Southeast Missouri State University student publication

SEMO’s Outdoor Opportunity Maker: Thomas Holman

Thursday, April 22, 2021
Professor Thomas Holman demonstrating how to tie knots for rock climbing. Students learn about various knots and their uses for rock climbing in AT 174, Rock Climbing and Rappelling.
Photo By Kaylie Davis

From archery to rock climbing and from camping to canoeing, Thomas Holman makes opportunities for Southeast students.

Holman, professor of kinesiology, nutrition and recreation, is the advisor of the Archery Club and the Outdoor Adventure Club, and he has taught recreation and outdoor education courses like AT 174, Rock Climbing and Rappelling.

Holman said he gravitates towards the outdoors, so some of his classes involve taking trips to different parts of Southeast Missouri and other nearby areas out-of-state.

In previous years, Holman has taken students whitewater rafting in Colorado, to the Ozark Mountains to hike the Ozark Trail, mountain biking around Southeast Missouri, rock climbing in Southern Illinois, canoeing through the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota and overnight canoeing and camping on the Mississippi River.

Holman said his favorite trips are when he is able to take students to Colorado, because they get to experience nature different from Southeast Missouri’s.

His knowledge and love of the outdoors came from his father, who introduced him to nature at a young age, Holman said. His passion for nature led him to many opportunities, like being involved in an outdoor adventure youth group and traveling to Alaska on a mission trip when he was a senior in high school.

Holman said he wanted to share his love for outdoor experiences with others, so he pursued outdoor education as a career.

“I'm just a regular kid who had to work really hard for three letters behind my name,” Holman said.

Many of Holman’s classes are experience-based. For example, AT 174 is about learning the ropes of rock climbing and how to do it safely. Students learn how to tie safety knots, how to properly pack climbing gear, the differences in carabiners and how to safely scale rock structures.

Holman said outdoor educators need to know a variety of skills like tying knots correctly and knowing which type of carabiner to use for a climb. After students have basic knowledge, Holman lets experience speak for itself.

“The less I talk, the more they learn. I believe in the proverb, ‘Tell me, and I will forget, show me, and I may remember, involve me, and I will understand.’ I have found in my teaching that students learn best when they are involved in the learning process,” Holman said.

Alexander Fogelbach, a senior majoring in computer science, is taking AT 174 this semester and said Holman is “one of the nicest and most accommodating teachers” he’s met.

Fogelbach said Holman has a special way of teaching because he covers a lot of information quickly, but he makes sure each student has a good understanding of each technique.

Holman’s care for students and dedication to education has not gone unnoticed; on April 30, 2021, he will be awarded the Outstanding Student Organization Advisor Award for the commitment he has shown to his students.

Leah Harris, a junior majoring in recreation and park administration, nominated Holman for the award because “he goes above and beyond” to seek out opportunities for students.

“If he finds out about an experience that might be beneficial, he’ll shoot [students] an email,” Harris said. “He was able to set me up with the Cape Girardeau Parks and Rec Department when he heard they were looking for help for an outdoor adventure summer camp.”

Holman nominated Harris for the Experiential Learning Award, which is awarded to students who take part in a learning experience that best exemplifies the experiential learning goals at Southeast. Harris was selected for the award and will receive it alongside Holman on April 30, 2021.