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Outdoor Leadership, Associate of Applied Science

What’s it like being an Outdoor Leadership student at PWSC?

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Outdoor Leadership

Program Overview

Welcome to Valdez, Alaska! We are situated in one of the most epic locations on the planet. The Outdoor Leadership program is a two-year degree program focused on teaching the skills needed to travel and work in the dynamic tourism, adventure film, and expedition leadership fields. The PWSC Valdez campus is located in an outdoor paradise, with opportunities to film, ski, fish, backpack, kayak, and explore natural settings right outside the doors.

The Associate of Applied Science Degree in Outdoor Leadership is a 63-67 credit hour degree program. In addition to 15 hours of general education requirements and industry-leading emergency medical training, the OL degree provides one of the most rigorous applied training programs in the field of outdoor leadership, through instruction and practice. This degree prepares students for immediate employment in the outdoor recreation industry and is awarded after a minimum of sixty-three (63) credit hours at a 2.0 GPA  or higher have been satisfied.

Outdoor Leadership, Associate of Applied Science

Graduation Requirements

Program Requirements | 30 – 31 Credits

  • EMT A130 Emergency Medical Technician I (8 cr.)
  • FIRE A117 Rescue Practices (3 cr.)
  • PEP A161 Wilderness First Responder (4 cr.)
  • PEP A262 Foundations of Outdoor Recreation (3 cr.)
  • PEP A264 Recreation Program Planning and Evaluation (3 cr.)
  • PEP A266 Introduction to Safety and Risk (3 cr.)
  • PEP A275 Media and Strategic Communications for Outdoor Professionals (3 cr.)
  • PEP A295 Outdoor Leadership Internship (2-3 cr.)
  • PEP A150 Water Safety and Rescue (1 cr.)
  • PEP A169 Four Seasons Backpacking (3 cr.)

Complete one of the emphasis areas below:

Adventure Filmmaking Emphasis| 21 Credits
  • FLM A167 Introduction to the Study of Adventure Film (3 cr.)
  • FLM A172 Previsualization and Preproduction (3 cr.)
  • FLM A180 Digital Video Editing (3 cr.)
  • FLM A298 Adventure Film Research (6 cr.)
  • Advisor-approved electives (6 cr.)
Professional Aquatic Leader Emphasis| 18 Credits
  • BAA 100 Tourism in Rural Alaska (3 cr.)
  • PER A112 Swiftwater Rescue (1 cr.)
  • PER A152 Beginning River Rafting (1 cr.)
  • PER A153 Beginning Sea Kayaking (1 cr.)
  • PER A252 Intermediate Rafting (2 cr.)
  • PER A253 Intermediate Sea Kayaking (2 cr.)
  • PEP/PER electives (8 cr.)
Professional Alpine Leader Emphasis| 18 Credits
  • BAA 100 Tourism in Rural Alaska (3 cr.)
  • PER A160 Beginning Cross-Country Ski: Diagonal Stride (1 cr.)
  • PER A164 Skiing Alaska’s Backcountry (2 cr.)
  • PER A165 Avalanche Hazard Recognition and Evaluation (1 cr.)
  • PER A218 Avalanche Theory II (2 cr.)
  • PER A259 North American Mechanized Ski Guide (3 cr.)
  • PEP/PER electives (8 cr.)

Outdoor Leadership, Associate of Applied Science

Degree Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the AAS in Outdoor Leadership student will:

  • Understand and explain the benefits of outdoor recreation for individual and community well-being.
  • Successfully evaluate risks associated with outdoor activities and identify methods to reduce and/or mediate risk.
  • Understand key skills necessary for recreation professionals such as program planning, assessment, leadership, outdoor safety skills, and budgeting.
  • Demonstrate strong verbal and written communication skills.
  • Demonstrate quantitative reasoning skills in a recreation context.
A Few Words About Risk

Risk is a part of life. We all take a constant progression of risks throughout every day. That said, we each are responsible for choosing which risks we deem appropriate within our lives. The ODS program is not designed for every student, and there are a number of inherent risks that we choose to take.

In addition:

  • Many of our courses require good physical condition and ability to perform comfortably in extremely cold and/or inclement weather.
  • Students may need to rent or purchase additional equipment for courses.
  • Multi-day overnight trekking and camping are required.
  • ODS courses will be occasionally carried out over uneven terrain, often without a trail, and may include river crossings or other hazards, depending on route and travel logistics.
  • Students must be prepared to spend long days in potentially harsh terrain, with a number of environmental concerns to mitigate, including bears, mosquitos, moose, wolves, rivers, tides, weather, temperature, etc.

Due to the rugged and challenging nature of our courses, potential students would be wise to consider whether this program is a fit.

Meet the Outdoor Leadership Instructors

Dorothy Adler
Adjunct Instructor

Dorothy Adler, Outdoor Leadership studies college instructor in Alaska

Dorothy has been teaching SOLO’s Wilderness Medicine courses for the past eleven years throughout Alaska. She has worked extensively as a mountain climbing guide, outdoor instructor, and as a volunteer on mountain search and rescue teams. She operates her own business teaching wilderness medical courses. Dorothy teaches PWSC’s Wilderness First Responder course.

Taylor Brown
Adjunct Instructor

Taylor Brown, Outdoor Leadership studies college instructor in Alaska

Taylor has been a Valdez resident for the past 3 years and works full time at the Valdez Medical Clinic. Having guided for a number of organizations, including Kennicott Wilderness Guides and International Wilderness Leadership School, Taylor brings 15 years of mountain guiding and climbing experience to the PWSC Outdoor Leadership Program. He currently teaches the rock climbing, crevasse rescue, and mountaineering courses at PWSC. Taylor’s passion is teaching people how to be safe and make good decisions in the mountains. This stems from his extensive experience working as a certified EMT and ski patroller. His experiences working for the National Park Search and Rescue emergency response team and working in Level 1 and Level 5 hospitals as a Critical Care Technician have also helped shape Taylor’s dedication to safety in the outdoors. In his spare time Taylor loves climbing and skiing in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.

Sarah Carter
Adjunct Instructor

Sarah Carter, Outdoor Leadership studies college instructor in Alaska

Sarah is currently the Education Coordinator for the Alaska Avalanche Information Center and a forecaster for the Valdez Avalanche Center. Sharing her passion for the Alaskan outdoors keeps Sarah instructing and guiding winter and summer. Over the years she has worked on ski patrols, snow safety/mountain rescue teams, and as a glacier, heli, sea kayak, and raft guide. Watching people enjoy themselves in the wind, rain, snow and water is Sarah’s goal. She believes that the trip is a success when you have a story to tell when you get home.

Erin Cuts
Assistant Professor of Outdoor Leadership

Erin Cutts, Assistant Professor of Outdoor Leadership at PWSC in Alaska

Erin was born and raised in Star Valley, Wyoming, and has always loved spending time outside. In college, she was ecstatic to discover that she could make that into her career path. She has worked in the outdoor industry for the past 14 years in a variety of settings including youth camps/programs, wilderness therapy, guiding and tourism, ropes courses, commercial recreation, and Higher Education. Erin loves learning about and sampling edible plants, exploratory walks, food, laughing, and most anything that takes her outside. Erin has a BS in Recreation Leadership & Psychology and an MS in Experiential Education.

Luc Mehl
Adjunct Instructor

Luc Mehl, Outdoor Leadership studies college instructor in Alaska

Luc Mehl grew up in McGrath, Alaska. He currently splits his time between Anchorage and Valdez. Luc has Master’s degrees in Geology and Geophysics from UCSB and MIT, and works as an environmental data manager for Axiom Data Science in Anchorage. Luc is recognized for organizing ambitious multi-sport traverses throughout Alaska, covering over a thousand miles annually, by foot, ski, and packraft. Luc is a certified Swiftwater Rescue Technician, American Packrafting Association Safety Ambassador. His adventures have been featured in Alaska Magazine, Backcountry Magazine, and the National Geographic Adventure Blog. Luc teaches Swiftwater Safety and Packrafting Alaska for PWSC. View Luc’s blog on his adventures at

Apply Now

Program: Quick-Facts

Degree: Outdoor Leadership, AAS

Location: Valdez, Alaska

Cost Per Credit: $185 (for both in-state or out-of-state students)

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Outdoor Leadership

Last modified: October 11, 2017, modified by Jessica Young