On the Rim: SUU and Bryce Canyon National Park Solidify an "Alliance for Education"

Published: August 02, 2006 | Read Time: 4 minutes

Bryce Canyon National Park and Southern Utah University are signing a document on July 26th on the rim of the scenic canyon to officially establish a cooperative and mutually-beneficial working relationship. This alliance for education is an effort to substantially expand activities between the two entities, as well as to formalize existing partnerships.

This latest development is to further the relationship and missions of both entities in serving the region, by: protecting Park resources and providing for enhanced visitor opportunities; educating students and the about Park resources; providing excellent educational and experiential opportunities for SUU students; and continuing to enhance the economic, technological, and cultural development of the communities served. The research, training, and hands-on learning implications are all very attractive features for all parties involved.

SUU Interim President Greg Stauffer is excited about this partnership. "The idea of having Bryce Canyon National Park as sort of an "eastern campus" for our University is absolutely fantastic. This will expand the University's efforts in using its natural surroundings as a competitive advantage that can be integrated into SUU's strategic plan. There seem to be endless possibilities for employees, students, and the public and they're all win-win scenarios."

Equally pleased with the arrangement is Bryce Canyon's new superintendent, Eddie Lopez. "This agreement will provide great opportunities for Park visitors and employees. It most certainly will offer excellent research and learning experiences for SUU students and faculty as well."

A catalyst in putting this agreement together is the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association (BCNHA). Its role has been to open lines of communication between the two entities. The BCNHA is a non-profit organization supporting educational programs and research projects that promote understanding and appreciation of Bryce Canyon National Park.

Some examples of collaboration already in existence between the two entities include Gayle Pollock, Executive Director of the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association (BCNHA), who also serves on the Board of Trustees of Southern Utah University. Likewise, four SUU faculty--Robert Eves, Jim Bowns, Ron Martin, and Les Jones-- happen to be members of the governing board of BCNHA. SUU students are currently assisting on a grant-funded fossil-finding expedition in the Park. SUU Professor Brit Mace consults on issues of psychological impact on Park visitors for the Park’s visitor services program. And still another example is how the SUU Outdoor Center will benefit from enhanced access in utilizing the Park's many amenities. The new Bachelor of Science degree in Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism starts this fall at the University and will be greatly enhanced by the ability to conduct research and instruction within a national treasure such as Bryce Canyon.

"This will really make this new degree more valuable," says Provost Abe Harraf. "The Park will make the program stronger and the students will make perfect interns and future employees for the Park."

Pollock acknowledged, "Since it is such a competitive process for both entities to garner funding, this collaboration will help us both stretch our thin resources even further."

The Park and the University are mutually interested in partnering and cooperating in undergraduate and graduate level studies of the Park's natural and cultural resources, aspects of visitor use, quality of service, regional services and tourism management. The High Plateaus Institute (HPI), an educational and research facility at the Park, is dedicated to improving stewardship of the Park's natural and cultural resources. The HPI is designed to foster scientific inquiry, provide unique learning and experiential opportunities to students and southern Utah residents, and to engage the academic community. In turn, the University has numerous disciplines and degree programs which prepare students for careers in: natural and cultural resources management; public and business administration; hospitality and tourism services; web design; computer engineering; marketing and promotions; outdoor recreation; law enforcement; and geological studies, among others. All of these disciplines lend themselves to conducting research over the broad spectrum of natural, cultural, social, economic, and management sciences. Both organizations are excited to make facts, methods, and new findings discovered through research available to scientists, teachers, the public, and local, state and federal agencies.

This partnership between Bryce and SUU will provide for: internship opportunities in the Park for University students; the chance for Park staff to serve on appropriate University committees; consultation services for University students and faculty; office and lab space for University research whenever possible; participation in lectures, field trips and seminars; SUU library access for Park employees; and the dissemination of information about each other's services.

SUU Board of Trustees Chair Dwayne Nielson said, "The excitement of the University's administration over this arrangement, coupled with the elevation of our Regional Services program in our strategic plan, shows the clear direction of SUU to reach out to the communities it serves, with all efforts, of course, having the underlying objectives of improving the educational package for our students, and contributing to the cultural and economic development of our state."

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