Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Outdoor expert praises UCLan teaching

Professor Lynn Anderson is a renowned expert in the fields of outdoor, therapeutic and inclusive recreation, with her 2011 book, 'Inclusivity Assessment Tool and User Guide', considered a seminal work within the recreation and leisure studies discipline.

As part of UCLan's Distinguished Visitor Programme, Professor Anderson (left) travelled from the State University of New York to take part in our recent public debate - 'Access v the Environment - where do you draw the line?'

The event, also streamed live, attracted a packed audience to UCLan to see Professor Anderson and three other guest speakers present case studies of where decisions had to be made to allow or prevent access to natural countryside areas and discuss the principles underlying those decisions.

We spoke with Professor Anderson after the debate to find out more about her interests.

How did you become involved in the outdoors?

"I grew up in Minnesota near a lake and have enjoyed recreational pursuits my entire life. As a young girl I would spend all summer on the lake – it was ingrained in my blood to be outdoors. I come from a big family with several sisters and one brother. My Dad used to take me fishing, so we didn’t really have a lot of rigid gender structures."

What caused you to be interested in therapeutic recreation?

"As I made my way along my academic and professional path, I discovered there are many issues facing people with disabilities in the outdoors. I firmly believe that time in the outdoors is integral to our well-being as people – it helps us reclaim parts of ourselves we can get disconnected with. The effect on someone with a disability can be even greater, but being outdoors can help the healing process and make them feel better about themselves. It can be very empowering."

Can you describe some of the challenges someone might face?

"There are numerous functional challenges a disabled person could meet in the outdoors. I once worked with someone who was completely blind on an outdoor adventure in North Minnesota. Just seeing him enjoy the wilderness and help him negotiate the challenges was very rewarding.

"There were reciprocal benefits too, as he was able to draw my attention to things I hadn't even heard – it was symbiotic the way we helped each other enjoy the experience. I've seen many people achieve things they didn't think they could do and go on to apply that to their everyday lives. It's really satisfying to help people overcome or adapt to those challenges."

How did your visit to UCLan come about?

"I was teaching in the USA while Helen Hooper (right) was working on her Master's there around 20 years ago. She's currently using one of my books in her teaching and that reignited the connection. It's been fun to learn about your outdoor programme.

"There are a few differences between here and back home – our degrees are four years rather than three and we don't have the same level of practical hands-on skill development your students are exposed to. UCLan graduates leave with very technical skills – we're working hard towards improving that on our programmes."

Are there plans for more collaborative work with UCLan?

"We've discovered areas of mutual research interests in the therapeutic use of the outdoors. I'd love our students to be able to come here to see how your programmes operate and vice-versa. There's lots of possibilities - you have a strong programme and we'd definitely benefit from a link up."

How do you relax away from your professional life?

"In the outdoors! I enjoy snowboarding, cross-country skiing, windsurfing, hiking and cycling with my husband. We really enjoy travelling – he's building a plane at the moment, so hopefully we'll be able to do more short trips in the future. I've enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics while I've been here – it's been great to watch sport without the commercialisation you get in the USA."

What are your goals for the future?

"As part of my work I direct an inclusive recreation research centre. Its mission is to teach people how to include all abilities in their programmes and increase accessibility of environments. I'm currently working on projects to bring the training online.

"It's been field tested over the last five to seven years and has proved very effective in improving knowledge and attitudes. It's exciting to think this may have a broader impact on the world at large."

UCLan Outdoors would like to thank Professor Anderson for this interview and her input to our programmes during her visit.

We also wish to thank Jamie McPhie (University of Cumbria), Robin Horner (RSPB) and Kathryn Beardmore (Yorkshire Dales National Authority) for their contributions to the debate.

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