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Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies degree program receives diversity grant

VF Corp awards CMU $34k that will go toward scholarships for women and BIPOC

On August 17 the first students enrolled in the Colorado Mesa University Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies degree program (OREC) will arrive on campus, and with the new program comes a new scholarship opportunity.

The $34,000 grant from VF Corp will go towards scholarships that help promote diversity in the industry. CMU will award 10, $3,400 scholarships to women as well as Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) — individuals who have historically been underrepresented in the outdoor industry.

“The VF Grant to CMU’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies program will promote diversity, equity and inclusion by offering scholarships based on gender, race and financial need,” said CMU Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies Program Director Sarah Shrader. “This benefits the Outdoor Recreation Industry as a whole because these students will enter jobs in the outdoor recreation industry with knowledge and skills needed to make the industry more successful.”

Scholarships like these are an effective way to promote diversity and inclusivity. With this grant, CMU can ensure the OREC program, and thus the industry, represents the entire population, including low-income and first-generation students. 

New to the state of Colorado, VF Corp owns Vans, The North Face, Dickies, JanSport, Smartwool and a variety of other outdoor brands. Their foundation supports inclusion and empowers diversity through grants like the one awarded to CMU. 

“We believe fostering outdoor spaces where everyone feels welcome will help build more inclusive communities and a stronger outdoor recreation industry," said VF Foundation Director Gloria Shoch. "We’re excited to support CMU’s Outdoor Recreation Program with a scholarship fund designed to create a pipeline of diverse outdoor recreation leaders, which we believe is a critical component to a more equitable and inclusive outdoor industry that thrives on our differences.”

Through study and experience, students will be prepared to work in one of the largest areas of the economy. According to Shrader, outdoor recreation is a $62.5 billion dollar industry in Colorado alone, employing about 511,000 Coloradans. Thanks to grants like these as well as Shrader’s leadership, everyone gets a chance to have a seat at the table. 

“Diversity and inclusion are good for business: they improve corporate performance, drive growth and enhance employee engagement. Women and BIPOC have historically been underrepresented in the outdoor industry and this scholarship program serves as a first step towards resolution,” said Shrader.

Students in the OREC program will learn effective sales and marketing strategies, business skills, public land policies, legislation issues, risk management and more. Students will also develop leadership skills that transfer directly to the workforce while pursuing their passion in the outdoors. To learn more about the program visit the CMU website.

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Written by Kelsey Coleman