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Andrew Bobilya receives Wilderness Education Association's Outdoor Educator Award

Andrew Bobilya instructs students in rock climbing during an "Introduction to Outdoor Pursuits" class that he co-facilitates with Base Camp Cullowhee.

Andrew J. Bobilya, associate professor and director of Western Carolina University’s Parks and Recreation Management Program, was recently recognized for his positive impact on outdoor education across the nation as the 2018 recipient of the Wilderness Education Association’s Outdoor Educator Award.

Bobilya received the honor during the WEA’s joint conference with the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, held in Snowbird, Utah. He and Maurice Phipps, professor emeritus in the PRM Program, also presented workshops at the event.

The Outdoor Educator Award recognizes “positive contributions to WEA curriculum, standards, operations, conferences and initiatives, as well as the impact on students and colleagues not just in (the recipient’s) own institution, but within the WEA and across the country.”

As they presented the award, WEA board members cited Bobilya’s efforts to integrate WEA curriculum and assessment into his work in outdoor education and leadership at WCU and at his former institution, and his work to strengthen WEA standards and accreditation. Additionally, the board members noted Bobilya’s eight years of service as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education and Leadership, a collaborative effort that involves the WEA, the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, and other partners.

Bobilya earned his doctorate in education with an emphasis in outdoor education and recreation at the University of Minnesota. His teaching background includes courses in recreation management, leadership and group dynamics, recreational programming, outdoor education, research methods, wilderness leadership and technical outdoor skills.

Bobilya, who joined the WCU PRM faculty in August 2014, also has been a recipient of honors from the Association for Experiential Education, where he was a member of the board of directors for seven years, and from WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions, which has presented him with its Dean’s Research and Legislative Teaching awards.

He said receiving the WEA award filled him with gratitude for the organization and its board and “the many students and instructors who continue to search for the most effective ways to connect individuals and groups with the wild outdoors, and to use those experiences to promote personal growth.” He also expressed appreciation to WCU “for supporting those kinds of field-based courses.”

Phipps, who is retired but still works with the PRM Program, said the honor received by Bobilya is another notable event in WCU’s long history with the WEA – a history that began when Paul Petzoldt, one of the nation’s most accomplished mountaineers and WEA director, came to campus in the summer of 1983 to oversee a five-week expedition course to get the university started as one of the organization’s affiliates. Just prior to that, Phipps, who had not yet joined the faculty in Cullowhee, served as Petzoldt’s apprentice for a WEA course in the Teton Mountains of Wyoming, on his way to gaining WEA certification.

As the years went by, the WEA grew as a national organization and its expedition courses were offered at WCU under the direction of Earl Davis, an alumnus of the university and leadership educator. The courses continued when Phipps came to campus in 1992, with he and Todd Murdock, director of the university’s Project Discovery Program, leading them for 14 years at sites alternating between the mountains of Western North Carolina and the Tetons.

The tradition of WEA courses being offered at WCU is continuing under Bobilya’s leadership. This past summer, a university contingent explored the Boundary Waters of Minnesota by canoe, and next summer’s course will be a nine-day rock climbing and backpacking trip to the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area in Pisgah National Forest.

For more information about WCU’s PRM program and affiliation with the WEA, contact Bobilya at

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