Isabelle Zytka

Climbing her way to success in the outdoor industry
Recreation Management and Policy major Isabelle Zytka '23

Isabelle Zytka '23 is a Recreation Management and Policy major from West Hartford, Connecticut. 

Why did you choose your major? What do you want to do with your degree?

Going into college I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in but I knew I wanted to work with others doing something outdoors because I wasn’t looking for a 9-5 desk job. I had talked to my advisor and he suggested I take Top Rope with Nate Finch, because I expressed that I was really interested in climbing. From day one, the class felt more like a day of climbing with friends than a class. The professors do an amazing job to create a safe and fun environment where we can trust each other, which is key in any outdoor program. By doing tons of ice breakers, chatting during the van rides and hiking together it really created a tight knit group of students. I can do so much with this major and it’s really hard to choose a path. I currently work as the Bouldering Wall Manager at the Hamel Rec Center, which has been so eye opening to see what goes into running a wall for students. There are tons of small things that had never even occurred to me as a climber. I would really love to continue working in a gym setting, with different groups of people after college, running different types of recreational programs for them. I want to provide the opportunity for others to find something that interests them. I’m also thinking about getting a masters in geology to guide others and do field work collecting data. There are so many different paths that this major allows and I’m able to explore them through the classes offered, which has been so helpful.

What are your thoughts on the current climate regarding the pandemic and how you see it affecting the outdoor industry, both in the short and long term?

For the outdoor industry, this pandemic has had some really positive effects. Even though many of us aren’t able to travel, it’s allowed many people to explore their own neighborhoods. Simple things like walking, biking and running within our own towns are all recreational activities that a lot of us struggle to find time in our day to do. Many of the local bike shops in my town ended up selling out of bikes due to high demand which was awesome for small businesses, but also great that people were getting into biking. Kayaking also became really popular this summer, which is another awesome activity that can be done with friends and family. I really hope that people who got into new recreational actives continue to enjoy them years down the line, as well as educate themselves about how to recreate safely and follow guidelines like Leave No Trace, so that generations after us can continue to enjoy them in the environment that we are able to.

What is your advice for students who may be thinking about a career in the outdoor industry? Please share your experiences in the program and how they are helping to prepare you for a career after UNH.

For students who are thinking about UNH’s OLM program, take a class you’re interested in and see if you like it. Also just reaching out to a professor and getting to talk to them is another great way (to learn about the program). The program allows for students to really explore multiple different disciplines within recreation management, so there are plenty of classes to choose from such as event design, theory of outdoor education and recreation services for individuals with disabilities, along with electives like sea kayaking, canoeing, ski industry management and adventure therapy. I got into climbing before college and was really interested in it, so I took a climbing class at UNH, and I’m now on my fourth climbing-focused class. Being part of a program that has small classes allows you to talk to other students about what they plan to do with their degree and can give you some ideas as well as advice, which is incredibly helpful. The sense of community within the major, to me, is what really differentiates this program from others. In class, students are always willing to help you, whether it be something small like helping you light the backpacking stove, or cheering you on as you’re climbing up a wall. It’s always positive and welcoming. For me, that’s what brought me into the program. One of the main things I will remember about college is the amazing community I have found in the OLM program.