By Joe Healy
So you love the outdoors, hunting and fishing; want to help preserve wild places and ensure that wild creatures thrive; and enjoy sharing your enthusiasm for outdoor recreation with others. Well, a new four-year major at Auburn University may be right down your alley. AU’s new Wildlife Enterprise Management (WLEM) program combines wildlife management, hospitality studies, and business and marketing to equip students to work at or manage hunting and fishing properties worldwide. The program was approved by the Alabama Commission of Higher Education in December 2018, and at press time 40 students already were enrolled.
John Burrell, president and CEO of High Adventure Company (HAC) and SA Adventures (operators of Argentina’s Tipiliuke Lodge and South Dakota’s Cheyenne Ridge Signature Lodge among others), was recruited to help develop the major. In fact, the curriculum was modeled after what HAC looks for in employees. “This is gonna be a game-changer,” Burrell said. “Operating the types of places we operate, finding quality and experienced staff is absolutely our limiting factor to growth.”
According to Stephen S. Ditchkoff, a professor at Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and a lead professor in the new wildlife-enterprise program, Burrell was one of the first professionals consulted. “We wanted the experts to help create the major,” Ditchkoff said.
When Burrell initially met with Auburn professors, he took them through HAC’s portfolio and discussed the money involved in outdoor travel. “They just weren’t aware of the kind of money sporting travel brings into the economy.” Burrell said. “Our company will be one of the first to interview the Auburn graduates, so that’s why I say it’s a game-changer for us and a game-changer for them.” High Adventure Company also will provide internships and mentoring opportunities to students in the program, Burrell said.