Get to know Outdoor Recreation Management adjunct instructor and Outdoor Legend, Aram Attarian

Written by Hannah Cargill ’20; Editorial assistance by Nina Mastandrea

Outdoor Legend in residence and newest member to the Outdoor Recreation Managementteam Aram Attarian has seen it all on the beaten trail.

Originally from Southeast Pennsylvania, Attarian arrived in the High Country to receive his master’s degree at Appalachian State University before pursuing his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.

Always having an interest in the great outdoors, he took his first Outward Bound course in 1977, sparking the passion and lifelong love of exploration and adventure. 

Attarian taught at North Carolina State University for 30 years where he created the Outdoor Pursuits program prior to taking a position at Lees-McRae to teach risk management in outdoor recreation environments.

Although technically retired, Attarian said he is having fun getting back into the teaching world with such driven individuals and is truly enjoying the opportunity he's been given to help the Outdoor Recreation Management program grow.

Get to know Aram Attarian a little more with our most recent Q&A: (Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity)


With your experience, what do you hope to bring to students at Lees-McRae?

Currently, I teach a course that focuses on managing risk in outdoor recreation environments. What I bring is my years of experience in the field, however, like any field there are always new things happening. A cool thing about working here is that there are multiple outdoor recreation resources and opportunities in the area available to all students, faculty and staff.


What are some issues outdoor management is facing today?

There are always new events, activities and trends that create challenges for park protective managers; one example being slack lining. National forest managers are wondering how they can feasibly regulate an activity that is gaining so much popularity quickly. Issues may involve disposing of increased trash and waste left by visitors. Another issue is the role of technology—how we communicate to the outside from parks as well as how we interact with the land. It has made these outdoor recreation sites more accessible, but it also causes people to enter these places with a false sense of security when it comes to using phones in the wilderness.   


What are some of the most memorable outdoor trips you have taken?

I went on a mountaineering trip to the St. Elias Mountain Range in Canada where I spent almost a month in the backcountry climbing and skiing. I’ve also been on a number of canoeing exhibitions in Canada and the U.S. Being in this field has allowed me to visit many places and meet people who share my passion. I even met my wife co-instructing an Outward Bound course.


What has motivated you to stay in this field for all these years?

One of my friends used to say on our breaks from hiking, “another boring day in paradise.” Being in the outdoors and tackling the challenges posed by nature motivates me to share it with others. When I look back on my 30 years in this field, I have probably touched thousands of peoples’ lives, which is very fulfilling.


What does an outdoor legend like yourself do in your free time off campus?

My wife and I are starting a goat dairy. We’re beginning the process of becoming licensed so we can make cheese this spring. I also love hiking and climbing, but lately a majority of my time is spent with the dairy.
By Hannah Cargill ’20March 19, 2018