Canyoneering an unexpected business school class

From left: teaching assistants Alex Temus and Dallin Connell scout canyons to use for the cayoneering class in the Marriott School of Business. (Dallin Connell)

It’s 3:55 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 5, and students are starting to line up outside of room W208 of the Tanner Building. The teacher opens up the doors, and they rush in eagerly waiting for the professor to read their name.

Finally, after going through what feels like dozens of names, the class is filled. With sighs of disappointment, several students leave while others feel a rush of relief knowing they secured a spot in this highly-coveted class.

A lot of students relate to this sense of urgency when trying to add the canyoneering class, (EXDM 223R), which is offered by the Experience Design and Management Department in the Marriott School of Business. The class capacity fills up fast, and some students join the waitlist up to a year in advance.

According to the Experience Design and Management front desk secretaries, students are told to arrive on the first day of class 10 minutes early to help increase their chances of getting into the class. The professor then reads off the names on the first day, and whoever is there to claim the code, gets a guaranteed spot.

This fall, the waitlist for the class was 134 students long with only 15–20 spots offered for students to fill, according to the Experience Design and Management secretaries. 

Peter Ward, associate professor in the department of Experience Design and Management, currently teaches canyoneering during the winter semester and said the course largely consists of in-class instruction. Students meet weekly to go over climbing gear and learn the ins and outs of the sport.

“(It is) exploring canyons primarily along the Colorado Plateau. So, when we say canyons, we are referring to southern Utah-type, deep … slot canyons to the use of technical means, primarily being ropes and climbing gear,” Ward said.

The Winter Semester 2018 canyoneering class prepares forits adventure into Capital Reef for the class field trip. (Dallin Connell)

Dallin Connell — a strategic management student and class TA — helps Ward prepare for out-of-class excursions into the canyons.

“Canyoneering is the exploration of low points. It involves hiking, sometimes swimming, repelling. It’s getting from point A to point B when there is no easy path,” he said. 

Students can do things that are not offered in other types of curriculum when they sign up for the class. This fact helps to separate this course from others in the Marriott School.

“I’ve been in quite a few of these Experience Design courses, and the interesting thing is these courses are not all about the activity,” Connell said. “It’s about finding balance. It’s about becoming more well-rounded.”

Canyoneering serves an integral purpose in the learning process for business students, regardless of the fact that it is different from traditional business courses. 

“I think it’s a needed part of the Marriott School. You could say all of us in the Marriott School need these classes because of what they do,” Connell said. “These classes have been specifically designed for the students and are giving us an outlet, or a way to experience a new skill that you don’t get in most business.”

Alex Temus, another TA, said canyoneering is needed because it helps students overcome obstacles, develop trust, and expand their self-reliance in difficult situations.

“It opens the students’ eyes to realize that while they are here at BYU, they have the opportunity to do more than study. They have the opportunity to discover and appreciate the outdoors,” he said.

Students embark on a two-day trip toward the end of the semester where they can implement the skills they learned in the lecture setting. 

Colter Stewart, a student who previously took the course in Spring 2018, said he signed up for the class the moment he found out about it.

“The end of class field trip was amazing. I loved being able to apply the skills we learned all term in the canyons and enjoy the world from a whole new viewpoint,” he said.

Dallin Connell rappels down Capital Reef Canyon for the first time. (Dallin Connell)

The class also provides an opportunity for Experience Design and Management students to develop skills they will use in the workforce.

“We are a very academic, very vibrant department that teaches students how to create face-to-face experiences for people using design thinking inside of a business setting,” Ward said.

Ward said the department is fortunate enough to have a history of housing these types of classes, such as rock climbing.

Even though the department holds these classes, any BYU student can join regardless of their major if they contact the office.

“We need balance in life and this is one way to reduce stress and learn something new,” Temus said. “I think it’s just the look on a friend’s face when she tells you that this is going to be the coolest class you ever take, that convinces you to take it. It’s hard to explain exactly why, but it is absolutely incredible.”
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