University Recreation

University Recreation’s Guy deBrun, wins national outdoor education and leadership award

UREC’s Assistant Director for Adventure and TEAM Programs given AORE's Jim Rennie Leadership Award

AORE Award
UREC Adventure and TEAM Programs staff members (left to right) Stevie Shickel, Sasha Griffith, Guy deBrun, and Alina Pantano at the AORE Conference, October 2018

Written by Natalie Lavery ('19)

James Madison University Recreation’s very own Guy deBrun, has won the annual Jim Rennie Leadership Award presented by the national Association for Outdoor Recreation and Education.

The award recognizes a professional in the field who has had an outstanding impact on outdoor recreation and education as a whole and whose contributions surpass expectations.

deBrun is the Assistant Director for TEAM and Adventure Programs at UREC. For 8 years he has instilled a love of the outdoors and adventure in thousands of students in the beautiful Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. Last year, the UREC Adventure program had a direct impact on 18,000 climbers, 3,000 challenge course participants, 2,600 equipment renters and 1,000 trip participants.

deBrun cultivates an open and effective work environment where he leads by example and teaches his expansive skillset through one-on-one and group training. It is not often that you will find a professional who will take time out of their workday to travel an hour to the local climbing crag just to ensure a student is confident in their abilities.

Steve Bobbitt, UREC’s Associate Director for Programming, nominated deBrun for this award and attributes his success to his pure passion and desire to convey the same devotion to all of his students and community.

“I have known Guy for almost 20 years now and his professionalism, expertise and knowledge have continued to grow over time,” Bobbitt said. “Guy has not only dedicated himself to his work on campus, but also to the betterment of the field of outdoor recreation with his service locally.”

deBrun is currently working on his Ph.D. in Strategic Leadership at JMU in hopes of preparing future leaders in the field of outdoor recreation. Alongside his work and education at JMU, deBrun still strives to incorporate the greater meaning of adventure in all of his programs.  

Stevie Shickel, the Graduate Assistant for Adventure and TEAM Programs at UREC, has considered deBrun a mentor for over six years and speaks to his direct impact on her love for the outdoors and the overall trajectory of her life.

“When I first met Guy, I had very little connection to or appreciation for the outdoors,” Shickel said. “Since then, I have learned first-hand that the outdoors is a very powerful and transformative tool for growth.”

deBrun consistently reinforces the ideal that hands-on interaction with nature is essential to success and will often dedicate his weekends to take students camping and expand their outdoor skillsets.

Not only has deBrun sustained the current outdoor climate at JMU and had direct impact on thousands of students, he has worked extensively to make UREC Adventure an inclusive program. He has crafted relationships with numerous foundations and received grants to include underrepresented students and create a comforting and welcoming environment for every one of JMU students.

For the past several years, deBrun has planned and executed Paddle Fest, a fun-filled afternoon on a local river. Paddle Fest is a partnership with the Center for Multicultural Student Services with a goal of getting as many students involved with the outdoors as possible. Seeing the wide smiles of students trying water sports for the first time made all the planning more than worthwhile and is yet another indication of deBrun’s ability to incorporate diversity in his programming.

“Guy has demonstrated what it looks like to be a connected member in the greater community of outdoor recreation,” Shickel said. “He consistently gives of his time and energy in an effort to create opportunities for others.”

A previous UREC Graduate Assistant and current Adventure Leadership and Teambuilding Coordinator at VCU, Sam Albert, connects deBrun’s well-deserved recognition to his extensive experience, his desire to continually improve the outdoor recreation industry and his openness to help students and young professionals.

“His work with JMU’s UREC has laid a future foundation of what university recreation climbing walls and rental centers can look like throughout the country …  and he is still finding new ways to better serve the JMU community,” Albert said.

deBrun’s work extends past the Shenandoah Valley with his regional, national and international programs for JMU students and his inherent impact on furthering the reach of AORE.

 “In the end, I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of this award,” Bobbitt said.

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Published: Monday, October 29, 2018

Last Updated: Monday, October 29, 2018

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