The Benefits of Attending SUU the University of the Parks

Posted: August 27, 2021 | Author: Kevin Koontz | Read Time: 4 minutes

The Benefits of Attending SUU the University of the ParksAfter competing in, and winning, the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge competition in both 2015 and 2017 Southern Utah University obtained the trademark as the University of the Parks. The investment in the trademark was a demonstration of SUU’s commitment to connecting students with opportunities to explore, engage, and excel in their own lives, by connecting them to the amazing landscapes, parks, forests, and other wildlands surrounding Cedar City. Read on to find out what this designation means to you as a student and learn the best ways to take advantage of the benefits of attending the University of the Parks.

The World’s Best Backyard

As far back as the late 1940s Cedar City has been recognized as the “Gateway to the National Parks”. Our proximity to National Parks (Zion & Bryce Canyon), National Monuments (Cedar Breaks & Pipe Spring), National Forests (Dixie & Fishlake), State Parks (Frontier Homestead, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Snow Canyon) and recreational areas (Three Peaks & Pine Valley) means that there is always someplace new to discover and explore. And when you add all of the other public lands, reservoirs, and campgrounds to this list there is easily several lifetimes worth of adventure close by. Check out this list of all of the state and National parks in our region.

Free Trips with SUU Outdoors

Every semester SUU Outdoors offers around 20 separate adventure trips totally free of charge for all current students. The activities of these trips range from stand-up paddleboarding, to climbing and rappelling, to hiking and backpacking and everything in-between; all taking advantage of the incredible landscape destinations mentioned above. And what’s more, no previous experience is required to participate. So if there is something you’ve always wanted to do, but have been reluctant to try, this is your chance. To learn more about what trips are scheduled for this semester visit the Base Camp in the Sharwan Smith Student Center (next to Chick-fil-A) or check out the SUU Outdoors website.

Internships with Public Land Agencies

SUU is home to one of the largest student internship programs in the country, the Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative (IIC). The IIC is a partnership between SUU, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and Native American tribes of the region. Established in 2007 the IIC places around 200 interns each year into positions across a wide array of fields like accounting, digital media, education, GIS, graphic design, interpretation, trail building, visitor services, and more. That means no matter what your major or professional trajectory you can find an internship with a public land agency that will fit you perfectly. For more information about the IIC and available internships visit the IIC website.

Academic Courses Focused on Nature

Along with the obvious types of courses that you expect to be out field-tripping on public lands, like Geology and Outdoor Recreation, many of the professors from other programs have also found ways to lead their students out of the classroom and into nature. Anthropology, Biology, and English are all examples of programs that offer a variety of classes that regularly get outside.

Lower-division classes like Americans in the Outdoors (ORPT 2040), Writing About Environmental Justice (ENGL 2010), Introduction to Sustainability Studies (HSS 1200), and the six-credit Humanities Through Nature (SUU 2250) which counts towards both humanities and life sciences, are a few of the classes that students can take to fulfill their general education requirements.

Upper-division classes such as History of National Parks (HIST 3820), Environmental Psychology (PSY 3500), Wildlife Ecology (NR 3000), Geology Field Camp (GEO 4960), and Public Land Management (PADM 6750) all allow students to dive deeper into subjects that they are passionate about. In 2007 SUU’s Honors Program founded the Partners in the Parks program which is now administered by the National Collegiate Honors Council. Since its creation, the Partners in the Parks program has sponsored 100 projects throughout 50 different parks for over 1,000 student participants. Remarkably, this list is only a small example of the many courses offered here at SUU that concentrate on parks and public lands.

A Community of Shared Values

Just like many of the students here, a good deal of the staff and faculty were also drawn to SUU by their own outdoor hobbies, and values for public lands. The story of “I came for a visit and fell in love with the area” is a common one here. And that doesn’t mean you have to be an extreme adventurer to take advantage of what the University of the Parks has to offer. While among SUU’s students and employees you will find sport climbers, trail-runners, peak-baggers, cross-country skiers, and river rafters; there are also car-campers, rock-hounds, slackliners, camp cooks, history buffs, and tree huggers, all of whom love and appreciate these resources even if for different reasons.


Being a student at Southern Utah University means that if you love nature, the environment, and the outdoors there is a place for you here to pursue that passion. No matter what your field of study, your time at SUU will make you a better steward not just of the land, but also of your life. So whether you are an armchair expert of national parks, a free-solo enthusiast living the van life, or anything in between, you will find your home here at the University of the Parks.

Tags: Outdoors Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative SUU Outdoors

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