Recreation and Outdoor Leadership Program at Lord Fairfax Community College
Do you love the outdoors? Ever dreamed of working in the recreation industry helping people have fun? There’s a program at LFCC for you! This might be the most fun you’ve ever had in school. Imagine earning an associates degree by spending some of your classroom time in the great outdoors. Hiking, canoeing, exploring the Shenandoah Valley, and similar activities are all part of the curriculum for LFCC’s Recreation and Outdoor Leadership programs, which can prepare you for a career in the hospitality or parks and recreation industry.
As a community college, Lord Fairfax Community College works at creating curriculum for students to prepare them for careers found within our region. A growing sector is the recreation industry. In its third year, the Recreation and Outdoor Leadership Career Studies Certificate and the Associates of Arts and Sciences in General Studies with a concentration in Recreation and Outdoor Leadership programs have been tailored to assist students interested in careers in tourism and recreation. The college selected the perfect instructor for the program.
Stacey Ellis has been working at LFCC for eight years. During the 2016/2017 school year, she was given the opportunity to run the Recreation Programs under the title of Associate Professor of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. “The creation of these programs developed organically in curriculum discussions,” says Ellis. With an associate degree with a concentration in Recreation and Outdoor Leadership, students can find work in hospitality, tourism, public recreation and park administration, sports management, camp management, and other degree tracks. They can also go on to a four-year degree. “An agreement with Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, ensures students that all of the associate credits transfer to a four-year program at the university, if they elect to continue their education,” she says. Although the formal agreement exists with Shepherd University, students may pursue four-year degrees at any school of their choice.
The first class in the program is taught online. “The Introduction to Recreation, Parks & Leisure Studies course is an introductory level class intended to give students an overview of the program. We offer this online to encourage people with even a little interest in the program the chance to see what it is all about,” says Ellis. From there, the courses are experiential and include a 32-hour practicum to give students hands-on experience. “We have developed relationships with local venues, such as Verdun Adventure Bound in Rixeyville, to give our students practical experience. In some cases, this has led to part time jobs,” says Ellis. The program’s highlights include study of the Leave No Trace program, canoeing/kayaking trips, hiking, backpacking and/or rock climbing, leadership development, event planning, and exploration of the Shenandoah Valley, to name a few.
The course is already demonstrating strong enrollment with students straight from high school, mothers returning to complete their education, and older students looking at a second career. The program also has strong support from the community. “We established a Curriculum Advisory Committee to help develop the programs,” says Ellis. Patrick Workman, the manager of the Marshall Community Center, represents Fauquier County on the committee. “I wanted to be involved with this program, and recreation education at the undergraduate level in general, simply to provide information and access to future recreation professionals. Having gone through my graduate studies while working in the recreation industry, I noticed the need for updated curriculum but also practical education and experience. It is an exciting time to be involved with recreation. There will always be the need for physical recreation but the development and integration of “technological recreation” has created new forms of e-based leisure that many of our residents engage in. I think because of this it is important for current recreation professionals to do their best to be involved with the education of future professionals and share information as the industry continues to change,” Workman says.
The programs have strong ties to the Fauquier Community. “Having a school like LFCC recognize the need for a program in this area of study is a major advantage for the local areas these students could someday serve as recreation professionals. There are many different recreation fields available, ranging from parks to aquatics to therapeutic recreation. Access to a program like this early in someone’s education can help jumpstart a great career. I think there will be a major call to action in the coming years for high quality recreation programs and facilities, and with the help of programs like LFCC, organizations such as Fauquier County Parks and Recreation have a greater base from which to find qualified recreation professionals to help us accomplish our goals and serve the community,” says Workman.
For Ellis, it is in her blood. The Clarke County native and Leave No Trace Master Educator lives near her family farm where she and her siblings were raised. When she isn’t teaching at Lord Fairfax, she is helping on the farm or cleaning out the Rod Hollow Shelter on the Appalachian trail with her two young sons, Jackson, age 11, and Brody, age 8. “This gives me a great balance,” says Ellis. “I teach the recreation program at LFCC and a hiking class at the Mountain Vista Governor’s School during the school year and spend my time off in the summer working outside,” she says.