Master’s degree program in experiential and outdoor education gains accreditation

Andrew Bobilya (left) is the director of the new experiential and outdoor education graduate program.

Applications and other developments are accelerating for Western Carolina University’s new master’s degree program in experiential and outdoor education, offered through the College of Education and Allied Professions.

Featuring both online coursework and traditional classroom and field studies, the two-year hybrid program, which is intended for working professionals and those seeking outdoor and experiential education careers, recently gained accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The first cohort will begin during the 2020-2021 fall semester, with a Friday, May 1, priority deadline for applications and a Monday, June 15, final deadline for applications. The program will begin with a five-day intensive session on the Cullowhee campus in August,  followed by four weekend sessions in the fall and spring semesters at both the Cullowhee campus and the Biltmore Park instructional site in Asheville in year one.

The degree utilizes the philosophy of experiential education combined with the modality of outdoor education to provide students with educational training for a variety of contexts, said Andrew Bobilya, a professor in the university’s popular parks and recreation management program and director of the new experiential and outdoor education graduate program.

“With a cross-disciplinary program such as this, nonformal educators are equipped to serve in a variety of programs and schools,” Bobilya said. “This coursework is ideal for anyone instructing in a variety of settings, including expeditionary learning schools, charter and independent schools with an experiential education program, community colleges, residential and day camps, environmental education programs, therapeutic experiential agencies and camps, university outdoor programs and wilderness leadership programs.”

The SACSCOC accreditation, received April 15, validates the educational quality and effectiveness of what the program will deliver, said Kim Winter, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions. The regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states, the association serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices among institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and certain international sites.

“WCU has had wonderful foresight in designing and implementing this new program, at a time when creative initiatives and leadership development are key components for a productive economy for our outdoor industry,” said Mairi S. Padgett, administrative director and co-founder of Landmark Learning, a leading resource in education and training for the outdoor community.

For more information about the experiential and outdoor education master’s degree program, go to eoe.wcu.edu or contact Bobilya at 828-227-3326.