About Us

The Outdoor Leadership Academy is funded by the National Park Service to provide outdoor experiences and leadership development for underrepresented youth.

What do we do?

We offer a diverse series of activities designed to inspire an appreciation for our public lands for regional high school and college students throughout the calendar year. Programs range from a unique college orientation experience to camping and white water rafting, to short presentations and programs about exploring the amazing natural environment in our region and beyond. We also include leadership development at different levels in all of our activities so that our participants will hopefully influence their peers and future generations by helping the experience the outdoors as well.

How do I participate?

Registration for individual activities is generally restricted by age and sometimes by school. Students from Utah Tech University, Southern Utah University, UNLV, Nevada State College, and the College of Southern Nevada as well as students from high schools our target region are welcome to participate.If you are a school teacher or club advisor and would like to talk to us about sponsoring a program, please contact us at ola@utahtech.edu.

Meet Our Team

Erin O’Brien

Erin has worked as the director of The Outdoor Leadership Academy since its birth in 2015. She is currently a professor as well as the department chair of the Biology Department at Utah Tech University. Along with acting as director of OLA, Erin is also involved in Gene Girls and eSMART which are both summer camps intended to encourage and promote young girls' interests in the STEM field. Dr. O’Brien has always been passionate about the outdoors and has always promoted inclusivity and diversity on and off-campus and maintains the OLA mission of helping underrepresented youth connect to the outdoors.

Kelly Bringhurst

Kelly has acted as the co-director of The Outdoor Leadership Academy since its beginning alongside Erin O'Brien. Kelly teaches Environmental Science classes at Dixie State and is currently the Director of Community Engaged Learning. Kelly has always been passionate about conservation efforts and regularly leads class trips to Costa Rica. Kelly alongside Erin is passionate about growing diversity within the outdoors as well as university leadership.

Eli Aguirre

Eli Aguirre is currently an intern with The Outdoor Leadership Academy and assists with managing social media as well as general needs for trips, addressing student needs, and working with The Multicultural Inclusion Center at Dixie State University. She is currently majoring in Biology with an emphasis on Natural Science. She moved with her family from Mexico when she was six years old and her involvement in OLA sparked her love of the outdoors as well as influenced her decision in picking an area of study.

Marcy Brown

Marcy is a recent addition to the Outdoor Leadership Academy team, and serves as the Community Outreach Technician for the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. She graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in May 2018 with a degree in Earth and Environmental Science. In her last two undergraduate years, she worked in both the Outdoor Adventure department and Office of Student Engagement and Diversity on campus, where she realized she could combine her passion for increasing representation in natural spaces with her love of expedition planning and outdoor education.

Pamela Holiday

Pamela is the current summer intern for 2020. She is a senior at Dixie State University (DSU), working toward a Bachelors of Science in Applied Sociology. Pamela is a proud member of the Navajo Nation American Indian tribe and was born and raised on the Navajo reservation. With her cultural background and love of science, she is an enthusiast and advocate for maintaining a positive connection to nature. For the 2019-2020 study, Pamela served as a research assistant for DSU’s Institute for Social Research team in the examination of burnout and stress within a techno-reliant society. Working with OLA, her efforts will continue by analyzing a person’s exposure and submergence to outdoor activity and its effect on their stress levels.

Miguel Taylor

Miguel is currently a freshman at Dixie State University (DSU) working towards an AS degree with an emphasis in natural science. He is currently serving as our OLA intern for 2020. Miguel hopes to be a national park ranger since he takes great joy in being outside. He was first introduced to OLA on a Catalina island trip hosted by DSU. This experience deeply influenced him to look for ways to create and share similar experiences with other individuals. Miguel comes from a bi-racial, bi-cultural family where empathy and respect for all individuals are taught as the model. He enjoys getting to know people from diverse backgrounds, especially if spending time outdoors with them is included ;)