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Brian Croft is the New Director of SIU’s Touch of Nature Center

CARBONDALE — Brian Croft, a double alumnus of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, has been selected as the new director of SIU’s Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center.

Croft brings many years of experience in the field of outdoor education and recreation to his new role along with a vision for the future of the facility, so it even better serves the diverse populations who visit there, said Jeffery T. Burgin Jr., vice chancellor for student affairs.

“Brian is passionate about experiential education and inclusive outdoor recreation,” Burgin said. “He is a seasoned instructor, camp leader and outdoor experience professional with more than a decade of outdoor programming experience and a deep knowledge of developing outdoor programs. I’m confident that under his leadership, Touch of Nature will grow its mission of enhancing the lives of the countless diverse people who visit for the numerous wonderful programs and experiences provided there. I look forward to working with Brian and the rest of the Touch of Nature staff to grow the premier outdoor experience space.”

Strong connection to Touch of Nature

Croft is far from a newcomer to Touch of Nature, having served there as assistant director of outdoor education and recreation since October 2019, and he said his connection to the outdoor learning lab has always been quite strong.

“It hasn’t quite hit yet that I just got my dream job. Touch of Nature has such an incredible history on a national level, and to play a role in its future development is really an opportunity I could only dream of,” Croft said. “I really believe that our role at the center is to honor our past and our legacy as a leader in outdoor and experiential education while keeping our eyes focused on the future.”

In his role as assistant director, he managed numerous programs, including outdoor education, environmental and adventure education, recreation therapy, community programs, Basecamp, Dawg Days freshman orientation program and much more. In addition, he served as outdoor program leader and outdoor education staff member between 2006 and 2012 at Touch of Nature.

“We are eagerly looking forward to the return of Camp Little Giant in 2023, complete with the components that always made it very special but reimagined to be relevant to the campers of today,” Croft added. “We are also looking forward to the continued growth of our campus and outdoor education programs. And with the addition of new programs like the Little Grassy Get Down music festival and our popular and expanding Touch of Nature Multiuse Trail System, as well as our many other programs and amenities, we are positioned to continue to grow and offer students and visitors incredible outdoor opportunities now and in the future.”

Extensive experience and credentials

Croft also served as assistant director of recreation, coordinator of outdoor programs and associate instructor at Indiana University Bloomington, between 2014 and 2019, and before that time was camping services director and program director at Camp Ondessonk at Ozark, Illinois. In addition, Croft has taught a variety of outdoor recreation, tourism, adventure, leadership and education-focused courses at SIU and IU as well as at Wisconsin and Michigan as a guest lecturer.

Croft is a lifetime Saluki, having earned his master’s degree in health education and recreation as well as his bachelor’s degree in recreation at SIU; he anticipates completing his doctorate in educational administration in December. He also holds a number of certifications and accreditations, including Level 1 mountain bike instruction from the Mountain Bike Instructor Course Program, Leave No Trace master educator trainer and wilderness first responder from the Wilderness Medical Associates.

He assumed his new role at Touch of Nature on Sept. 1.