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ATU: Preparing Outdoor Recreation Professionals

Lake Dardanelle State ParkImage of Lake Dardanelle State Park
Lake Dardanelle State Park is one of the dozens of venues where Arkansas Tech University alumni utilize their education in recreation and park administration to contribute to the tourism industry.

As home of the Natural State’s only accredited bachelor’s degree program in recreation and park administration, there was considerable interest and excitement at Arkansas Tech University when Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that he was creating the Arkansas Office of Outdoor Recreation.

“I was ecstatic,” said Dr. Cathi McMahan, professor of recreation and park administration at Arkansas Tech and head of the ATU Department of Parks, Recreation and Hospitality Administration. “From a student perspective, they can know there are potentially going to be more job opportunities in outdoor recreation and that outdoor recreation is valued in Arkansas. Our state is recognizing the opportunities that exist in this field, including the role that outdoor recreation plays in the mental and physical health of our citizens. It’s validation that there are and will continue to be job opportunities in Arkansas in this field.”

According to the proclamation issued on Monday, June 21, announcing the creation of the Arkansas Office of Outdoor Recreation as well as an affiliated Arkansas Outdoor Recreation Advisory Board, outdoor recreation supports 96,000 direct jobs in Arkansas. The proclamation also states that tourism is Arkansas’ second-largest industry.

“When I chose to apply and come to Arkansas Tech, the program was a major reason for that, but also the quality of life through outdoor recreation that Arkansas offers was and is a big factor,” said Dr. Michael Bradley, associate professor of recreation and park administration at ATU. “When the governor announced an investment in the stewardship parts of that it meant a lot to me in terms of the long-range quality of life for Arkansans and the long-range opportunities for students. As those investments pay off, it will grow the job market and our graduates will continue to do great things.”

Founded in 1965, the ATU Bachelor of Science degree in recreation and park administration was first accredited by the Council on Accreditation National Recreation and Park Association and the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation in 1997. The program was reaccredited in 2002, 2007 and 2013.

“Outdoor recreation is a big part of what Arkansas is,” said Dr. Jay Post, assistant professor of recreation and park administration at ATU. “Putting that forward to everyone…including those who might not see it as being that impactful…that’s really, really big. Part of the external validation is not just for students and parents. It’s also going to inspire others to enter this profession and bring more pride to those who are professionals in this field.”

Learn more about the Arkansas Tech recreation and park administration program at www.atu.edu/prha.