Wildlife, business and hospitality weave together to form a new degree for Auburn University (AU) students who enjoy the outdoors — wildlife enterprise management.
“Graduates will hit the ground running with lodges, hunting preserves, fishing resorts, outdoor experience companies and many other types of consumptive-use businesses,” said School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Dean Janaki Alavalapati.
The bachelor’s program develops education and skills for careers in hunting and fishing industries. Classes are offered across the Auburn campus, primarily in the SFWS, College of Human Sciences and the Harbert College of Business.
Courses include wildlife management, hotel and restaurant management, accounting and marketing. Students earn a minor in business in addition to their bachelor’s degree.
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s William Green said the program will support the vast outdoor recreation industry.
“There’s a renewed interest in the great outdoors, and we’re excited to see how this degree allows enthusiasts to capitalize on their interests,” said Green, the Federation’s Wildlife Resources Division director.
Consumer spending on outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion to the U.S. economy, employs 7.6 million Americans and generates $125 billion in tax revenues, the Outdoor Industry Association reported in 2017.
“We hope to attract students from across the country as we bring the outdoors inside the classroom,” said Stephen Ditchkoff, a SFWS wildlife ecology and management professor. “In five years, we anticipate 25-30 students in each incoming class for a total of around 120 students.”
Auburn’s wildlife enterprise management program is the nation’s second, following Kansas State University.
“We developed our program based on interviews with experts in the hunting and fishing lodge management industry,” said Mark Smith, a wildlife management professor and Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialist. “They gave us a list of skills that the ideal graduate needs.”
Ditchkoff and Smith consulted sporting organizations such as High Adventure Co., a global leader in outdoor recreation facilities. High Adventure has locations around the globe, from the U.S. to Argentina to Africa.
“We expect to have 75-100 internships each year for our students at High Adventure and other companies,” Ditchkoff said. “Students will gain valuable on-the-job training.”