Ozarks junior climbing to new heights

Release Date: 9/12/2012

Ask Matt Friant, a junior environmental studies major from Conway, Ark., where he wants his career to go and his answer is simple: "It doesn't matter just as long as I'm outside, and helping preserve our last wild places and educating people of their importance." This past summer, Friant scaled mountains in preparation for his career as a conservationist.

Matt FriantFriant currently works as an activities coordinator with Ozarks Outdoors, the university's new program that integrates outdoor recreational and academic opportunities. To better prepare for this year's activities, Friant attended two professional workshops, including a Professional Climbing Instructors Association (PCIA) course in Asheville, N.C.

Friant's summer began, however, with a wilderness first responder certification course at University of Texas at Austin. Wilderness first responders are trained to react to medical emergencies in severe environments where calling 911 may not be an option.

Friant explains, "I needed that certification to take students out on trips here with Ozarks Outdoors, so I spent eight days in Austin learning from Wilderness Medical Associates alongside people from all over the country. Once I got my certification, I immediately flew to North Carolina, where the climbing course began."

He took part in a five-day PCIA course by Black Mountain Expeditions in the Pisgah National Forest, located amid the Smoky Mountains. The course is designed to provide climbing instructors with a standardized knowledge of teaching climbing in an outdoor setting.

"In relation to the other people taking the course, I actually had very little climbing experience," Friant confessed.  "I have really only been climbing for the last two years, so I was able to come away with so much more knowledge about why we do the things we do when climbing."

After learning so much, Friant is excited to share his experiences back on campus. "The goal was for me to bring back as much climbing knowledge as possible and help some of the new Ozarks Outdoors freshmen workers prepare for taking the course themselves and become certified climbing instructors later," he said.

As an environmental studies major and budding conservationist, Friant knows these types of experiences are invaluable to his future success.

"Participating in Ozarks Outdoors has helped me a great deal," he said. "It has given me the training I need to know about what goes into outdoor recreation programs, plus extra training in some of the outdoor activities I truly love, like rock climbing. These are all fun, but I've also gained skills that could be applicable in the industry that I'm heading into.  My goal is to graduate from Ozarks, get my master's degree in wildlife management, then get a job with the National Wildlife Refuge or National Wildlife Federation or even a national park."

Friant plans to utilize his new climbing expertise at a climbing competition and clean-up event in Northwest Arkansas next month.

Matt Friant

Matt Friant, an activities coordinator with Ozarks Outdoors, attended two professional workshops over the summer, including a Professional Climbing Instructors Association (PCIA) course in Asheville, N.C.