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A student looking at the camera with a smile while he farms

Already a leader in outdoors-oriented education, Central Wyoming College is about to launch two more programs under that heading.

At its meeting on April 21, the Wyoming Community College Commission approved CWC’s proposed Mountain Bike Professional and Trailbuilding Professional certificates.

“Both certificates will help students who wish to gain key career skills in growing areas of outdoor education, recreation, and tourism,” said Kathy Wells, the college’s vice president for academic affairs.

Central Wyoming College helps students pursue both farming and outdoor education degrees, with the college’s Lander programs utilizing the Alpine Science Institute’s Beginning Farmer Program/Farm Incubator and the Central Wyoming College Lander Center. 

The Alpine Science Institute (ASI) pairs outdoor recreation with hands-on educational opportunities to facilitate one-of-a-kind experiences which include in-field and expedition work. 

Nestled in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains, the ASI campus is an idyllic setting for these studies and degrees. The 127-acre site and surrounding area offer stellar rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, and more.

ASI degrees and certificates

“We run a number of interdisciplinary courses with an outdoor research focus,” said Joanne Slingerland, director of CWC’s Alpine Science Institute/ASI Beginning Farmer Program/Farm Incubator.

Through diverse programming, as well as educational and recreational expedition offerings, we provide an expansive number of opportunities for students who are drawn to CWC from all over the country. ”

The Beginning Farmer Program has a certificate track in farm and ranch management.

CWC offers Associate of Science programs in expedition science, outdoor recreation, and geospatial information science.

Students also can earn Associate of Art degrees in both anthropology and outdoor education and leadership. And last fall, the Alpine Science Institute expanded its course menu to include a four-year Bachelor of Science (BAS) in outdoor leadership. CWC was the first community college in Wyoming certified in BAS education.

New to the Alpine Science Institute is the Farmer Training Program. Overseen by ASI instructor and farm manager Ethan Page, this USDA grant-funded program launched in the summer of 2021. The farm infrastructure includes a high-tunnel greenhouse, geodesic dome greenhouse, chicken coops, a produce processing, and packing facility, and a half-acre education farm plot.

Slingerland said the ASI also hosts a number of non-credit educational clinics and summer camps, with expansion planned in these areas as well.
Wilderness trips boost job prospects.

“We have several courses that are for-credit educational expeditions,” said Darran Wells, professor of outdoor education and leadership, noting the program’s 14-day wilderness trips focused on mountaineering, bike packing, whitewater rafting, and backpacking.

He said the trips combine scientific research with educational and outdoor skills development. Both aspects complement the ASI degree program work. 

Wells guides students through numerous degree options based on their intended careers, and ASI program alumni now work across the nation. Some have started their own mountain guiding businesses, or work as fly fishing, hunting, rock climbing, or mountain bike guides, while others go into retail at gear and equipment stores.

 “Some are working as rangers for the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, or state land management agencies,” Wells said.  

Others work as wilderness instructors or administrators for non-profits including NOLS or Outward Bound.

“It is fairly easy to point students toward the degree program that will get them the dream job they want,” Wells said.

Students who gravitate toward teaching often end up in outdoor education, while those who are more science-minded might choose expedition science or geographic information systems.

“The outdoor recreation programs are a good draw for students who want a career focused on outdoor adventures or guiding,” Wells said.

Students also have the opportunity to collaborate across programs. For them, the new bachelor’s degree offerings have been valuable.

“There has always been a demand from our ASI grads for a four-year program,” said Wells. “Many decide they love living in Wyoming and look for continuing education opportunities after their associates degrees are completed.”

Students interested in CWC’s Outdoor Education options are encouraged to apply today: