Largest one-time gift from The VF Foundation helps launch interdisciplinary outdoor program

The University of Denver (DU) is pleased to announce a strategic partnership with The VF Foundation to create the Leadership in Outdoor Recreation Industry (LORI) program. This new interdisciplinary program will feature coursework from three academic units at DU—the Daniels College of Business, Sturm College of Law and Josef Korbel School of International Studies. One of the key goals of the program is to increase the diversity of the talent pipeline for the outdoor industry.

The launch of this program has been made possible through the generous support of The VF Foundation, which is granting more than $3 million over three years to support initial operating costs, curriculum development, as well as scholarships for diverse candidates. This multiyear grant represents the single largest contribution made by The VF Foundation.

“Our overarching goal is to transform the face of the outdoor industry,” said Gloria Schoch, executive director of The VF Foundation and senior director of Global Impact for VF Corporation. “By leveraging the University of Denver’s distinctive strengths in business, law and public policy, we believe we will transform the talent pipeline by recruiting, supporting and retaining outstanding and diverse leaders in the outdoor industry.”

VF Foundation logoThe VF Foundation is the philanthropic arm of VF Corporation, which is headquartered in Denver and is one of the world’s largest outdoor apparel, footwear and accessory companies with iconic brands like Vans®, The North Face®, Timberland®, Dickies® and Smartwool®. The VF Foundation helps amplify the company’s purpose through its support of nonprofit organizations that help power movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and the planet.

“We offer students the opportunity to build the skills, knowledge and perspective to make a difference in our world and create real, lasting change,” said DU Chancellor Jeremy Haefner.

“We’re creating distinct, easy-to-access programming that will prepare students for outdoor industry jobs that are available now, and future careers that will change the field. We are grateful to The VF Foundation for this opportunity to partner in such a meaningful way.”

DU Chancellor Jeremy Haefner

The Industry Need

According to the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, the outdoor recreation economy generates $689 billion in consumer spending and provides 4.3 million jobs in the U.S., surpassing industries such as mining, utilities, farming and ranching, and chemical products manufacturing. In Colorado alone, the outdoor recreation industry generates $28 billion in spending annually and employs 229,000 people earning $9.7 billion in wages and paying state and local taxes to the tune of $2 billion each year.

There is an increasing demand for tailored workforce development and professional education to meet the demands of a rapidly growing industry and mounting challenges facing wilderness areas in the United States.

VF CEO Steve Rendle

“Denver is an important center for the outdoor industry, making DU the perfect home for such a program. Through the Foundation’s targeted support of scholarships for underrepresented individuals, combined with DU’s expansive offering of business and industry-relevant coursework, we hope to spark the next generation of diverse leadership in the outdoor industry,” said Steve Rendle, Chairman, President & CEO of VF Corporation. “This distinctive learning experience will attract both emerging and established leaders and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with DU on this important endeavor as we continue to expand our I&D work beyond the VF walls.”

Education for Outdoor Industry Professionals

To ensure access for outdoor industry professionals, the interdisciplinary coursework will be taught fully online, including asynchronous and synchronous content. A “sprint” format, consisting of focused one credit courses, will allow extensive flexibility to tailor offerings to students’ and organizations’ specific needs.

Topics covered in the sprints will include: financial models, marketing, sustainability in the outdoor industry, ESG, legal issues in land use and access, supply chain, public policy, data-driven decision-making and much more.

“We are grateful to VF and The VF Foundation for this opportunity. My colleagues at Sturm College of Law and the Korbel School and I are eager to partner with them to co-create an unrivaled program that will meet the need for professional and diverse talent and leadership in the outdoor industry,” said Vivek Choudhury, dean of the Daniels College of Business.

The program will launch in 2023 with two 16-credit graduate certificates: a Graduate Certificate in Outdoor Recreation Industry Business (ORIB) targets individuals who are new to the outdoor industry, or those who have operational jobs in the industry and are looking to transition to more business-oriented roles, and a Graduate Certificate in Outdoor Recreation Industry Leadership (ORIL) targets experienced individuals looking to expand their leadership roles in the industry.

Looking to the Future

Over the coming months, a director will be hired to oversee the program, and the University in collaboration with The VF Foundation will be engaging with additional partners in the outdoor industry. If you are interested in partnering on this initiative, please contact Vivek Choudhury, dean of the Daniels College of Business. Visit the LORI program page for more information.