Sixteen students from Southern Utah University recently completed a nine-day intensive course in wilderness medicine to become certified as wilderness first responders (WFR). The Wilderness Medicine Training Center describes the course as mentally, physically, and emotionally demanding, an apt description given that students participate in a minimum of ten hours of daily instruction, both in the classroom and in the wild, covering everything from basic pharmacology and patient assessment to environmental hazards and medical simulations. Following each day’s instruction, the students then completed assigned homework, which consisted of reading, quizzes and case studies.
As a graduate requirement for SUU’s Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism (ORPT) program, the WFR certification takes advantage of the University's educational partnership with Bryce Canyon National Park, and working in cooperation with the Wilderness Medicine Training Center, to offer the intensive certification annually.
One of the students enrolled in the WFR course, Kevin Koontz, used this opportunity to fulfill multiple requirements towards his graduation from SUU.
“The WFR certification is a basic program requisite, but SUU also requires all graduates to complete an additional curriculum of experiential learning, known as the Education Designed to Give Experience program (EDGE),” said Koontz.
Through the EDGE program, each student must design, propose and complete a hands-on project in the hopes of giving SUU graduates an advantage as they apply their education beyond the walls of the classroom. Koontz recognized early on that the WFR field experience would could be applied to both requirements and further the experience he gained for both.
Briget Eastep, director of the Outdoor Engagement Center—one of the University's five engagement centers around which the EDGE program is structured—said the planning and coordination it takes students to apply such an experience to different academic requirements greatly enhances the learning experience.
"It makes them a more intentional student going into it," said Eastep as she reflected on Koontz's experience under her tutelage. "For EDGE< students have to submit a proposal in advance, which forces them to do their homework and really learn about the program before they begin the class for their major requirement. Because of this, they have already set forth in their own minds expectations for what they hope to learn and how they plan to apply what they learn, and the entire process is more meaningful on an individual level."
With a cross-disciplinary focus, the EDGE requirement can, indeed, help students find the cross section between their studies and personal interests and ambitions in ways they may never otherwise invest the time and research to explore. Because of this, SUU's students graduate from the University and EDGE Program with a broader perspective of their knowledge and skills that will be applicable across disciplines no matter where their career carries them.
“It was a very challenging nine days, but I felt incredibly accomplished when I was handed my certification,” said Koontz. “Not only did I form life-long bonds with the other fifteen students, I also learned a lot about myself as a leader and outdoor enthusiast. I hope future SUU students interested in the outdoors use the WFR course for their EDGE project because I know they’ll grow as an individual and leave SUU with a great hands-on experience.”