Wildcat Wilderness Orientation (WWO) is finishing its second year of building community and introducing incoming students to college life. Over those two years there have been stories of tears, blisters, bear sightings, burnt meals and countless other types of adversity–which is exactly what we want!  These situations create perfect metaphors for the challenges incoming students will face over their four years at CSU, Chico (and beyond). On their WWO trip they are forced to work through these trials as a small group, under the watchful eyes of WWO staff of course. This teaches and strengthens life skills such as teamwork, time management, leadership, social competence and flexibility. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, facing these challenges as a team creates strong bonds that will last well beyond the trip itself.

As we said goodbye to the final WWO participants of the summer just 12 hours before Wildcat Welcome Week was set to begin I took some time reflect on this program – its current state and its potential.

(Jason Halley/University Photographer)

In 2015 WWO had a 54% increase in participation, as shown below. To help make this increase possible four more trips were offered in 2015 than in 2014.  In 2015, 10 of the 43 (23%) WWO participants received a scholarship through the Get Outdoors Fund, which is operated by Adventure Outings.

Something that is more important to us than participation numbers is the impact we have on our participants. We are happy to report that WWO is having a positive impact on participants by teaching them skills that will help them be successful in college and beyond. We have measured this by implementing the Life Effectiveness Questionnaire (Neill, J. T., Marsh, H. W., & Richards, G. E., 2003) and in almost every single domain WWO participants show a moderate or significant, positive change. We enjoy the anecdotal evidence we receive as well and one of our favorites pieces of that came in an email from a parent:

“The trip was valuable in every way – she learned about smart use of her time in the face of all that freedom, talked about her (and others’) biggest concerns about college, got pointers from peers-not parents, plus she stayed overnight in the dorms so now it’s familiar, AND she now has a special bond with 8 new friends to get her started on campus. Two of them have inspired her to apply to the honors program and join a club. Can’t thank you enough for the Wilderness Orientation program!”

Another fact that we are very proud of is that WWO trips have been extremely safe. To this point we have had no incidents more severe than a twisted ankle.

Despite the positive outcomes mentioned above, WWO has tons of room for growth. We take feedback from participants and staff very seriously, and we also study what other programs are doing to help us find our blind spots. The points below are changes we hope to implement over the next few summers:

  • Create a transfer-specific curriculum
  • Offer new activities and more multi-sport trips
  • Offer longer trips
  • Explore ways to integrate a service component into the trips

Finally, we need to thank the many people and programs that have helped WWO thrive. The following campus programs have been crucial in helping WWO become what it has over the last two years: Summer Orientation, Admissions, University Housing and Food Service, Wildcat Recreation Center, Campus Alcohol & Drug Education Center and Public Affairs & Publications.

We’ll be in touch soon as we begin to prepare for 2016!

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