The two professors developed a unique leadership and teaching ap-
proach that led to the launch of an undergraduate program in outdoor
leadership in 1995. “André-François was a bulldozer who broke down
doors, and I was a carpenter who fixed them,” says Dr. Bilodeau. “We were
the perfect team.”
By then, his colleague was organizing and leading increasingly over-
the-top field trips. In addition to themed or scenario-based survival outings
in all seasons, Dr. Bourbeau led students on a bicycle tour from Colorado
to California (students carted books along and visited nuclear power
plants) and a canoe trip through a rugged region of Mexico that required
participants to learn and speak Spanish. “I like to say that the worst risk is
not taking any risks,” he says, neatly summing up his philosophy of both
teaching and living.
His wife Lizon Truchon, a teaching assistant at UQAC, accompanies
him on wilderness excursions, as does his 14-year-old daughter Veronica,
who went on her first canoe trip when she was two weeks old and winter
camping later that year. He doesn’t say whether he would do that again,
but allows that “I’ve learned there are good risks and stupid risks, and age
and experience enable you to know the difference.”
To help pay for his students’ trips, Dr. Bourbeau came up with some
unique fundraising activities. For a few years, he had 40 cords-worth of
full-length trees delivered to the UQAC campus in the fall and enlisted his
students to chop the logs into a massive pile of firewood using chainsaws,
hatchets and axes. They sold the wood to faculty and passersby for $80 a
cord. Eventually the activity became part of his course on outdoor security,
accounting for five percent of the grade.
While at UQAC, Dr. Bourbeau wrote a manual on outdoor risk management that continues to be widely used in Quebec’s ecotourism industry
and in CEGEP courses on outdoor tourism. With the help of Dr. Bilodeau
and other colleagues, he developed an analysis tool to help people think
strategically in a wilderness predicament.
Some faculty members questioned the merits of offering an outdoor tourism program at a university and didn’t warm to Dr. Bourbeau’s
colourful antics, but others applaud both the program’s place in academia
and Dr. Bourbeau’s research-based approach to wilderness survival.
“The outdoor leadership program [was] a small program with a big
“I like to figure
out how to do things that
don’t seem possible.”
profile,” says Cylvie Claveau, a UQAC history professor. In her view, Dr.
Bourbeau “helped to pioneer this new discipline, and he did it with orig-
inal and audacious ideas and notions that conservative people hated but
that inspired progressive people, especially students. And, for a teacher,
isn’t inspiring your students what it’s all about?”
Dr. Bourbeau and Dr. Bilodeau retired together in the spring of 2011.
For their last act, they worked on revamping the undergraduate program
they had pioneered.
“When it started, the program was targeted specifically at the tourism
industry,” explains Dr. Bourbeau. But today, he says, the tourism industry
has matured, and there aren’t as many job opportunities for graduates as
there were 20 years ago. Instead, many graduates are using their skills in
other fields, where people “live and work in the bush and in the Arctic,
like mining and forestry. So we worked on changing the program to create
a new structure with a broader appeal.”
The result was Intervention plein air, an undergraduate program that
features a half-dozen concentrations, including therapeutic nature, scien-
tific expeditions and outdoors risk management. The fieldwork includes
two intensive outdoor sessions and one major expedition. “There’s nothing
like it anywhere in the world,” asserts Dr. Bourbeau.
Manu Tranquard, the program’s director since the fall of 2013, agrees.