Pivot Required for Successful Adventure Travel, Online Students Learning

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Robert Powell practices his ascent at Grays Peak in Colorado, the 10th-highest summit of the Rocky Mountains. He started in shirt-sleeves, but it got way too cold for that as he moved higher into the snowy peaks.

July 13, 2023  |  by Heidi Wells, Global Campus

Adventure travel requires pivoting sometimes. Several aspects can factor into schedule changes, route adjustments and agenda updates.

University of Arkansas instructor Robert W. Powell teaches several online courses in the U of A's School of Human Environmental Sciences in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. From his homes in south Louisiana and Minnesota and sometimes on the road, Powell gives students in hospitality management an insider's look at putting together trips as well as many other aspects of hospitality management. He uses real-time travel adventures to help students imagine worldwide career opportunities in the tourism and travel field.

Powell will take students virtually with him up Mount Kilimanjaro this fall. The trip, not Powell's first to the "roof of Africa," has been rescheduled a couple of times.

"We've had to push back our timeline due to issues beyond our control," he said. "As I've learned, and hopefully conveyed to the audience of students, adventure travel and mountaineering take quite a bit of planning and flexibility. The variables that affect these adventures are many: physical and mental health, long-term and time-consuming training programs, visa restrictions, weather, animal migration, available labor and staff in-country who help break down and set up the campsites daily, updated vaccinations and side effects of those vaccinations, local medical screening requirements, political instability, the ever-changing restrictions at the parks and others are among some of the obstacles that are beyond my control."

"Then there are the personal logistics of flights, juggling work and family responsibilities, aligning communications and technology, etc.," Powell continued. "Most people don't realize how much goes into a successful trip like this. It's almost a full-time job. I often joke about hiring an assistant to help make my life a bit easier, especially in the ramp-up time frame."

These variables often pressure the strictest of timelines and challenge patience, Powell said.

"But, as I've learned, this is typical for these experiences and part of the cost of pursuing these goals. One of the most quoted examples of this is an Everest summit attempt, which can take over a year in-country. Kilimanjaro, while rarely takes a year, is similar. But it's worth it 10 times over."

The trip is now scheduled for Oct. 5-14. That includes eight days of climbing for anywhere from three hours to eight hours, going from 6,890 feet of elevation to 19,341 feet at Kilimanjaro's summit.

"This time we're much more comfortable with the alignment of the proverbial stars," Powell said. "We're scheduled to leave the first gate on October 5th this year. While it's later than I'd like, it is a reasonable and safe time frame. In a way, this change in dates is a valuable exercise in goal focus. My goal of summitting and bringing the experience virtually to my students has not changed."

Powell reaches the snow on Grays Peak.

Powell is teaching the introduction to hospitality management course that is required in the minor in hospitality management offered online by Bumpers College. The minor can be used to customize a degree plan to meet specific academic and career goals. The hospitality management bachelor's degree is delivered on campus by Bumpers College, or students can combine the minor with other minors offered both online and on campus for an online bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.

During the Kilimanjaro trip, Powell will show the same processes and disciplines used to operate a five-star hotel at the base of the climb, dismantling it every morning, moving it up several thousand feet during the day and setting it up again every evening. A staff of as many as 22 people may be required to take three people up the peak, he said.

Students will log in to recordings or live broadcasts as he uses various technologies including 360-degree cameras, drones, gimbals, virtual reality goggles and satellite capabilities to describe the trip visually and show them what's involved if they want to work in adventure travel excursions. A GPS tracker will allow students to follow Powell along the way.

The Global Campus supports the U of A academic colleges that offer more than 90 online degree, certificate, microcertificate and licensure programs. These programs are showcased on the U of A ONLINE website at online.uark.edu.

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Heidi Wells

Content Strategist

Heidi Wells is the content strategist for the Global Campus at the University of Arkansas and editor of The Online Learner. Her writing spans more than 30 years as a communicator at the U of A and a reporter and editor at Arkansas newspapers. Wells earned two degrees from the U of A: a master's in 2013 and a bachelor's in 1988.

Wells can be reached at heidiw@uark.edu or 479-575-7239.

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