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Wednesday, 06 August 2014 14:31

WCU named top adventure school

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out wcuWestern Carolina University ranked as the No.1 college for outdoor adventures in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic in a recent online poll by outdoors magazine Blue Ridge Outdoors. 

“WCU’s stunning campus is home to some serious adventure. Both the Parks and Recreation Management department and the Base Camp Cullowhee outing program offer students a chance to get the quintessential experiential education experience,” magazine staff member Jess Daddio wrote in her story on the results, which appear in the new August issue.

Base Camp Cullowhee offers student trips, equipment rental and experiential education in the classroom. Participation has skyrocketed over the last 10 years, from an average 300 to 400 student participations to more than 7,000 now. The growth has gone hand-in-hand with improvements to WCU’s recreational facilities, including an indoor climbing wall and an on-campus trail system with 7 miles of pathway for mountain biking, hiking and running, which opened last year.

WCU has also integrated outdoor activities with students’ classroom curriculum, said Josh Whitmore, WCU’s associate director of outdoor programs.

“For example, a professor might approach us about including a climbing wall session, a group development team-building activity or a guided hike to a geologic feature in a class,” Whitmore said.

A decade ago, the Base Camp staff included Whitmore and about half a dozen student workers, but now it takes three full-time staffers and 20 to 25 students to keep the outdoor program going, he said.

Accordingly, the university’s reputation among the general public and prospective students as an epicenter of outdoor adventure has grown over the years, Whitmore said.

“Certainly, the mountain lifestyle is a big draw for folks. This ‘top adventure college’ title is a big part of building that reputation and will help with that for sure,” he said.

In addition to parks and recreation management, other academic programs offered by WCU for students interested in careers in the outdoors are forest resources, hospitality and tourism and natural resource conservation and management.

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