Ask the Expert: Cynthia Dywan

Cynthia Dywan

The expert advice to answer your most pressing questions. This month, Cynthia Dywan, the interim outdoor program coordinator at the University of Wyoming, shares on outdoor programs.

How do you decide what Outdoor Programs to put on the schedule?

CD: The University of Wyoming (UW) Outdoor Program is focused on offering trips and clinics so UW students can learn new skills and develop those skills during their time at the university. There are a number of trips we have offered each year because of their popularity and a few new ones we offer each semester to try and meet the changing interests of the students.

What are some ways to increase participation in your programs?

CD: First, we offer programs specifically for freshman students during summer orientation and prior to the start of the fall semester. Introducing students to the outdoor opportunities in the area help build life-long friendships, increase student retention and graduation rates.

Another way we have increased participation is encouraging students to invite their friends to sign up for trips together. Having someone you already know on the trip helps to ease the anxieties of trying new activities.

Finally, in Fall 2017 we offered a series of “Unlikely Snowshoer” snowshoe trips inspired by Jenny Bruso’s blog “Unlikely Hiker.” These trips are marketed to students who don’t consider themselves “outdoorsy” and are shorter, one-hour trips that are offered on weekday afternoons instead of the weekend.

What Outdoor Programs are unique to the University of Wyoming?

CD: One of the most unique opportunities is the year-long Outdoor Leadership Development Series (OLDS) program we offer UW students. Students apply and go through an interview process to get into OLDS. This program provides concepts that can be taken from the classroom and applied in the field through a variety of experiential learning opportunities. Starting in the fall, students shadow current Outdoor Program leaders in the field and reflect on those experiences. During the spring semester, students take a three-credit hour course, assist on Outdoor Program trips, and plan and implement their own trips to Utah.

What are three keys to success with your Outdoor Programs?

CD: One key to the success of the University of Wyoming Outdoor Program is employing paid student staff. This creates a positive and professional atmosphere that facilitates a more inclusive environment for all UW students to participate in our trips, clinics and programs.

We also provide training opportunities for student staff such as AMGA and NOLS Wilderness Medicine courses, Outdoor Leadership programs, and for credit courses.

Finally, the University of Wyoming Outdoor Program reaches out to the Laramie community to create opportunities for students and citizens to work together. Through this outreach, we’ve been able to build and maintain trails and have been recognized nationally by the League of American Bicyclists for bicycle-friendly campus and community at the bronze level

Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at

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