Mark Gasta wants to change the way we see the world. An Associate Professor in the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, Gasta is the program director of the new Adventure Tourism graduate certificate. Prior to coming to CSU this year, Gasta worked as an executive vice president managing people and sustainability at Vail Resorts. He now teaches courses in adventure tourism, ski area management and sustainable tourism. Gasta’s research focuses on developing leaders with the capacity to build sustainable organizations that create profit for shareholders while also protecting the environment and improving the lives of those with whom they interact. We caught up with him at the Adventure Travel World Summit in Argentina.
Tell us about CSU’s new Graduate Certificate in Adventure Tourism program. why is this a big step forward for the industry?
With 7.6 million direct jobs and $887 billion in consumer spending, the outdoor recreation industry is an economic and political powerhouse, almost double the pharmaceuticals and the automotive industries. The Graduate Certificate in Adventure Tourism (AT) monopolizes on this in a six course, 12-credit offering that provides students with the theoretical, managerial and entrepreneurial skills required for successfully developing and managing land-, water- and air-based adventure tourism ventures. It’s designed to address a growing need within the adventure tourism industry for graduate-level education focused specifically on small to medium sized business entrepreneurship and development. The Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources is uniquely situated to address this industry-identified need, due to its expertise in tourism management and nature-based tourism and recreation. AT is well connected across small to large adventure tourism enterprises and is an Adventure Travel Trade Association Industry Partner, giving AT students an advantage with a direct line of contact to professionals and agencies within the industry. The AT program teaches students how they can expand global tourism utilizing a holistic approach that blends sustainable tourism practices, strategic analysis and industry expertise. Whether you are an experienced professional, burgeoning entrepreneur or new to the industry, our Online Graduate Certificate in Adventure Tourism is positioned to provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to succeed and ultimately do what matters—live your passion.
You have lived in a variety of places, both with the Army and in your early career. Why was it important to you to raise your family in Colorado?
My wife and I both grew up in small mountain towns in California and we attribute who we are today to the fact that we were raised in the outdoor lifestyle. We wanted that lifestyle for our children, too. But we also wanted to continue our education while building our careers. Colorado offered all that and more.
Selfishly, I also had another plan, knowing that most college-age children feel the need to get away from the environment that they were raised in. That’s healthy and expected. My hope is that, by teaching my kids to love the outdoors, no matter where life may take them in the near term, ultimately they will realize how much Colorado has to offer. So they will also decide to raise their families here, allowing us to continue the trend of biking, hiking, skiing, fishing, etc. with our family. I look forward to the day when I can share with my grandchildren all the things I had the pleasure of sharing with my children.
What are some of your favorite ways to recreate outdoors?
I am a stereotypical jack of all trades, master of none! You name it—bike, ski, hike, climb, camp, fish, run—I do it. With that said, I don’t do any of it very well. My race philosophy is to start slow and taper from there. I have an unwritten rule in my life that every year around my birthday, I do something I have never done. It’s an attempt to convince myself that an old dog can learn new tricks. This approach keeps me learning, challenged and training.
Do you have some career advice for those starting out?
Following my career of choice was not quite as linear as I would have hoped, but along the way I learned that the journey is the goal. Don’t be a replica of someone else, understand who you are at the core, work hard at developing yourself, understand and pursue your intrinsic motivations, devote your life to realizing your potential and constantly seek the deeper purpose of your leadership in order to make a lasting and positive difference.