OSU-Cascades will offer a new bachelor’s degree in outdoor products beginning fall 2020 that will be one of only a few such university programs in the nation.
The College of Engineering program aims to meet demand for innovation and skilled employees in the outdoor recreation industry, a $16.4 billion industry in Oregon and the nation’s third largest area of consumer spending.
“Most people enter the outdoor industry circuitously and rarely right out of college,” said Geoff Raynak, executive director in residence of the degree program. “The OSU-Cascades outdoor product degree taps into all academic disciplines, exposes students to a rigorous curriculum, and will develop industry leaders who can balance product, profit, people and the planet.”
Raynak said program graduates will be prepared for employment in outdoor product design and management, marketing, supply chain logistics and innovation engineering, and as an outdoor products entrepreneur.
“They will understand that it’s not just financial success they are striving for. They are also striving for a balance of the planet. A balance of how many people are out there recreating. A balance of how much money is enough money. And a balance of what this product’s actual life cycle really is.”
Raynak says six students have already committed to the outdoor products degree program and it hasn’t officially launched yet. He gets calls daily from interested students and companies offering internships.
We found one interested student with one phone call.
“I’d like to work on the apparel side more,” said Chandler Oliveriera. “I like the technology aspect of it. All the different materials that you use. I’d also look into doing rock climbing gear.”
Students will study design, development, manufacturing, testing, sustainability, corporate responsibility and stewardship of natural lands, and learn to understand the impact of a product’s life cycle.
Kevin Ganey, manager at Bend’s Mountain Supply said it makes sense to tap into the minds of young people. They’re behind the next great thing.
“It tends to be the younger generation has a lot of the ideas. They see something that may exist or just a new idea. They are constant innovators and thinkers,” he said. “To get them started in that ground level process I think would be really cool to see that.”
The degree program was developed with input from more than 30 outdoor companies including Black Diamond, Columbia, Kialoa Paddles, Metolius Climbing, Nau, Nike, Patagonia and Smartwool to understand challenges facing the industry and skills desired in future employees.
“The strong engagement of business leaders in helping develop this new academic program demonstrates the need for Oregon-based teaching and research in outdoor products and services,” said Becky Johnson, vice president of OSU-Cascades. “Outdoor companies in Central Oregon and beyond already have expressed interest in hosting student internships required for the degree.”
“Collaboration throughout OSU and with business and industry is how Oregon State University works to best serve Oregonians and the economy,” said Scott Ashford, the Kearney Dean of Engineering of the university’s College of Engineering. “Offering this program at OSU-Cascades is a perfect fit for Oregonians, as well as the state’s growing and significant outdoor economy.”
A $250,000 gift in 2016 from Hydro Flask provided seed funding for the degree program, allowing the university to embark on projects associated with the startup of the degree, and to hire Raynak to develop, launch and lead the program. Hydro Flask team members helped develop the concept for the degree program.
Raynak’s experience includes product design in the Nike Innovation Kitchen, oversight of innovation and design at Ruffwear, and managing product commercialization at local and global scales. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of Washington.
The program will leverage creative production and maker space in an academic building under design and construction on the OSU-Cascades campus. Implementation of the new degree program is pending support by the Oregon public universities’ provost council and the state Higher Education Coordinating Commission.