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UMFK exploring new concentration in winter sports management

January 23, 2004

NR04015

As the winter sports industry takes its place alongside forestry and farming as an engine driving the Northern Maine economy, the University of Maine at Fort Kent is stepping up its efforts to meet the region's economic development needs with a proposed new concentration in the institution's business program designed to train new leaders in the field.

With discussions of the University's commitment to the fast-approaching 2004 Biathlon World Cup also on their agenda, UMFK's board of visitors were given early details about the new curriculum initiative at their January 23 meeting.

UMFK President Richard Cost and Robert Scott, vice president for academic affairs joined Brad Ritz, associate professor of business and economics and chair of the university's natural and behavioral science division, in detailing proposed course offerings and stated benefits of the program.

"The future development of the Valley and indeed all of northern Maine will be greatly impacted by the relatively new industry surrounding winter sports and recreation. The possibilities are seemingly endless," said Cost. "Introducing this new concentration is further evidence of our strong commitment to working with local officials to improve the regional economy. This new concentration also dovetails with UMFK's recently drafted strategic plan, which underscores incorporating the use of the area's natural and cultural resources in plans for growth of the campus community."

The winter sports management concentration would fall under the business major and would be designed to prepare students to enter positions of responsibility in businesses and organizations offering Nordic and alpine skiing venues.

"The continued interest in skiing and particularly the growth in Nordic skiing caused a working group of faculty and staff to begin the contemplation of a potential course of study that would provide interested students an opportunity to learn skills necessary to manage winter sport businesses and non-profit organizations. The recent expansion or creation of downhill, cross-country and biathlon venues in Aroostook County have added to the confidence of the faculty planning the concentration in the business management major. This spring the planning committee will be working with a marketing class to further assess the need for the concentration," said Ritz.

Besides a foundation in key areas of business management, the concentration will focus on leadership skills, trail and facilities design including instruction in GPS and GIS, the management of the natural environment, and resort management.

Beyond the classroom, students electing to sign up for the concentration will complete an internship in the winter sports industry.

"The successful student will be well prepared to assume positions of responsibility in the winter sports industry," said Ritz.

Upon final university approval, students within the business major will have the opportunity to declare winter sports management as their concentration with the registrar's office.