Auburn pitching Wildlife Enterprise Management to writers

Inky Davis has been a South Carolina bass fishing guide for nearly 50 years. His training has all been on the water. But now Auburn University will be only the second college in the nation to offer a new degree program called Wildlife Enterprise Management - a degree geared toward men and women who want to own or manage businesses dedicated to serving customers in search of outdoor adventures. (Photo: Richard Simms)

Auburn University in Alabama has long been known as a hotbed of wildlife and fisheries management experts, churning out hundreds, if not thousands of biologists in recent decades. But wildlife experts are usually, and admittedly, not the best businessmen and women.

"Outdoor recreation pumps $887 billion into the economy nationally, $18 billion in Alabama alone," said Heather Crozier.

Crozier is the Director of Development for the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. She shared her message with 100 outdoor writers at the annual conference of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association Friday morning.

"War Eagle" through and through, Crozier grew up a mere 15 miles away from the Auburn campus. She shared her message Friday with a deep South southern accent, turning most single syllable words into three. She was happy she missed watching Auburn's heartbreaking loss to LSU this year because she was out plowing fields. Showing off pictures on her iPhone of deer, bass, boar and gators roaming the family farm, Crozier clearly has a passion for what she's selling.

"Outdoor recreation generates more than 7 million jobs in our nation yet there are few places young men and women can go to get a professional college degree in the field," said Crozier.

Enter the "Wildlife Enterprise Management" bachelors degree that will officially become a part of Auburn's curriculum beginning in 2019. Students will learn all the basics of wildlife management and conservation, along with the skill sets to run a business focused on hospitality and client services. They expect to train hunting and shooting outfitters, fishing and hunting guides and service providers or other outdoor sport & adventure promotion business managers.

“Graduates will hit the ground running with lodges, hunting preserves, fishing resorts, outdoor experience companies and many other types of consumptive-use businesses,” said Dean Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

Students will experience an eclectic mix of classes including wildlife, fisheries, marketing, business economics, hospitality law and public speaking just to name a few.

"The degree has already been approved by Auburn's Board of Trustees," said Crozier. "It goes before the Alabama Commission of Higher Education in December for their stamp of approval so we'll actually offer our first classes in the program in January, although it won't be officially included in our printed material until the Fall of 2019."

Crozier says 40 Auburn undergraduates have already declared their intent to change majors to Wildlife Enterprise Management. Her goal now is to spread the message encouraging more young men and women check out the opportunities. Currently the university hopes to recruit about 25 students per year, ultimately serving around 120 students in the program.

Crozier admits that economics was, at least in part, the driving force behind the new degree program. She said after Auburn adopted a new business model driven on enrollment numbers, the School of Forestry and Wildlife needed to grow its numbers.

"We discovered only one other university, Kansas State, was offering a similar degree," she said. "Some of our kids were leaving Auburn to go to Kansas for this program so we thought, 'Why not in Alabama."

Learn more about Auburn's Wildlife Enterprise Management degree here.

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