The University of Wyoming has hired a coordinator for a new program currently in development that will focus on tourism and natural outdoor recreation and hospitality.

Dan McCoy accepted the position as coordinator of a proposed Bachelor of Science degree program in natural resources recreation and tourism. McCoy said the university began developing the new degree program in an effort to be responsive to the needs of the Wyoming economy and workforce.

“Recreation and tourism is the second largest industry in the state behind the energy sector. It’s giant,” McCoy said. “It provides many thousands of jobs and a lot of tax revenue and it’s incredibly important to the diversification of our economy too.”

McCoy says the proposed degree program will be a business focused take on tourism and recreation, in order to foster a highly-educated workforce that will develop new businesses or grow existing businesses in Wyoming.

The vision for the new program, McCoy says, will feature at least five different concentrations that students will be able to choose from after completing a set of core courses.

“Anything from outdoor program leadership to a more business and marketing side of things to resource management,” McCoy said. “Really our vision is to serve the entire state in this sector of the economy.”

To develop a program that is responsive to the needs of the Wyoming tourism and recreation industry, McCoy says members of the UW Haub School and the College of Business looked at market research.

“We’ve looked at other institutions that were offering similar or other types of degree programs,” McCoy said. “Surveys were floated to industry partners and to a variety of sectors about this degree program, about what employers are really looking for in regards to future employees and what kind of skills do they need to come out of this degree program with.”

McCoy said focus groups were also set up across the state that had in-depth discussions with key stakeholders. After the market research was complete, a report was generated and given to a faculty committee on the UW campus. The committee developed the curriculum and the guiding principles of the degree based on the feedback collected.

Helping to guide the development of the degree program is an advisory committee made up of stakeholders from across the state, including representatives from the Wyoming Office of Tourism, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the National Outdoor Leadership School, Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites, the U.S Forest Service and the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association. McCoy says their input will help shape the curriculum of the new program.

“We really cast a wide net,” McCoy said. “We really wanted to make sure we were serving all the sectors and we were getting feedback from all the various sectors.”

McCoy said his position, which begins on Aug. 28, was made possible by a gift from a private donor.

“My position was funded from a private donor, which has really made this whole degree program, the research, the background and the information that has gone into this all possible.”

McCoy said the program will launch in 2018 pending approval from the UW Board of Trustees.