Outdoor Leadership

Simpson is one of the few Christian colleges and universities that offer an Outdoor Leadership major and minor. The university's location at the hub of Northern California's vast recreational playground makes it ideal for such a program. Offering an exciting array of courses and field experience, the Outdoor Leadership major was launched in 2007 and is poised for tremendous growth.

Leadership Studies Department Mission

The Outdoor Leadership program at Simpson University seeks to develop competent and mindful outdoor leaders through a rigorous course of study that challenges students to grow in Christian character and in their relationships with God, others, themselves, and the environment.

Now Offering: Certificate in Wilderness Leadership

Outdoor Leadership

Outdoor Activities

Throughout 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

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

It 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

Within 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

Simpson 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

Combining 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.

Assistant Professor of Physical Education
Leadership Studies Department Chair
Division Chair of Psychology, Business and Leadership Studies



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.

Assistant Professor of Outdoor Leadership



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


Paul Stonehouse, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Outdoor Leadership



In wilderness, Professor Stonehouse finds what Bodsworth called a "sanctuary of reorientation." For, in wild places one often experiences the sacred, the mysterium tremendum, what Otto described as an encounter with the Holy. Paul's favorite aspect of his professorate is sharing these wild and liminal spaces with his students through backcountry travel.

It was Outdoor Leadership's full complement to the liberal arts curriculum that first attracted Paul to wilderness-based education. In what other major might one at once address physical fitness, intra/interpersonal authenticity, environmental awareness, existential purpose, epistemological limitations, and ethical formation - all through a theological lens?

Much of Paul's own formation has come through his extended time in the wilderness, literally years of his life spent sleeping beneath the stars. However, with degrees in the humanities and sciences, not all of his time has been spent outdoors. His research interests, adventures of a different sort, lie in the relationship of moral philosophy and theology to wilderness experience. He recently finished his Ph.D. in Outdoor Education from the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, where he was researching character formation on wilderness expeditions from a virtue ethical perspective.

His work has been featured in several articles and book chapters, and he regularly presents on his research at national conferences. He is currently working on publications in the development of virtue on extended wilderness journeys, and the similarities between Benedictine spirituality and life on an expedition. Paul serves on the research committee of the Wilderness Education Association, and is a peer-reviewer for the Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership.

He has certifications, coursework, and experience in many specialties, including canoeing, Nordic skiing, mountaineering, rock climbing, long-distance hiking, Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics, and wilderness medicine.

Educational Background:

  • Ph.D., University of Edinburgh
  • M.Div., Asbury Theological Seminary
  • M.S., Mankato State University
  • B.S., Roberts Wesleyan University

Courses Taught:

  • Introduction to Outdoor Leadership
  • Philosophy of Experiential Education
  • Challenge Education
  • Ethics and Outdoor Leadership
  • Risk Management
  • Solitude and Outdoor Leadership
  • Wilderness Expedition
  • Administration and Management of ODLE Programs
  • Developing Visionary Leadership
  • Rock Climbing
  • Orienteering
  • Hiking
  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Backpacking
  • First Aid/CPR
  • Leave No Trace
  • Outdoor Living Skills


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.