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Auburn Offers Degree For Career In The Outdoors
By Mike Bolton
Posted Wednesday August 1 2018, 9:48 AM
In 2019, Auburn University will begin offering a major called Wildlife Enterprise Management that will prepare students for a wide array of outdoors careers ranging from managing hunting and fishing lodges to being an outfitter.
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You say your high school senior just can’t decide on a college major that fits what he enjoys doing in life?

Does he love fishing? Does he love hunting?

Would a major that might involve both of those activities be right up his or her alley?

The Auburn University Board of Trustees has approved a new degree program called Wildlife Enterprise Management.

Beginning in the fall of 2019, Auburn will offer a major that will provide the education and skills needed for students to find careers in a wide variety of hunting- and fishing-related fields.

Auburn will be one of only two colleges offering such a program. Kansas State is the other.

The degree will include classes in wildlife and fishery management, hotel and restaurant management, accounting and marketing. The program will prepare students to manage hunting and shooting facilities, fishing and hunting resorts and fishing and hunting guide services. The major will also instruct students in the promotion of such  outdoors enterprises.

Under the program, students will graduate with a well-rounded education. They will take classes in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, the College of Human Sciences and the Harbert College of Business. In addition to a degree in those fields, students will also earn a minor in business.

“We hope to attract students from across the country as we bring the outdoors inside the classroom,” said Stephen Ditchkoff, a professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management in Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. “In five years, we anticipate 25 to 30 students in each incoming class for a total of around 120 students in the program.”

 Dr. Ditchkoff is also widely recognized for his research and expertise on white-tailed deer and Auburn’s Deer Lab.

Outdoors recreation is big business, not only in Alabama but across the United States and the world. The Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 report says outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion annually to the U.S. economy, employs 7.6 million people and generates $125 billion in tax revenues.

What would such a degree allow graduates to do? Single-owner hunting or fishing operations in the Southeast, corporate retreats that feature outdoor adventures and even African safari outfitters are all looking for employees to fill various roles, one Auburn official said.

“Graduates will hit the ground running with lodges, hunting preserves, fishing resorts, outdoor experience companies and many other types of consumptive-use businesses,” said Dean Janaki Alavalapati, the dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

Auburn University officials spent many months developing the program by interviewing those in the hunting and fishing industry. They were looking for input on what skills are needed to be valuable to employers.

Among those interviewed were officials with John Burrell’s High Adventure Company, a big player in outdoor recreation business with facilities as far away as Africa and Argentina. Company officials there said they just can’t find enough employees with the skills and education needed to operate their global business.

Many of the companies interviewed by Auburn officials offer internships. Dr. Ditchkoff said he expects 75 to 100 students in the program to receive internships each year.

 Even though the program will not launch until the fall of 2019, Auburn currently is offering some classes that would count as course credit toward the degree.
© 2018 Alabama Outdoor News