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A Perfect Fit

Local business owner leads CMU’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies major

Located at the confluence of two western rivers and surrounded by a varied landscape of alpine lakes and meadows, red rock canyons and rugged plateaus, Colorado Mesa University has long used its enviable location to attract students and faculty.

Now, a new major within the Department of Kinesiology will capitalize on this advantageous geography, combining western Colorado’s natural attributes with burgeoning interest in the outdoor recreation industry.

Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies, which goes by OREC for short, is CMU’s newest major. The new program is multidisciplinary, incorporating business, environmental science, political science and communications with technical skills and knowledge. Program Director Sarah Shrader, who owns Bonsai Design, a zipline and aerial adventure company, with her husband believes that OREC graduates will be well positioned in a rapidly growing sector.

“The outdoor industry is one of the fastest growing in the U.S.,” she explained. “It’s 10% of GDP in Colorado and there is huge demand for a skilled and talented workforce that has policy understanding, business acumen and environmental knowledge.”

Creating a complex program that appeals to everyone from natural resources policy wonks, to aspirational river guides, to entrepreneurs with an idea for inventing the next great piece of outdoor gear was made easier thanks to Shrader’s background and her commitment to involving experienced outdoor industry leaders in shaping the curriculum. 

Leveraging her connections, Shrader pulled together an advisory council to provide input on how to educate and train successful employees who can get jobs after graduating.

“We built the program to meet demand within the industry,” said Shrader. “They’ll (students) know how to communicate and also understand what policies are important and how to get involved.”

CMU alumnus Ryan Robinson, ’05 and ’15, is the marketing and sales director for Powderhorn Resort on the nearby Grand Mesa. Robinson provided input to Shrader during the program development phase. He’s both personally and professionally excited about the major’s potential to infuse even more energy into the local outdoor recreation sector.

“The nature of CMU’s location alone almost demands an outdoor recreation major,” says Robinson. “Between the growth of the outdoor recreation industry in Grand Junction and the tremendous opportunities to recreate so close to home, it’s a perfect fit.”


Written by Kristen Lummis