) academic years, or four (4) semesters. With slight modification, this program can fit in with the ten (10) week quarter period, or with a thirteen (13) week term. Because of the reliance upon unpredictable seasonal changes that may affect actual trips, participants are urged to allow two (2) full years to complete the program satisfactorily. The author-creator does not recommend pursuing this degree at Sonoma State University because of certain unavoidable bureaucratic contingencies.
To all future participants: Good Luck and don't give up!!!!!