MOAEL Core Curriculum

Curriculum for Master in Outdoor Adventure & Expedition Leadership

Fall Year 1
OAL 511 - Self-Assessment for Adventure Practitioners 1
OAL 512 - Adventure Leadership & Philosophy 4
OAL 525 - Research Methods in Adventure Programming 4
Electives: 2-4
Total 11-13 credits
Winter Year 1
OAL 526 - Outdoor Adventure Risk Management 4
OAL 515 - Expedition Planning 4
OAL 503 - Thesis 1
Electives: 2-4
Total 11-13 credits
Spring Year 1
OAL 509 - Guiding Field Practicum 9
OAL 503 - Thesis 1
Total 10 credits
OAL 545 - International Expedition Experience 9
Total 9 credits
Fall Year 2
OAL 503 - Thesis 4
OAL 575 - Critical Reflection 4
Electives: 2-4
Total 10-12 credits
Total Coursework Credits: 51-57
Core Courses Credits: 45
Elective Courses: 6-12 credits


1. OAL 503: Thesis for OAEL. The master's thesis must demonstrate evidence of scholarly study and writing and contribute to the knowledge base of outdoor adventure leadership. Students will conceptualize and design their thesis over an entire year, starting with the OAL 525 Research Methods course, continuing in winter and spring quarters, and finishing up the following fall quarter. The final draft will include a comprehensive literature review, the theoretical approach, the plan for data collection and analysis, and a presentation of the findings. Students will present a poster presentation at a professional conference in the Fall. (Required total of 6 credits, 1 credit Winter, 1 credit Spring, 4 credits Fall, Year 2)

2. OAL 509: Guiding Field Practicum. This course will provide practical experience for implementing the core principles of adventure programming, addressing aspects of leadership, planning, implementing risk management protocols, and designing appropriate outcomes. Students enrolled in this class will help design and lead the Spring undergraduate intensive quarter experience. (9 credits, Spring)

3. OAL 511: Self-Assessment for Adventure Practitioners. This course provides OAEL graduate students the opportunity for self-examination, identifying the physical, mental, spiritual, technical, and strategic values necessary for self-growth as adventure educators, guides and leaders. Students will design and implement a plan to overcome areas discovered from the self-assessment. Specifically, this course will examine the entire OAEL curriculum to provide a blueprint for achieving personal goals. (1 credit, Fall)

4. OAL 512: Adventure Leadership and Philosophy. This course studies the core aspects of adventure leadership though history, principles, practices, and ethics. The course explores informed decision-making, effective communication, group dynamics, and development theory to cultivate a set of ideals transferable to any adventure endeavor. Students will understand the relationship between leadership, risk management, and planning, all foundational components to adventure programming. (4 credits, Fall)

5. OAL 515: Expedition Planning. This course considers the explicit planning process for expeditions, including identifying goals, developing cultural competency, organizing the team, and coordinating logistics. Relevant to all levels of adventure, the planning component is a clear and deliberate process designed to implement the core tenets of the expeditionary mindset. Students will be responsible for creating short, medium, and long-duration adventures and will apply the concepts to the Spring OAL Undergraduate Intensive quarter and Summer International Expedition. (4 credits, Winter)

6. OAL 525: Research Methods in Adventure Programming. This course will focus on research methods designed to develop a graduate-level thesis based on sound qualitative, quantitative or mixed-methods research. This course will involve travel to, and attendance at, a professional conference, such the Association for Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE) or the Association for Experiential Education (AEE), to gain a better understanding of the current issues in outdoor adventure leadership with a particular emphasis on the leading research in the industry. (4 credits, Fall)

7. OAL 526: Outdoor Adventure Risk Management. This course examines risk management, insurance, and law from both an historical and contemporary viewpoint. Students will explore tort liability, relevant case law, risk evaluation, legal management strategies, and the principles of waivers and releases. As a way to avoid and mitigate potential incidents, this course explores risk management as a central component of expeditionary thinking. The course concludes with the development of a comprehensive risk management plan. (4 credits, Winter)

8. OAL 545: International Expedition Experience. This course is a required international expedition that will involve the entire OAEL cohort. In conjunction with OAEL faculty, the students will utilize the expeditionary process to plan and execute a non-U.S. based expedition. The course will incorporate and demonstrate planning, risk management, cultural competency, and leadership skills acquired from the graduate theory and practicum courses. (9 credits, Summer)

9. OAL 575: Critical Reflection. An essential component of adventure learning is thinking critically about the learning objectives of an adventure course or expedition and analyzing emotional responses to the experience, with the aim of connecting the learning to the experience. This reflective experience will examine the entire graduate process for each student, encouraging students to: connect their experiences to academic content, consider multiple viewpoints, make perceptive observations, cultivate self-awareness and understanding of the environment, and engage the whole person. The reflective process ultimately creates a learning environment in which student can share and construct their own sense of understanding. Students will work with the incoming cohort to share their ideas and experiences. (4 credits, Fall, Year 2)