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Professional Outdoor Industry Certificate



Turn your Passion into a Profession

Build a career with purpose and transform the outdoor industry

2024 Series Dates:

The Spring 2024 series will be a 6-day online intensive. Take all 6 courses to complete the certificate or select specific workshops to attend. See course dates below.


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WCU is widely recognized as the Southeast’s premier outdoor recreation and adventure university. We are leveraging and combining our academic excellence and experience in professional education with our outstanding and innovative outdoor-focused curriculum and deep connection to the nation’s burgeoning outdoor recreation economy to offer this affordable, dynamic, and flexible professional outdoor certificate.

WCU's Professional Outdoor Industry Certificate program provides skills, insight, knowledge, and networking opportunities to students and learners from a variety of backgrounds who are interested in a rewarding career or thriving business in the outdoor recreation industry. Our specialized, easy-to-access workshops teach participants how to create real, lasting change in the current outdoor industry to mindfully foster a better future for the field. 

A career in the outdoors means so much more than simply “taking people outside.” In addition to conventional jobs such as guiding and outfitting, the outdoor industry is comprised of a diverse array of technical, operational, and professional disciplines including economic development, leisure and hospitality, product design and development, advanced manufacturing, social media, public relations, advertising, marketing, content creation, policy development, sustainability, retail, education, advocacy, and even construction!

If you are looking for a flexible and affordable way to break into the outdoor industry, enhance your skill-set, stand out to potential employers, grow your outdoor business, or sharpen your leadership skills, WCU's Professional Outdoor Certificate program is for you!

  • We are the ONLY outdoor certificate program to offer live, online instruction from outdoor industry and subject matter experts
  • We offer maximum flexibility: Use our a la carte "pay as you go" option and take only the workshops you want, when you want!
  • No prerequisite requirements to enroll
  • Networking opportunities with outdoor industry professionals
  • General CEUs or Contact Hours upon completion of each workshop
  • You will receive a Professional Outdoor Industry Certificate from Western Carolina University!
  • Full Certificate: $799 per person.
  • Single Workshop price: $175 per person.

You can choose to pay for the full certificate or register for individual workshops during the registration process.

Classes are held all online from 9am - 4pm with a lunch break and additional small breaks

Introduction to the outdoor industry  March 18th
Small Business Marketing and Brand Strategy Workshop March 20th
The Outdoor Entrepreneur Mindset: Business Planning, Start-Up, and Navigation March 21st 
Building Key Leadership Communication Skills March 22nd
Current and Tested Social Media Strategies in the Outdoor Industry March 26th
The Trail Guide to Leadership March 27th 


Register for all sessions


Join Andy Coburn, WCU Faculty Liaison to the Outdoor Industry, and Steven Reinhold, Founder of the Appalachian Adventure Company and Backpacker Magazine Gear Ambassador, as they lead you on a comprehensive, interactive, and engaging look at the US Outdoor Industry.

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In this one-day workshop, join us as we explore the entrepreneurial journey and what it takes to start, operate, and grow your own outdoor industry business. Whether starting up a business, focusing on strategic planning, or taking your business to the next level, it's critical to understand the entrepreneurial mindset.

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This workshop provides the aspiring outdoor industry entrepreneur with essential marketing and branding basics to develop a marketing plan and brand strategy. Next, the workshop also explores real-world examples of marketing in practice. It concludes with an overview of related marketing topics for new outdoor business owners to consider as part of their marketing efforts.

Workshop Learning Objectives:

  • Comprehend and apply the fundamentals of marketing analysis, segmentation, targeting, positioning, and consumer behavior.
  • Recognize the elements of the Marketing Mix and how they are used in developing the marketing strategy.
  • Learn the marketing plan components and their role in executing the marketing strategy.
  • Develop an understanding of branding essentials and the necessary elements for creating a brand.
  • Recognize marketing and branding essentials in practice.
  • Learn the role other topics have in developing a brand’s marketing strategy.

Part 1 Marketing Essentials
Part 2 Branding Essentials
Part 3 Marketing in Practice
Part 4 Related Topics

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This workshop provides outdoor industry entrepreneurs, marketing and communications professionals, and sales staff with social media strategies that can create a more holistic online presence, build brand loyalty, drive audience engagement, increase sales, and quantify social media success. Social media is about more than marketing and communications, it is also about customer service, relationship building, impactful storytelling, and being relatable and shareable. Social media is often challenging, stressful, and confusing, but it can also be fun and an integral part of solidifying and enhancing a brand’s reputation.    


Workshop Learning Objectives

  • Learn how to identify the social media tools that can achieve brand goals and are worth an investment of time, money, and manpower
  • Explore social media trends that can increase reach, engagement and sales
  • Develop a simple strategic action plan for making social media more efficient and effective
  • Gain a clear understanding of how social media algorithms work and the key to attracting new fans and customers
  • Have fun building connections and having conversations with your audiences

Part 1 The Truth about Social Media
Part 2 Strategies for Increasing Social Reach and Engagement
Part 3 Social Listening and Advertising Best Practices
Part 4 How to Create Your Own Social Media Strategic Plan

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There are few things more gratifying than successfully trekking up a mountain and enjoying the views. Good leaders, like good trail guides, help their people get there. They know the terrain they are trekking, provide the resources their team needs to reach its goals, and are confident in their ability to lead the way. This training guides individuals to become better leaders.

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Learn "The 10 Commandments of Effective Leadership Communication" and develop your active listening skills. Participants will identify the nonverbal communication cues that signal leadership competence and set tone and will build a speaking "presence." It is also important to analyze the critical role of leadership communication during crises, which will be done through case study examples and how to prepare for the spotlight: How to respond to media inquiries.

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Sarah Benoit - Social Media Strategies for the Outdoor Industry- Sarah Benoit has worked in the web design, SEO, and social media fields since 2003 and has been teaching classes on related subjects since 2006. As President of Creative Original, she has built a wide variety of small business websites over the years. As Co-founder and Lead Instructor for the JB Media Institute, Sarah Benoit leverages her years of experience as a digital marketing strategist to create timely, relevant, and engaging training content. Sarah speaks, trains, and presents on digital marketing topics at conferences and events throughout the year in the Southeast and beyond. Sarah received the 2017 Woman Executive of the Year award from WomanUp at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. She was inducted into Asheville’s 40 Under Forty in 2013 and is a graduate of Leadership Asheville 31. She is also a 2017 graduate of the Hive Global Leaders program.

Andy Coburn - Introduction to the Outdoor Industry-  Andy Coburn is a member of the Graduate and Research faculty at Western Carolina University (WCU) where he serves as Associate Director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, Faculty Advisor for the WCU Sustainable Campus Initiative (SCI), and Faculty Liaison to the Outdoor Industry. Andy teaches courses within WCU’s Environmental Sciences Program, Political Science and Public Affairs Department, and was instrumental in helping to create WCU’s innovative Outdoor Industry Certificate and Training Program. Andy is originally from New Jersey, relocated to Durham, NC North Carolina in 1993, and arrived in Cullowhee, North Carolina - and WCU - in October 2006. Coburn holds degrees from Penn State University and Duke University, and when he isn’t in the classroom (or on Zoom), you can find him hiking, backpacking, camping, or travelling within Iceland – anything that involves being outside!

Scott Eldredge - Dr. Scott Eldredge is an Associate Professor in the Communication Department at Western Carolina University. Prior to moving to Western North Carolina, Dr. Eldredge spent 20 years working for some of the world’s largest advertising and communication agencies including J. Walter Thompson and Lowe Campbell-Ewald. His background includes experience working for a diverse list of clients including General Motors, Ford Motor Company, OnStar, Novartis, and M&M/Mars. Dr. Eldredge now teaches public relations courses including Introduction to Public Relations and Public Relations Campaigns, as well as topic classes in Health Communication, Conflict Resolution, and Social Media Management. He also serves as the faculty adviser for the WCU chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, and for Catamount Communications, WCU’s student-run Public Relations firm. Dr. Eldredge holds a Ph.D. in Communication and Information from the University of Tennessee, a Master of Arts in Advertising from Michigan State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunication (News & Public Affairs) from the University of Florida.

Steven Reinhold - Introduction to the Outdoor Industry-  Steven Reinhold is the Founder and Steward of the Stoke at The Appalachian Adventure Company which specializes in custom outdoor experiences and content collaborations in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. He has worked in the outdoor industry for over a decade starting with his role as an ambassador for Big City Mountaineers’ Summit for Someone program which gave him the opportunity to work closely with renowned mountain guiding outfits and outdoor brands on America's most iconic peaks. During these Summit for Someone fundraising climbs he quickly realized that he excelled at sharing the stoke of adventure with others and that he wanted to become a mountain guide. Steven founded The Appalachian Adventure Company in 2014 and in 2015 he created the #trashtag social media cleanup effort which has since been utilized over 250+ million times worldwide! He has served as a brand ambassador for Backpacker Magazine, Nemo Equipment, Gerber Gear and UCO Gear and has also served on the board of directors for National Cleanup Day and the Outdoor Business Alliance. 

Supports, Modifications, and/or Accommodations for Participants

All participants are welcome. For questions regarding access and accommodations, please contact WCU Educational Outreach at or by phone at 828.227.7397.

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