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USU gives students head start with 1st outdoor design program in the country
March 14, 2018

LOGAN — Utah State University’s Outdoor Design Program is only three years old, but it has more than 180 students enrolled. And even though their first graduates won’t come until 2019, they are already placing students with jobs.

“The state of Utah has a lot of outdoor companies,” Assistant Professor Andrew Deceuster explained. “There was kind of a need to help fill that niche and that void of designers that were specifically trained to work with the outdoor companies.”

Among the current students, Veronica Villhard left her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, to join the program.

“I became totally obsessed, and flew out, checked it out,” Villhard said. “Fell in love with the mountains and everything.”

The junior in the program is already selling a set of her own bags, with the help of Tentsile, an Ogden-based tent company. The bags can be made with leftover materials in the company’s factory.

“It’s incredible,” Villhard said. “This is what I’ve been working toward for years, and now it’s like, coming true, basically."

Villhard is already lined up for an internship with Patagonia this summer.

“I was dreaming about that in high school, and now I’m going to be there,” she said.

One of the faculty for the outdoor program, Andrea Olsen, said she left her job with Columbia Sportswear to come teach at USU. She said her students already have an advantage that was never available to her.

“We are giving them what they need for specifically the outdoor industry, instead of just fashion in general,” Olsen said. “I went to fashion design school, and then I ended up getting an internship with Columbia Sportswear. I had all these skills for making dresses and things, and here I am, making clothes for hiking, and snowboarding and skiing.”

With the help of 3-D printers, a metals lab and a sewing lab, students get to see their ideas go from inception to building prototypes.

Jayson Boren, a sophomore from Cottonwood Heights, is working with two other classmates to design a boot attachment for snowboarders that can expand into a snowshoe.

“We are a company focused on finding a solution for snowboarders to ride in deep snow,” Boren said. “(We’re) giving them the freedom and reliability that they can ride it with confidence.”

Boren and his team have already tested a prototype they call “Powder Soles.”

“You just pull one pull-cord, disconnect from your board, and snowshoe to where you can get back to riding,” classmate Tate Floyd said.