DeBrun focuses on including people who may not typically visit the outdoor recreation section at UREC by creating classes like wilderness therapy.

Guy deBrun, assistant director of the Adventure Program at UREC, has promoted an environment through his work where it’s encouraged for every student to be involved with outdoor recreation. He has gone as far as partnering with the Center for Multicultural Student Services and the Counseling Center to recruit individuals from all areas.

DeBrun’s goals are to include people who may not always think to come to the outdoor recreation section of UREC by creating wilderness therapy trips and guided class camping trips. The hard work and dedication that he has shown in every aspect of his work was recently recognized with the Jim Rennie Leadership Award at the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education National Conference. 

Coordinator of the Adventure Program Sasha Griffith and deBrun work together to lead the Adventure Program and focus on many different aspects of recreation, such as climbing walls, adventure rental equipment (tents and sleeping bags), a trip program and the challenge course at Sentara Park. 

“I hope to continue to mentor students, both those that are interested in pursuing the field of outdoor education and those who are broadly looking to enter the working force with some leadership skills,” deBrun said. “I hope I can impact their skills in outdoor recreation so regardless in what they do in life, they have the skills to participate in the outdoors.”

The recent award represents the impact deBrun has made on the Adventure Program at JMU as well as the years of work he has provided to AORE. He’s served on its board of directors and as president of the association in years past. 

The criteria for the award included “contributions to AORE which are far beyond the ordinary” and “leadership of unusual significance in the field of outdoor recreation and education.” The awards committee believed the work and time he dedicated to AORE stood out most.

“With the outdoor recreation industry, you have to be a well-rounded person and have the hard skills to go out and lead a trip, especially being the assistant director,” Griffith said. “You’ve got to have the soft skills of working in student development, knowing that the students that you’re training may be experiencing it for the first time.”

About 5-10 people are nominated for the award annually. According to UREC Associate Director for Programming Steve Bobbitt, it often takes multiple nominations to receive an award, but deBrun won the first time he was nominated.

Bobbitt worked with a few other colleagues to nominate deBrun in September. They thought he was worthy of the award because of his endless desire to bring people into the program and teach others. 

“He’s very passionate and knowledgeable about what he does, especially in the adventure field about being trustworthy and being thorough,” Bobbitt said. “He loves working with students and that shines through every day in terms of what he does and he’s really been able to take it to the next level in terms of how many students are in here and participating.”

DeBrun said he’s committed to diversity because he believes the benefits of spending time outdoors should be available to everyone. He wants to provide the skills and education for individuals to break down barriers in their way and be involved in the world around them.

The award has been given to 22 individuals since 1996 when it was created from a similar predecessor award. Out of the four “big awards” presented at the conference, Bobbitt said that the Jim Rennie Leadership Award is one of the highest honors. 

This title adds onto the Adventure Program’s strong reputation within the outdoor recreation and education community. DeBrun has also won a diversity enhancement award for the university, and the program has been awarded AORE program of the year as well.

“I think our well-being in general has a huge impact on how we go about the world and how we enjoy our lives,” deBrun said. “So I think if you have the ability to impact people’s health and well-being, you really have an opportunity to touch so many different parts of their lives and set them up for a way to be successful in life.”

Contact Bridget Murphy at For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.