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CFWE hosts state-wide summit to engage professionals, enhance parks and recreation management curriculum

By June 10, 2024No Comments
The PARK Summit poses for a photo in the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment's courtyard.

Parks and recreation representatives gather for the PARK Summit.

The Auburn University College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment (CFWE) recently hosted Alabama parks and recreation leaders to advance opportunities for students within Auburn’s new parks and recreation management degree.

The PARK Summit, organized by Auburn faculty, including Wayde Morse, Michael Brunson and Allie McCreary, was attended by approximately 50 representatives of parks and recreation departments, agencies and organizations from throughout the state.

The goal of the summit was three-fold, stated McCreary.

“We hoped to engage stakeholders to gain insights about the applied skills necessary for parks and recreation careers, gather feedback about the curriculum and build a robust professional network for future internships and employment opportunities for our students,” said McCreary.

The forum included attendees ranging from early to mid-late careers who were able to provide their professional insights and expertise to help shape the future of the new Parks and Recreation Management degree.

“We are fortunate to have participants hailing from a range of backgrounds, size of facilities and geographic areas who bring a wide variety of experiences and perspectives to the table,” said Morse. “Those diverse viewpoints were invaluable for identifying the key knowledge and skills graduates need and how best to integrate those learning objectives into our current courses.”

Michael Brunson, Allie McCreary and Wayde Morse speak to the PARK Summit attendees.

Michael Brunson, Allie McCreary and Wayde Morse, all Auburn faculty, organized the PARK Summit for numerous departments and representatives of parks and recreation.

To prepare students for their future careers, the degree requires an internship which provides opportunities for on-the-job training and a field practicum experience to earn micro-credentials such as Wilderness First Aid and Leave No Trace.

“We view this as a collaborative effort where current professionals will help guide and educate our students as internship supervisors, and through this mentorship they can actively contribute to the livelihood of the industry,” said Morse.

During the conference, the group, comprised of 20 parks and recreation agencies, identified several methods for student/industry engagement along the curriculum pathway.

“Members of industry can become involved with Auburn to facilitate student tours at local park facilities, by hosting recreation-related volunteer programs and inviting students to shadow professionals for a day,” said Brunson.

Brunson said they can also serve as invited guest speakers and participate in networking events between students and professionals at state or regional conferences.

To continue the work launched at the PARK Summit, the faculty also intends to create an advisory panel of industry stakeholders that will meet annually.

Natalie Norman, executive director of the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association, shared how she envisions the program would benefit industry within the state.

“It was good for there to be interaction/introductions between participants in the field and university personnel. Fostering good relationships should enhance the communication between the two parties,” said Norman.

“Further, I think it is helpful for university personnel to understand the needs of the agencies represented by the participants.”

Allie McCreary, one of the organizers of the conference, speaks to the group about parks and recreation careers, and the future of students.

Allie McCreary, one of the organizers of the conference, speaks to the group about parks and recreation careers, and the future of students.

The new major, which is the only parks and recreation degree offered in Alabama, will address the unique needs of both sectors of the industry: community-based and outdoor-focused parks and recreation programs.

Attendees of the summit helped the faculty to map an additional 70+ organizations within Alabama to potentially network with for student internships and other opportunities.

“Because of this diversity, there is great potential for students to experience the various types of organizations that comprise this industry right here within Alabama, including national agencies and private enterprises,” said Brunson.

To participate in the internship program or to engage with the students on campus, members of the parks and recreation community are invited to contact the college’s faculty at

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