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January 21, 2019

SCC’s Outdoor Leadership Program Reaches New Heights

The Outdoor Leadership program at Southwestern Community College continues to shine as an industry pioneer under the guidance of founding coordinator Paul Wolf.

More than 18 years ago, Wolf began SCC’s Outdoor Leadership program with a desk propped up by four cinder blocks and a wealth of knowledge. Without any template to model after, Wolf created what is now a nationally known program, and he did it all from scratch. The program includes an Outdoor Leadership Associate of Applied Science (AAS), as well as certificates in Outdoor Leadership, Wilderness Emergency Medicine, and Wilderness Therapy. Since its inception, the Outdoor Leadership program has welcomed numerous participants coming from all walks of life, and secured its place in the national and international adventure program and experiential learning communities.

In recent months Wolf has elevated the prominence of SCC’s Outdoor Leadership program yet again – this time to an international level as he was selected to be a member of the Accreditation Council and the Standards Committee of the Association of Experiential Education (AEE). Wolf, alongside others in countries such as Canada, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Australia work to create, maintain and uphold the standards and accreditation processes set out by the AEE for Adventure Programs and Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare. This body and its members strive to ensure professional and safe standards for programs around the world. Wolf works tirelessly in his positions to improve upon procedural and safety regulations for others across the globe.

“Throughout his time at Southwestern, Paul has consistently raised the bar for our outdoor leadership program,” said Dr. Thom Brooks, executive vice president for instruction and student services. “He puts in hours that nobody will ever know about, and his sole focus is on ensuring that all students who go through his program are fully prepared to be successful when they graduate and go into the field. The fact that he’s also able to work on a prestigious international committee just speaks to his dedication and professionalism. We are extremely proud to have him as a member of the SCC family.” 

Wolf will also be representing SCC as he presents at the 2018 Wilderness Therapy Symposium being held this year on April 4-6 in Asheville. Wolf will be speaking alongside Dr. Jude Hirsch of Georgia College and State University providing an update to attendees on the 2nd Edition Manual of Accreditation Standards for Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) Programs and the Accreditation Process. The presentation will allow attendees insight into the updated OBH and AEE Accreditation.

Growing up in Minnesota, Wolf attended Minnesota State University-Mankato, where a rock climbing course sparked his love for the outdoors. Wolf has since worked with Voyageur Outward Bound School, the State of Wisconsin, Alpine Towers International, the Nantahala Outdoor Center and with Victory Junction Camp. Of all his accomplishments, Wolf speaks most highly of his work with Victory Junction Camp saying, “Of everything I do aside from my family, this is the work I am most proud of.” It’s a summer camp free of charge to children, liberating them from the confines of disease, illness or disability, while they enjoy the simple happiness of being a kid.

Under Wolf’s creative guidance, SCC has become an industry leader in adventure programs and experiential learning. Participants in SCC’s Outdoor Leadership program not only receive an incredible education, but also each become certified as Wilderness First Responders, Swift Water Rescue Technicians, and Leave No Trace Trainers. Each certification is included within the Outdoor Leadership curriculum at no extra cost to students. Wolf and SCC have also created an articulation agreement with the Parks and Recreation Management department at Western Carolina Univesity to allow Outdoor Leadership students an opportunity to advance their education.

The program continues to progress with the development and implementation of the Wilderness Therapy certificate. It was the first undergraduate credential for Wilderness Therapy in the nation, with other colleges now following Wolf’s example. Although the certificate was originally created for individuals wanting to enter the industry, the program has since flourished to include a large number of pre-existing professionals. Many of them use SCC’s Wilderness Therapy certificate as an integral part of their professional development.

Wolf and the entire Outdoor Leadership team pride themselves on creating an experiential learning environment for all students. With SCC being the only college in the state to successfully design and implement an Outdoor Leadership associate degree, it is clear Wolf’s approach is working.  Graduates of the Outdoor Leadership program and recipients of the Wilderness Therapy certificate go on to work with various companies and organizations such as Red Oak Recovery, the School of Urban Wilderness Survival, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park Service, and the United States Forest Service.

For more information, contact Wolf at 828.366.2003 or pjwolf@southwesterncc.edu.


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