Students who explore the great outdoors are aiming for success at Alabama’s only public liberal arts college, thanks to a $10,000 scholarship donation from the Alfa Foundation.
The scholarship funds, split among four students, reward President’s Outdoors Scholars Program participants at the University of Montevallo.
“The Alabama Farmers Federation has a long history of providing scholarships for students pursuing careers in agriculture and forestry,” said Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan. “It’s encouraging to see the University of Montevallo broaden its scope to include programs like Outdoor Scholars, which complements the Federation’s other scholarship programs because it encourages good stewardship of natural resources.”
Scholarship recipients are Kate Frederick of Montevallo, a junior in environmental studies; Tyler Harless of Helena, a senior in biology; Porter James of Russellville, a senior in interdisciplinary studies; and Miller Spivey of Tyler, a senior in marketing.
“It’s a huge help to have this scholarship assistance from the Farmers Federation,” said Spivey, who was raised on a Dallas County row crop farm.
Since its inception in 2015, the Outdoor Scholars Program has grown from eight to 60 participants representing nine states. That’s mostly due to its hands-on approach to educating students about outdoor careers, said program director William Crawford.
“Outdoor Scholars keeps students involved in the outdoors while getting a college degree,” Crawford said. “We founded the program to answer this question from university President Dr. John Stewart, ‘What do high school students in Alabama enjoy doing outside of athletics?’”
The answer? Hunting and fishing.
It’s easy to track Outdoor Scholars success stories. Just look at James, a scholarship recipient whose shooting technique varies from his peers.
“While I’ve been in the program, I’ve found a passion for outdoor photography and videography,” said the 21 year old. “On our trips, I’m capturing the other students’ excitement, and that’s pretty fun.”
Outdoor Scholars expeditions range from hunting antelope in Wyoming to fishing for blue marlin in the Bahamas. Recipient Harless is angling for a career in the fisheries industry and said reeling in Louisiana redfish was his favorite learning experience.
“I’ve always fished but had never caught redfish,” said Harless, 21. “It was neat getting to try out a different style of fishing.”
Crawford helps students hone interests and career goals in the outdoor industry. Then they modify degree programs to hit their target.
Take James, who’s pursuing a custom-tailored, interdisciplinary degree in outdoor media marketing. He earned an internship with Buckmasters Inc. and gained experience shooting video for Outdoor Scholars TV, available on YouTube, Instagram TV and CarbonTV.
“We actually take the students in the field and on the water to participate in these experiences,” Crawford said. “Industry professionals also invite students to go on trips, critique their performance and mentor them.”
During their annual guest speaker series, Outdoor Scholars network with industry leaders like marketing specialists, wildlife biologists, professional anglers and hunting lodge operators. They also participate in community service projects tied to environmental stewardship and taste the fruits of their labor during wild game cookouts.
“People know of Montevallo as the public liberal arts university,” Crawford said. “They’d never guess we have an outdoor program. We’re providing an opportunity that’s offered nowhere else in the country.”
Click here to lear more.