West Virginia University wants to educate the next generation of BSA professionals

West Virginia University, which has demonstrated its commitment to Scouting through its partnership with the nearby Summit Bechtel Reserve, will offer two new degree programs to train future leaders of organizations like the BSA.

WVU’s bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership, set to debut in Spring 2019, will prepare students for careers leading nonprofit organizations.

That means WVU could produce the next great council Scout executive or even a future Chief Scout Executive. The degree program also would benefit students interested in careers with the 4-H, youth sports organizations, the United Way, the American Red Cross and many more.

“We see our program as the next step in development for what could become a lifelong career in the BSA leadership,” said Jeff Houghton, an associate professor at WVU and the program’s coordinator. “The program will be highly experiential and provide opportunities to do internships and be engaged with the BSA and other nonprofits.”

Meanwhile, WVU Tech’s bachelor’s degree in adventure recreation management, which debuts this fall, is an ideal fit for Scouts or Venturers with a love for outdoor recreation activities and an interest in leading camps or BSA high-adventure bases.

“Those two programs, I think, will be unique in this country,” said WVU President Gordon Gee, a Distinguished Eagle Scout and BSA National Executive Board member. “And more important, they’ll be very focused on Scouting.”

Strong ties to West Virginia

BSA Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh was born in Charleston, W.Va., about 150 miles from WVU.

In 1984, Surbaugh graduated from Salem College in Salem, W.Va., with a degree in youth agency administration. (The institution has since changed its name to Salem University.)

Two assistant Chief Scout Executives are graduates from the same program at Salem: Al Lambert, national director of outdoor adventures, and Mark Logemann, national director of support services.

Salem no longer offers that degree, so the BSA approached WVU about starting a similar program.

“They made us aware that there is a need for an organizational leadership program, with an emphasis on nonprofit leadership, that wasn’t being met,” Houghton said.

Why West Virginia University? A big factor was the university’s support of the 2013 and 2017 National Jamborees held at SBR. WVU recruited students to work at the Jamboree, paid their way and gave them a $500 scholarship for their effort. But there’s one more big reason: WVU President Gee, a lifelong advocate for Scouting.

Gee earned every merit badge as a Scout. He has been a college president for more than half his life, serving at the University of Colorado, Brown University, Vanderbilt University and The Ohio State University. His signature is on more diplomas than any other president in higher education.

At a meeting of BSA Scout executives last month, Gee introduced the degree programs and called for the BSA’s help in filling it.

“We need to think about how we’re going to replace all of you, eventually,” Gee told the crowd. “We want you to identify those young people who really want to dedicate themselves to Scouting.”

Lambert responded by calling for Scouting’s support.

“I want to commend WVU for their vision in doing this,” he said, “and we pledge to work with you.”

What’s unique about the Organizational Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations program?

It’s hands-on. Students who learn by doing, not just reading and listening, will be right at home. They’ll gain real-world experience from a hands-on curriculum. Plus, WVU offers internships at locations that span 25 different states and 10 different countries.

It’s focused on youth leadership development. Scouts and Venturers know the impact the Scouting program can have on a young person. The program at WVU features a strong focus on youth leadership development that helps students channel their passion. They’ll be equipped make a difference right after graduating.

It teaches skills vital to the BSA’s success. Students will gain skills in managing budgets, ethical leadership, leading change, financial management, fundraising, developing volunteers, recruiting members and more.

It makes the most of its location. WVU is just three hours from SBR, and the university takes full advantage. SBR becomes a student’s laboratory for experiential learning. In addition, WVU foresees using SBR for programming related to its courses and having program-related annual leadership summits and conferences. Finally, students will start the program with an orientation experience at SBR.

At its heart, it’s a business program. Other universities offer leadership programs with a nonprofit focus. But WVU’s organizational leadership program is offered by the College of Business and Economics. That means it imparts the business skills essential to managing nonprofit organizations.

You can learn more about the curriculum here.

Bachelor’s in Adventure Recreation Management at WVU Tech

If the organizational leadership program at WVU will train the next wave of Scout executives, a second new degree program will train the next wave of camping directors.

West Virginia University Institute of Technology, located 12 miles south of SBR in Beckley, W.Va., has introduced a bachelor’s degree in adventure recreation management.

“Through professional field experiences and senior projects emphasizing problem-solving, Tech’s program is well suited for meeting the needs of the BSA,” says Dave Bernier, the program’s acting director. “Few regions in America are able to bring together so many natural resources and educational opportunities as student may experience in Southern West Virginia.”

This program isn’t meant to roll out the next rafting or climbing guide — though students can get certified in those types of activities. It’s designed to train people who manage camps and adventure facilities, like BSA council camps or high-adventure bases.

Graduates will be leaders in the Scouting community. They’ll help connect Scouts and others with the outdoors in the safest and most ecologically responsible manner possible. They’ll also get experience in the operations of whitewater, rock climbing, mountain biking and aerial sport programs.

With SBR a short drive away, WVU Tech students can use the high-adventure base as their classroom. SBR’s world-class adventure venues, climbing sites, trails and facilities are at their disposal. They can gain insight into what it takes to operate a high-adventure base by talking to the men and women who do just that.

You can learn more about the curriculum here.