Published: July 20, 2023

The Outdoor Recreation Economy program is led by dedicated faculty with many years of experience in the outdoor industry. They’re passionate about helping students immerse themselves in the outdoor industry and make meaningful connections with outdoor organizations through project courses and networking opportunities. We asked them a few questions so you can get to know them better and learn more about the coursework they’ll lead in the program.

Mark Gasta

Mark Gasta

Associate Director, Outdoor Recreation Economy Program, Teaching Associate Professor

Leading coursework in: Leading a Sustainable Business in the Outdoor Recreation Economy 

Hometown: Sonora, California, a small mountain town between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. 

First real job: My first real job in high school (other than things like scooping ice cream) was working as a seasonal park ranger.

Best early outdoor experience: My family didn’t ski, nor did we have the money for the sport. However, my middle school would load up a bus every Monday during the winter and head to our local ski hill, Dodge Ridge. At a very modest cost, we received transportation, rental equipment, an hour lesson, and the ability to ski all day. This program really ignited my love of outdoor recreation.

Proudest outdoor accomplishment: My adventures have led me to the top of Kilimanjaro, the Grand Teton and Mt. Rainer, to complete the Ironman and the Leadville 100, and to ride an adventure motorcycle through Namibia, New Zealand, and Argentina – to name a few. So, to me it is not about a single accomplishment but rather, the act of continuing the adventure journey.   

Advice for incoming students: You will get out of this program what you put into it. This is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in your passions and purpose; I encourage you to really do everything you can to get the most out of the experience. It is powerful when you can align who you are with what you do AND make a lasting and positive difference in the world. Sometimes the road getting from here to there is less linear, but I encourage you to stay the course as ultimately it is worth it.


Clif Harald

Clif Harald


Hometown: Littleton, CO, but I've lived in Boulder since 1971, seeing it evolve from a bedroom community with few jobs other than CU and the federal labs to a dynamic city with many different industries and more jobs than workers.  

First real job: Line cook at a BBQ restaurant. Very stressful but very filling!

Best outdoor experience: Kayaking Clayoquot Sound off northwest Vancouver Island.

Proudest accomplishment: Mentoring hundreds of entrepreneurs in launching and growing their startups and small businesses across many industries, including outdoor recreation, software, natural foods, biosciences, and aerospace.

Advice for incoming students: Seek out teachers you most enjoy learning from and take all the courses they offer.


Joel Hartter

Joel Hartter

Director, Outdoor Recreation Economy Program, Professor

Hometown: Rochester Hills, Michigan

First job: I have had many jobs: mowing lawns, working a paper route, trying to be a golf caddie, and being a referee for youth soccer. 

First real job: My first real job with a W-2 was working at a dog kennel for $3.75 an hour. My first “professional” job after college internships was working as a backcountry ranger at Zion National Park. After that season, I left to become a project engineer for the commercial truck industry designing brake systems.

Proudest accomplishment: I have a wonderful family. Three amazing kids and I’ve been married for 19 years. We live a life of constant adventure. For me, family is always first. Professionally speaking, I started a non-profit in Uganda that focused on the empowerment and education of girls and women. That organization now serves more than 25,000 people, supporting pre-K schooling, nutrition, child and adult literacy programs, libraries, vocational training, and scholarships for secondary education.

Advice for incoming students: My philosophy in life is to work hard and play hard. Take advantage of opportunities to build your skills and knowledge, do things that will make you stand out, and do excellent work. Then, set school aside and take time for yourself to build relationships, connect with people, and fill your life with other things that are fulfilling. For me, playing is as important as working. It recharges me, energizes me, and allows me to experience new places and cultures.


Lydia Lawhon

Lydia Lawhon


Hometown: Chester Springs, PA

First real job: Working at a bagel shop.

Best outdoor experience: Skiing powder in the Tetons; taking a collapsible canoe down the Beni River in the Bolivian Amazon; hiking in the Wakhan corridor in Tajikistan along the border of Afghanistan.

Proudest accomplishment: Professionally, I am proud of my students who go on to find jobs that are rewarding for them because they work on addressing interesting and hard issues while also fulfilling their passions.  

Advice for incoming students: Take the time to get to know all of the amazing people in the program – faculty, staff, and fellow students. Build connections. Take advantage of the resources available to you as a CU student! And, at the end of the day, don’t forget to get outside and breathe.


Gregor MacGregor

Gregor MacGregor

Teaching Assistant Professor

Hometown: Lafayette, CO

First real job: I worked as a factory mechanic in high school, often slugging through the 24-hour Sunday maintenance shift while production was shut down. We had a wacky and wild crew on the job, with no shortage of pranks, hijinks, and general shenanigans. I also learned a lot, like how a half-inch is small peanuts in most scenarios, but not when trying to weld a chute onto a piece of equipment straight - and how to cuss in three languages (related to the prior point). 

Best outdoor experience: Every day I introduce someone to the outdoors, whether we're out birding or sending it down the mountain, is the best day. Skiing with my older daughter down her first black diamond run; watching my younger daughter send her first 5.10 crack climb outdoors! 

Proudest accomplishment: Seeing my soldiers and students succeed has always been number one in my book. 

Advice for incoming students: Enjoy the experience and make friends! Your peers are your first network and you're going to spend a lifetime running into each other, catching up, and remaining friends. You're also going to do a lot of reading and writing, but let that inspire you and maintain your passion for the outdoors and what brought you to the program in the first place. Also, don't hesitate to reach out to the faculty, we love chatting and getting to know you better.


Sarah Mink

Sarah Mink


Hometown: Boulder, CO.

First real job: Gateway Funpark - still in North Boulder if you are local and looking for something fun!

Best outdoor experience: We did the Langtang Trek for Thanksgiving week one year in the Himalayas - to this day it is still the most memorable experience in terms of the people we met on the trek, the hospitality of the Nepali people, the beauty of the landscape and the challenge of the hike itself.

Proudest accomplishment: Moving to Singapore to live abroad in my late 20s, it taught me to be even more adventurous than I already was, to live truly independently, and to take on something a little audacious (I had to google where on a map Singapore was at the time).

Advice for incoming students: Learn to learn, I have gotten where I am by my love of learning, being curious, and taking on solving complex problems that others shy away from.


Georgina Miranda

Georgina Miranda


Hometown: Glendale, California, now a global citizen.

First real job: Office assistant in high school. First corporate job out of university: Supply Chain Specialist/Six Sigma Trainer for Diverse Suppliers @ Raytheon Technologies.

Best outdoor experience: My journey to complete the Explorer's Grand Slam (reaching all 8 of the highest peaks on each continent and the North and South Pole) to raise awareness against gender-based violence and climate change. It's been 14 years in the making and 3 expeditions remain that require sponsorship: North Pole, South Pole/Mt. Vinson combo, and Carstensz Pyramid in Papua New Guinea. I couldn't even run a mile when I decided to go for it. The journey has taken me all over the world to every continent and transformed me into an adventurer, athlete, and activist. There have been more mountains climbed, trails hiked, miles cycled, scuba dives done, and a life of foreseeable adventure in sight. Don't know if any of that would have been possible without setting this challenge for myself back in 2008.

Proudest accomplishment: Living my truth. There is a lot that can go into this answer, but I think the most courageous thing we can do in our lifetime is just that. So much of my work today is helping people to also be able to live their truth or helping them even discover what that is. The same goes for the organizations I work with and partner with. 

Advice for incoming students

  1. Be intentional. Know why you are here in this program and what you hope to get out of it. Shape your experience around that.
  2. This is but a chapter in your life. Enjoy it and remember it is a stepping stone on your path.
  3. Connect. You will have access to a wonderful community of staff, students, and mentors. Build meaningful connections that will last long past the time the program is through.


Ann Morgan

Ann Morgan


Hometown: I was born in Oakland, California but have lived across the West including Washington, Nevada and Colorado.

First real job: I worked for the Youth Conservation Corps my junior year in high school building trails, cleaning toilets, and doing habitat mitigation. It set me on a career course of natural resources management.

Best outdoor experience: My early experiences with my family camping in the mountains, deserts and beaches of California were transformative for me.

Proudest accomplishment: Helping create national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and protecting millions of acres of federal lands.

Advice for incoming students: Explore all sectors associated with outdoor recreation and natural resources employment including private industry, government and non-profit careers. Each offers a different experience and growth opportunity.


Natalie Ooi

Natalie Ooi

Teaching Associate Professor

Leading coursework in: Building Resilient Communities

Hometown: Melbourne, Australia

First job: Working at a juice bar – I absolutely loved it!

Proudest outdoor accomplishment: Co-leading ten 14-year-old girls through the Australian bush for 33 days (I did this expedition three times and each was a challenge, a blast, and such an amazing growth experience).

Proudest work accomplishment: When I hear from past students that they got their dream job. Seriously. Makes me cry happy tears and makes all the work worthwhile.

Proudest overall life accomplishment: It’s sappy, but my two boys. They’re awesome (mostly).

Advice for incoming students:

  1. Be you. And be proud of you.
  2. Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. It’s a journey of self-discovery. But along the way, be open to trying new things. You never know what might excite you or bring you joy.
  3. If possible, travel. Expose yourself to new cultures, new peoples, new perspectives, new ways of life. It doesn’t have to be far, but get out there if you can!


Chris Sword

Chris Sword


Hometown: Columbia, Maryland

First real job: I began working on a local farm when I was 13, held every part-time job you can imagine through high school, and managed a sporting goods store through college.

Best outdoor experience: Luckily I’ve had quite a few great ones, but might mention my Telluride-to-Moab hut-to-hut mountain bike trip.

Proudest accomplishment: To start I have to say my family and especially our two boys, and further, successfully leveraging my role in business to make a substantial positive impact on them and the world they live in.

Advice for incoming students: Play in traffic. Experiment, put yourself out there. Also, be flexible.  Flexibility is a key to happiness.