The University of Denver is pleased to announce a strategic partnership with the VF Foundation to create the Leadership in Outdoor Recreation Industry (LORI) program. This new interdisciplinary program will be the first of its kind and will combine coursework from three academic units at DU – the Daniel’s School of Economics, Storm law school and Josef Korbel School of International Studies. One of the main goals of the program is to increase the diversity of the talent pipeline for the outdoor industry.
The launch of this program was made possible by the generous support of the VF Foundation, which is providing more than $3 million over three years to cover initial operating costs, curriculum development, and scholarships for various candidates. This multi-year grant represents the largest single contribution from the VF Foundation.
“Our overarching goal is to change the face of the outdoor industry,” said Gloria Schoch, Executive Director of the VF Foundation and Senior Director of Global Impact for VF Corporation. “By leveraging the University of Denver’s unique strengths in business, law and public policy, we believe we will transform the talent pipeline by recruiting, supporting and retaining outstanding and diverse leaders in the outdoor industry.”
The VF Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Denver-headquartered VF Corporation, one of the world’s largest outdoor apparel, footwear and accessories companies, with iconic brands like Vans®The North Face®, woodland®dickies® and smart wool®. The VF Foundation helps amplify the company’s purpose by supporting non-profit organizations that advance movements for sustainable and active lifestyles for the benefit of people and the planet.
“We offer students the opportunity to build the skills, knowledge and perspective to make a difference in our world and create real, lasting change,” said DU Chancellor Jeremy Haefner. “We create specialized, accessible programs that prepare students for the outdoor industry jobs now available and future careers that will transform the field. We are grateful to the VF Foundation for this opportunity to work together in such a meaningful way.”
The needs of the industry
According to the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, the outdoor recreation economy generates $689 billion in consumer spending and provides 4.3 million jobs in the US, outpacing industries such as mining, utilities, agriculture and ranching, and chemical manufacturing. In Colorado alone, the outdoor recreation industry generates $28 billion in spending annually and employs 229,000 people who earn $9.7 billion in wages and pay $2 billion in state and local taxes annually .
There is an increasing demand for customized personal development and professional training to meet the demands of a rapidly growing industry and the increasing challenges faced by wilderness areas in the United States.
“Denver is an important center for the outdoor industry, which makes DU the perfect location for such a program. Through the Foundation’s targeted scholarship support for the underrepresented, combined with DU’s extensive offering of business and industry relevant courses, we hope to inspire the next generation of diverse leaders in the outdoor industry,” said Steve Rendle, Chairman, President and CEO of VF Corporation. “This distinctive learning experience will attract both emerging and established leaders, and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with DU on this important endeavor as we continue to expand our I&D work beyond the VF walls.”
Training for professionals in the outdoor industry
To ensure access for outdoor industry professionals, the interdisciplinary coursework will be taught entirely online, including asynchronous and synchronous content. A “sprint” format, consisting of focused, one-point courses, allows for complete flexibility to tailor offerings to the specific needs of students and organizations.
Topics covered in the sprints include: financial models, marketing, sustainability in the outdoor industry, ESG, legal issues in land use and access, supply chain, public policy, data-driven decision-making and much more.
“We are grateful to VF and the VF Foundation for this opportunity. My colleagues from Sturm College and Korbel School and I look forward to working with them to create an unrivaled program that will fill the need for professional and diverse talent and leadership in the outdoor industry,” said Vivek Choudhury, Dean of Daniels College of Economics.
The program will start in 2023 with two 16-point graduate certificates: A graduate certificate in Outdoor Recreation Industry Business (ORIB) is designed for individuals who are new to the outdoor industry or those who have operational jobs in the industry and are making a transition pursuing more business-oriented roles and a Certificate of Completion in Outdoor Recreation Industry Leadership (ORIL) is aimed at experienced individuals who want to expand their leadership role in the industry.
Look to the future
A director will be hired in the coming months to oversee the program and the university will work with other partners in the outdoor industry in collaboration with the VF Foundation. Visit the LORI program page for more informations.