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Taking the Leap with WT

A prime example of Lyon’s unique campus experiences, the Lyon Education and Adventure Program (LEAP) welcomes new leadership for a new year. Wayne “WT” Taylor, Ph.D., takes up the role with decades of experience in outdoor leadership and education. “We want to continue the good things [about the program],” he said, “but I am also looking forward to getting more students involved with LEAP.”

WT began his involvement in outdoor education while teaching high school in Dallas, where he earned his M.A. in physical education from Southern Methodist University (SMU). He later went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi and wrote his dissertation on outdoor recreation. “There is no special degree currently for outdoor education,” he said, “but you can specialize in it under a physical education degree.” He did exactly that and continued to stay involved on college campuses by getting more students outdoors.

WT’s first experience in Arkansas was leading a trip to Mena while teaching a backpacking course at SMU. He gained experience working at other universities in the South, including Texas Tech and Middle Tennessee State University. “I would take students on 10-15 trips per semester, and I also added a challenge course and climbing wall [at Middle Tennessee State],” he said. He was working in Mississippi when he first heard about Lyon and its LEAP program. Even though he was involved in other adventures at the time, he kept Lyon on his radar.

Directly before joining the Lyon staff, WT served as an adjunct instructor and Assistant Director of CORE Outdoors at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia. His last trip with the Valdosta students was a ski trip to Angel Fire, New Mexico, in December. He had known Scott Dirksen, the former LEAP director, from the University of North Iowa, so when he learned the position at Lyon was open, he decided to go for it. At the end of the summer, WT’s employment was announced, with Darrell Shaw serving as Interim LEAP Director until the first of January, when WT arrived to take over the program.

He is looking forward to adding elements to the LEAP program that will encourage more students to get outside. “I would love for all 700 or so students to be involved in some part of the LEAP program,” he said, and he wants to include team-building activities and accommodations to bring out the naturalist spirit in even the most outdoors-shy students. “My specialty is challenge courses,” he said, and one specific way he wants to encourage more student involvement is to add lower course elements to Lyon’s ropes course. Students who are apprehensive about the height challenge of the course could practice and learn just as many valuable skills at a lower height.

WT also wants to work with professors to incorporate outdoor and team-building activities into their classes, where appropriate. This valuable idea fits right in with Lyon’s liberal arts approach and efforts to get students to learn from their world, not just their classrooms. “I think [this plan] would go a long way to combine academics and LEAP,” he said.

The LEAP program was established to allow students to explore Arkansas’ beauty in a safe setting, while also providing outdoor opportunities on campus. Many bicycles and camping supplies are available for student rental, and the program has established a bouldering wall, disc golf course, hiking trails, and a ropes course on campus. The program is already popular with students, but fresh insight with a focus on more student involvement should create a love for the outdoors and a spirit of adventure throughout the Lyon community. 

Posted by Eric Bork at 3:10 PM