Posted December 6, 2010 by Scott Reed 

Wow! Outdoor Recreation in the Union?

As a veteran supervisor of the outdoor adventure center for our union, I am continually amazed by student passion for outdoor recreation. Equally surprising is how little is known throughout the Association about these programs that have such a strong footing in unions around the United States. 

Being a “seasoned” recreation and sport enthusiast in general, my experience is that the usual dialog on recreation in the union field is centered on games rooms, table tennis, bowling, and billiards. Though these areas are certainly a strong and important niche in unions, the volume of programming, student service offered, and leadership development taught through union outdoor recreation programs is a valuable recreation niche of its own that often goes unrecognized.  A frequent benchmark reference I use is the Outdoor Recreation Program Directory & Data/Resource Guide, created by David J. Webb and endorsed by the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education. Among other valuable benchmark data in this resource, it highlights that 70 out of 190 outdoor programs are affiliated with ACUI, falling under union reporting lines. 

Knowing this significant data, it is a wonder how union outdoor programs continue to fly under the radar with such strong student learning outcomes potential. Looking at themes for general union missions and ACUI core competencies, outdoor recreation centers seem to hit the mark on many, if not all, goals. Leadership, student learning, planning, management, and finances are just a few competencies that all seem to be priority outcome areas for these integral campus recreation programs. Nonetheless, resources are limited, priorities vary, and other needs trump a high priority for these student-demanded learning and service areas. Further, in terms of revenue for auxiliaries, my experience has seen that managing these programs well and investing in outdoor recreation can turn them into profitable endeavors. Ultimately though, revenue or not, support or not, these programs have a strong footing in a large percentage of unions and many students who are outdoor enthusiasts generally love them. 

So I often ponder: What more reason do we need to determine ways that elevate union outdoor recreation programs to the front pages of our annual reports and higher on our budget priorities? If this were the case, maybe then more people would see the benefits of an outdoor recreation program being integral to fulfilling the union mission. 

Scott Reed

Scott Reed is the Associate Director of Student Centers and Activities at Virginia Tech.

Scott oversees and directs services, operations, and facility management needs for four student center buildings. Through this role, he has overseen renovations, served on the campus sustainability committee, led safety planning for the union, and is currently co-chairing a facility management software transition team. A long time member and volunteer for ACUI, Scott received his bachelor’s in sports management from Western Carolina University and his master’s in kinesiology with a concentration in sports and recreation management from James Madison University.


Scott, As an active member in our Student Union at North Idaho College, I couldn't agree with you more. The relationships that I have built and the lessons I have learned in outdoor programs are invaluable. My past involvement with student government and current enrollment in the Outdoor Leadership Program have really convinced me that every student should make the outdoors part of their college experience. I would also highly recommend the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE)to any student, professional, or outdoor program that desires to lead students in their outdoor experience. Thanks, Jack
Jack Vanderlinden
Comment posted 12/11/2010 1:47 AM
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