Outfitting Students to Experience the Wilderness

Intro-Kayaking-5Wilderness Pursuits (WP) provides fun, low-cost and professional quality co-curricular outdoor expeditions and gear rentals for the students of Western State Colorado University. WP trips are led by student instructors and designed to meet the needs of a broad range of abilities and interests while developing outdoor skills and fostering community, citizenry, environmental stewardship and healthy lifestyles. Through WP, Western students are able to learn new skills from their peers that may otherwise be intimidating or cost-prohibitive.

WP Instructors also lead Wilderness Based Orientation (WBO) trips for incoming freshmen every summer before school begins. The purpose of WBO is to enhance the student’s transition into college by engaging in the intensive social, physical and educational atmosphere of a structured wilderness expedition.

“The WBO trip was an incredible experience! What I liked best about these trips is that it gives you a head start on making friends and, trust me, you become very good friends when you spend five days in the back country. I am so glad that I was able to have this opportunity and look forward to many more adventures throughout college. Thank you!” – Cody Cervi

During these five day expeditions, WBO aims to develop the strength and quality of character necessary for collegiate success. This year we were able to take 55 incoming students on six different trips: Whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, sea kayaking and a multi-sport adventure. These trips are immensely popular and filled in under a week!

Through the generous gifts of the Mikesell Foundation, we were able to offer nine incoming students full scholarships, purchase gear and hire the instructors necessary to fulfill this growing interest.

As the manager of both the WP and WBO programs, I am consistently impressed not only with the experiences we are able to provide for our students, but by the expertise and skill of our instructors. A very important part of these programs is our Instructor Development Program. Most of our current instructors started out as WBO participants or signed up for every WP trip their first few years of school. It is inspiring to watch these young leaders blossom into professional trip leaders during their college years, leaving with marketable skills in an increasingly competitive and professional field.

My vision for WP is to expand in two different yet complimentary ways. One is offering an increased focus in our instructor training program on outdoor leadership and hard-skills in the areas of mountain and river guiding to our instructor training program.

I also see room for growth in the soft-skills side of outdoor education by fostering community and environmental stewardship with the new Masters in Environmental Management and Coldharbour Institute partnership.

There is no university experience like this anywhere. We’re opening doors to brighter futures, encouraging dreams and equipping visions. We’re changing the lives of students who’ll change the world.

— Submitted by Christie Hicks, Wilderness Pursuits and WBO Manager, September 2014

The Foundation gave the Western State Colorado University Foundation a total of $12,000 in 2013 and 2014 towards Wilderness Pursuits and Wilderness Based Orientation.

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