Outdoor Leadership

Outdoor Leadership

The Outdoor Leadership program is designed to prepare students for leadership careers in adventure-based outdoor programs, outdoor education programs, state and national park systems, and camps. Students develop life skills in leadership, decision-making, problem-solving, teaching, and group facilitation within the context of a Christian worldview, as well as gain competency in outdoors skills, including rock-climbing, kayaking, wilderness expeditions, first aid, mountaineering, and more.

Outdoor Activities

A student hiking on the beachThroughout their time at Simpson students will have the opportunity to choose and develop a variety of outdoor skills, from backpacking to kayaking to cross-country skiing. Each skill-oriented course focuses on technique as well as leadership and decision-making. Coupled with courses in risk management, expedition management, and instructional techniques, students graduate with an ability to perform as well as lead.

Personal & Social Development

Two students posing for a picture A large part of outdoor leadership focuses on relationships. Specifically, at Simpson University we focus on four relationships—our relationship with ourselves, with others, with God, and with the environment. As our students learn about the outdoor environment and how to interact with it, they also learn how to foster healthy relationships within that environment. Students are encouraged to learn in community with one another and to make personal applications to their lives. Educating outdoor leaders is about educating the whole person.

Environmental Education

Mountain ValleyIt is hard to care for what you don't understand. It is for this reason that our program contains may curricular components of Environmental Education. Whether it be astronomical lessons under starry skies, or meteorological forecasting in more inclement weather, our program introduces natural science relevant to an Outdoor Leader. By learning the many ecological principles God has established within His Creation, our students are better prepared to be stewards of it. This moral consideration extends not just to our own species but to the whole of the created order as we attempt to usher in the shalom that Jesus inaugurated in his incarnation. Thus, by following the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics all our wilderness travel, we believe we come a little closer to acting justly, loving mercy, and walking with our God.

Christian Worldview

Christian Worldview Diagram SmallWithin the Outdoor Leadership program, the three domains described above (Outdoor Activities, Personal and Social Development, Environmental Education) are taught from a Christian perspective. In fact, the central aim of our program is to facilitate the development of Christ-like character. The outdoors – through the three domains – are our means of doing so.

More about the major

Field and Classroom Time

Simpson University's Outdoor Leadership degree program addresses these domains (see 3 points above) through both theory-based and skill-acquisition courses. However, any strict divide between the classroom and field is soon blurred by the major's significant field time – a May-term expedition, an immersion semester, and elective skill courses or your choice – in total, more than 2 months under the stars, and several more weeks of day trips.

Northern California Location

Mt. ShastaSimpson University is an ideal location for an Outdoor Leadership program. To the east, one quickly encounters Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Traveling further, one is confronted by the towering peaks of the Trinity Alps Wilderness, which is bordered by the Wild and Scenic Trinity River. This beautiful river flows to the Lost Coast area of Northern California, and is flanked by both state and national Redwood parks. To the north, along the Sacramento River, one soon discovers why the Redding area is famous for its fly fishing. Continue driving and one will soon see the toothy profile of Castle Crags State Park, and the looming mass of 14 179 ft. glaciated Mt. Shasta. To the west, the scenery is no less spectacular. From campus, the horizon is dominated by an alpine ridge extending between Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain, which both reside within Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Career Opportunities

A student climbing a treeCombining academic-depth, leadership proficiency and training in a variety of outdoor recreational skills, our Outdoor Leadership program puts you on the right track to further your education or to begin pursuing a career in various fields. Since a significant amount of flexibility is built into the major, students are able to tailor their education to their learning needs and professional interests. Here are some of the ways our students are currently using or intend to use their degree:

  • state and national park systems
  • camp administration
  • adventure-based outdoor programs
  • college and community recreation programs
  • adventure guiding
  • wilderness education instructing
  • running your own adventure business
  • working for non-profit agencies such as the YMCA
  • going to graduate school
Pam Havlick, M.A.

 A headshot of physical education professor Pam Havlick

Assistant Professor of Physical Education

(530) 226-4976


Pam Havlick came to Simpson University in 2005 with twenty two years of Physical Education teaching and coaching experience at Pomona College in Southern California. She holds graduate degrees in both Physical Education and Theology and enjoys educating and motivating people in becoming active and exercising properly for life long health benefits. Pam likes to kayak, hike, bike, play table tennis and read during her spare time.

Educational Background:

  • M.A., Fuller Theological Seminary
  • M.A., California State at Northridge
  • B.S., Pepperdine University

Courses Taught:

  • Fitness and Wellness
  • Motor Learning and Performance for Elementary Physical Education
  • Walking for Fitness
  • Aerobics
  • Weight Training
  • Recreational Kayaking
  • Table Tennis


Amy Smallwood, M.A.

A headshot of outdoor leadership professor Amy Smallwood

Associate Professor of Outdoor Leadership
Leadership Studies Department Chair

(530) 226-4757


Amy Smallwood has served as a wilderness instructor, trainer, guide, and program director for several organizations, including Outward Bound, HoneyRock Camp, Noah's Ark Whitewater Rafting & Adventure Company, and Fox Mountain Guides. In addition to this background in fieldwork, Amy came to Simpson University in 2010 with four years of teaching experience at North Greenville University in South Carolina, where she helped develop a new Outdoor Leadership major and coordinated the Immersion Semester program.

Amy is certified as a wilderness emergency medical technician; single pitch instructor (through the American Mountain Guides Association); 3 Star paddler (through the British Canoe Union); Colorado raft guide; CPR and first-aid instructor; and wilderness first responder instructor (through SOLO). In addition, she has advanced swift-water rescue certification through the American Canoe Association and Level I avalanche certification through the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education. She is former president and current member of the board of directors for the Christian Adventure Association.

Amy's academic interests include spirituality in adventure education, women in outdoor leadership, educational philosophy, and human geography. In her free time, you can find Amy hiking trails, running rivers, climbing rocks, or skiing mountain slopes.

Educational Background:

  • M.A., Wheaton College
  • B.A., Taylor University

Courses Taught:

  • Introduction to Outdoor Leadership
  • Instructional Techniques
  • Philosophy of Experiential Education
  • Processing & Facilitation
  • Administration & Management of Outdoor Leadership Programs
  • Risk Management
  • Outdoor Living Skills
  • Challenge Education
  • Rock Climbing
  • Kayaking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Snowshoeing & Winter Camping
  • Mountain Biking
  • Backpacking
  • Orienteering
  • Wilderness First Responder
  • Wilderness Survival
  • Immersion Semester


Rob Simpson, M.Ed.

Rob Simpson

Associate Professor of Outdoor Leadership

(530) 226-4970


Rob Simpson joined the Simpson University faculty in 2015 after serving for 10 years as the Director of Azusa Pacific University’s High Sierra Program just outside of Yosemite National Park. Prior to his time at APU, Rob served as the Director of the Outdoor Leadership Program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif.

Rob has over 20 years of wilderness leadership experience having guided and facilitated rock-climbing, backpacking, backcountry skiing, mountaineering, rafting, and kayaking trips throughout California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Baja Mexico. Rob is a certified Wilderness First Responder (Wilderness Medicine Institute); Single Pitch Instructor (American Mountain Guides Association); Advanced Avalanche Forecaster (Northwest Avalanche Institute) and is a certified Swift Water Rescue Technician (Rescue 3 International).

When he is not in the classroom, Rob enjoys rock climbing, trail running, fly-fishing, backpacking and playing with his kids. Rob has been married to his wife Cammie since 1992. They have two children, Alek and Sophie.

Educational Background:

  • M.Ed., Azusa Pacific University
  • B.A., Azusa Pacific University

Courses Taught:

  • Introduction to Outdoor Leadership
  • Administration & Management of Outdoor Leadership Programs
  • Solitude & Outdoor Leadership
  • Developing Visionary Leadership
  • Canoeing
  • Rock Climbing
  • Backpacking
  • Mountaineering
  • Snowshoeing/Winter Camping
  • Immersion Semester


At the conclusion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Synthesize an understanding of the historical, philosophical, and theoretical foundations of outdoor leadership through careful research and critical thinking skills, evidenced through research papers, presentations, and insightful classroom discussions
  • Apply various models of leadership, teaching, and facilitation skills related to decision-making, judgment, leadership styles, and instructional design through practical application
  • Demonstrate technical proficiency in a variety of outdoor skills through an ability to perform these skills and plan expeditions with an awareness of environmental impact and the appropriate management of physical and emotional risk.

"Life-changing both professionally and personally."
– Jessica Kenning, Class of 2012

"ODLE is a lot more than just playing outside. It will challenge you as a person in your faith, leadership, and intellect. My ODLE classes were often the most demanding academically. In many ways it is a conglomeration of majors--education, business, psychology, leadership, philosophy, theology, and ethics. You will learn so much about life and yourself and have lots of fun in the process!"
– Melody Board, Class of 2012

"It is incredibly valuable… I learned more about myself and about loving life. I’ve become more confident in myself and truly a better person because of this major."
– Christina (Coleman) Madj, Class of 2012

"It provides an opportunity for students to experience a very holistic major, which focuses on personal growth in mind, body, and soul within the context of community."
– Ruth Jones, Class of 2013

"It allows you to gain the skills and knowledge from highly qualified professors to be able to work in the industry."
– Trever Meier, Class of 2012

"The Lord has created us with all different talents, experiences, and even spiritual temperaments. For those who particularly connect with their Creator through His creation, the Outdoor Leadership major is extremely important and a great blessing. Through the usage of experiential education, connecting the subject with the whole person, the ODLE major does an excellent job of providing relevant knowledge that is transferable for our field of work. The original intent of the liberal arts university is to create global citizens who can think, make decisions, and contribute to society. As a Christian University, the ODLE major, embodies this philosophy, for Simpson students to go spread Kingdom values with their everyday lives; well ours are often lived outdoors. The ODLE major creates godly men and women who are capable to teaching and leading others, and helping individuals discover their whole self."
– Mitchell Kellogg, Class of 2013


Outdoor Leadership Photos