Two words: experiential education

It’s the latest academic trend and for good reason. Studies show that students who learn by doing solve problems more effectively and retain more than the textbook-only approach.

Experiential education is the foundation for academic majors in outdoor adventure. Combining theory with experience gives students the opportunity to apply classroom principles to real-life scenarios. They learn hands-on skills in leadership, communication, conflict management, and conservation. Degrees in outdoor recreation aren’t just for hippies; they’re for the leaders of tomorrow and the future of adventure.

In this year’s Top Adventure College bracket, our editors chose 32 schools throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic that either have an outdoor recreation degree or offer students a strong extracurricular outdoor program. After six weeks and over 115,000 votes from our fans, Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., narrowly received the most votes for Best Adventure College, with Maryland’s Garrett College a close second.

There is no better way to understand the impact of experiential education and these outdoor programs than through the eyes of the students themselves. Here’s a rundown of the top eight outdoor schools and a look at some of their most accomplished alumni.

Western Carolina University

Location: Cullowhee, N.C.
Size: 10,107
Degree: Parks and Recreation Management

Tucked away in the mountains of western North Carolina, WCU’s stunning campus is home to some serious adventure. Both the Parks and Recreation Management (PRM) department and the Base Camp Cullowhee outing program offer students a chance to get the quintessential experiential education experience. PRM majors walk away from college with a proficient skillset, both in technical outdoor skills and the less-tangible soft skills like communication and organization. Majors can intern with entities like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Project SOAR, and many other organizations specific to the outdoors. Coupled with trip leading opportunities through Base Camp Cullowhee, PRM graduates leave WCU with a well-rounded education in the outdoor industry and are more than prepared for a career in everything from guiding to program management.

Bobby Bryson
Hometown: Glenville, N.C.
Class of: 2001
Major: Parks and Recreation Management
Occupation: Captain, Charlotte Fire Department, member of the North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team (NCHART), Charlotte, N.C.
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Snowboarding, skiing, mountain bike racing
Growing up in a small town in the mountains of western North Carolina meant one thing for North Carolina native Bobby Bryson: playtime. From mountain biking to ski patrolling and raft guiding, Bryson is a jack-of-all-trades in the world of outdoor adventure and found the PRM program at WCU to be a perfect fit.

“Through all of the leadership classes I took, I learned so much about group dynamics,” Bryson says. “Those courses made me realize peoples’ potential. You can use those lessons for whatever you’re trying to get accomplished.”

Bryson now utilizes those group management skills not only as captain of Charlotte’s Fire Department but also as a member of the elite NCHART crew, a search and rescue team that utilizes Blackhawk helicopters for swiftwater, flood, urban, and wilderness rescue.

William Butler
Hometown: Laurinburg, N.C.
Class of: 2012
Major: Parks and Recreation Management
Occupation: Educational Technician, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee, N.C.
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts of America

William Butler always knew he was going to craft his career around his passion for the outdoors. At a young age, Butler was introduced to adventure through his parents’ own love of nature and his excursions with the Boy Scouts. Born and raised in the mountains of North Carolina, Butler says WCU’s campus location and supportive staff only fueled his passion for nature.

“I really like connecting people with the outdoors and giving them that first sense of connection,” he says. “It’s amazing how many people are local to this region and have never been out to the national parks in their backyard.”

Now, introducing people to the adventure scene and educating them on responsible outdoor recreation is a main component of his job at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Garrett College

Location: McHenry, Md.
Size: 902
Degree: Adventure Sports

Founded in 1992, Garrett College’s Adventure Sports Institute was the first program to offer an adventure sports degree of its kind in the nation. As part of a joint effort with Frostburg State University to develop the major, the Adventure Sports degree teaches students about health and fitness as well as economic development and environmental awareness through the lens of outdoor education and recreation. In addition to learning technical skills about various outdoor activities, students can choose tracks in business management, leadership, therapeutic recreation, adventure videography, and environmental education. Garrett’s campus is situated in the mountains of western Maryland in close proximity to a number of outdoor destinations such as Deep Creek Lake, Wisp Resort, the Youghiogheny River, and the Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI).

Shanna Powell
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
Class of: 2003
Major: Recreation Parks and Management, concentration in Adventure Sports
Occupation: Founder, Endless Bike Co., Asheville, N.C.
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Raft guiding

Shanna Powell is a river rat. She’ll be the first to tell you that. From raft guiding on the Cheat and Youghiogheny Rivers to kayaking across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, her heart has always belonged to the river. During her time at Garrett College, Powell learned to channel that passion into a means of instructing and inspiring others to get on the water as well, but after a traumatic kayaking injury, Powell ditched the boat for a set of wheels. “I can think of a hundred thousand metaphors for life that kayaking gave me, but it all transfers to riding bikes too,” Powell says.

Although she no longer raft guides or instructs kayaking, Powell continues to immerse herself in the outdoors through her singlespeed bike part manufacturing company, Endless Bikes Co. “My goal is still to introduce people to the sport I love,” she says. “It builds the sport, builds the industry, and builds a sense of respect for the outdoors.”

Ben Morton
Hometown: Orange, Va.
Class of: 2007
Major: Applied Sciences, concentration in Adventure Sports
Occupation: Kayak instruction, NOLS, Otter Bar, Jackson Hole Kayak School
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Gap year Outward Bound course

After graduating high school, Ben Morton didn’t know what he wanted out of college. Rather than picking a school at random and figuring it out later, Morton signed up for an Outward Bound course in North Carolina. Those 45 days in the woods would prove to be a game changer for Morton, who returned home knowing he wanted to pursue outdoor leadership and education as a career. The program at Garrett College was, for him, the answer to his calling.

“The classes ranged from practical skills like whitewater paddling and rock climbing to more soft skill courses like risk and group management, natural history and science, as well as psychology,” Morton recalls.
Morton now teaches kayaking across the country and all around the world, having traveled to Costa Rica, New Zealand, Italy, and Germany.

“The instructors at Garrett helped me learn how to adapt my teaching to whatever learning styles I have in a class,” he says. “Watching people rapidly progress and, on a deeper level, facilitating the transference of the skills they learn to their everyday life are the most fulfilling parts of my job.”

Best of the Rest

Appalachian State University
Location: Boone, N.C.
Size: 17,344
Degree: Recreation Management

Whether you’re a student exploring the outdoors through the Recreation Management degree at ASU or simply someone looking to get outside, there is something for everyone at this mountain school. Outdoor Programs (OP), the university’s extracurricular recreation program, is open to anyone who wants to try something adventurous in the outdoors. From backcountry cooking clinics to month-long international trips, OP aims to make outings inclusive for students of every ability level. Those taking the academic path in the Recreation Management department can choose three concentrations: outdoor experiential education, recreation and parks, and commercial recreation. At ASU, collaboration is not only encouraged but also expected. The faculty and staff with both OP and the Recreation Management program work together to cater to individual students’ interests and ensure they receive the most out of their four years at ASU.

Keith Crawford
Hometown: Concord, N.C.
Class of: 2012
Major: Master’s in College Student Development, concentration in Outdoor Programs Administration
Occupation: Assistant Coordinator, Adventure Outings, Chico State University, Chico, Calif.
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Car camping

Crawford came to ASU with a bachelor’s degree in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management and a few years of work with organizations like the National Outdoor Leadership Program (NOLS) and Outward Bound under his belt. He was experienced in leading trips, yes, well versed in backcountry principles and leadership, yes, but he had yet to immerse himself in the backend administrative side of running an outdoor program. From obtaining permits to planning a budget and managing student staff, there were many facets of managing a recreational program that Crawford had yet to learn about.

“I had a lot of experience planning trips, but the College Student Development program helped me see the bigger picture,” Crawford says. “App State does a really good job of providing the framework and then letting students get that expertise by going out and working in the field.”

Katherine Richards
Hometown: Greensboro, N.C.
Class of: 2011
Major: Outdoor Experiential Education, Master’s in College Student Development, concentration in Outdoor Programs Administration
Occupation: Program Director, Outdoor Pursuits, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Family backpacking and canoeing trips

With two parents who were graduates of Outward Bound courses and all-around avid outdoorsmen, Katherine Richards always knew her life would revolve around adventure. “I enrolled in the Recreation Management program and that, combined with Outdoor Programs, really gave me the opportunity to utilize the theory that I was learning in the classroom and practice it weekly with the groups I was leading,” Richards says. “Today, I rely heavily upon what I’ve learned from App State.”

Richards now runs her own outdoor program, one that did not exist at the University of Wisconsin previously. She says that had it not been for her comprehensive academic studies and in-the-field experiences she gained at ASU, she would not have known how to build an outdoor program from the ground up.

Clemson University
Location: Clemson, S.C.
Size: 20,768
Degree: Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina sits the campus of Clemson University. A school known primarily as being science- and engineering-oriented, the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management (PRTM) degree is also of equal renown. The department’s website sums it up perfectly: “students study fun.” Students in PRTM can choose their focus and hone their skill sets in community recreation, camp management, park and conservation area management, therapeutic recreation, and travel and tourism management. PRTM’s EDGE (Engaging in Diverse Guided Experiences) Semester allows students an immersive experience where they work closely with faculty & staff while receiving real-world, experiential education opportunities like working with local communities and collaborating at workshops.

Emily Niehaus
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Class of: 2002
Major: Sociology, double minor in Religion and Parks and Recreation Tourism Mangement
Occupation: Founder and director, Community Rebuild, Moab, Utah
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: None

Emily Niehaus received her first exposure to the outdoors after spending two years at Prescott College in Arizona. Niehaus wasn’t happy out west, though, so she decided to transfer back east to Clemson, a school she had never visited but one that looked to be, on paper, a perfect fit.
“Clemson ended up exceeding my expectations,” Niehaus says. “Not only did I get a really super awesome education, but I was also able to plug right into a cohort where we were all learning about environmental issues and recreation.”
The staff at Clemson encouraged Niehaus to interweave her passion for sociology with her love of the outdoors. That collaborative approach eventually paved the way for Niehaus to create Community Rebuild, a company that designs passive solar straw bale homes for low-income families.

Adam Beeco
Hometown: Easley, S.C.
Class of: 2007
Major: Psychology, Master’s and Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management
Occupation: Outdoor Recreation Planner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C.
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: None

For Adam Beeco, the opportunity to gain experience in psychological research was his number one reason for coming to Clemson. After his first year in school, however, something else began to compete with that priority: kayaking. Beeco finished his undergraduate psychology degree after four years but, thanks in part to his time on the water, he decided to stay at Clemson until 2013 to obtain both his Master’s and Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management.

“The opportunity to apply that psychology into the outdoor setting just seemed like a perfect fit,” Beeco says.
Beeco now works as part of a multidisciplinary team that assesses both the power and non-power resource benefits of hydroelectric projects. His main duty is to consider the projects’ effects on recreation, land use, and aesthetic resources as a means of determining the most appropriate balance between the need for power and the protection of our waterways.

Roanoke College
Location: Salem, Va.
Size: 1,869
Degree: None currently offered

Although Roanoke College does not offer a formal outdoor recreation degree of any sort, the students who take the initiative to get involved with the college’s Outdoor Adventures program can walk away with an impressive résumé of outdoor leadership experience. One of the program’s flagship activities is Journey, a pre-orientation trip for incoming freshman that not only helps newcomers create a sense of community prior to coming to college but also introduces them to Roanoke’s outdoor recreation scene. Through the school, students can receive training in Wilderness First Aid, CPR, and other related leadership workshops, which will in turn allow them to lead outings as student guides. From mountain biking at nearby Carvins Cove to bouldering on McAfees Knob, the mountains of central Virginia are ripe with adventure and Roanoke College is situated smack dab in the middle of it all.

Scott Segerstrom
Hometown: Wilmington, Del.
Class of: 2002
Major: English
Occupation: Executive Director, Colorado Youth Corps Association, Denver, Colo.
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: None
Originally hailing from “Suburbia, U.S.A.,” Scott Segerstrom never knew much about the outdoors. He didn’t know what a tent was or how to cook in the backcountry. He was a typical city boy, but one with an insatiable curiosity. When he came to Roanoke, he immediately dialed into the opportunities available with Outdoor Adventure and made a 180-degree reversal in his lifestyle and career ambitions.

“Getting into the outdoors is one of the rare instances where you can get a visual sense of just how big the world really is,” Segerstrom says. “It’s really an eye-opening experience to see the depth and breadth of what natural land resources can offer you.”

From leading youth corps in Colorado to working with the Forest Service as a wilderness ranger and wildland firefighter, Segerstrom says there is not a single job he’s had where he has not called upon the skills and values instilled in him during his time at Roanoke. He now helps organize youth corps in Colorado to execute projects ranging from replacing light bulbs to two-week trail building sessions on Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks.

Hailey Doss
Hometown: Rocky Mount, Va.
Class of: 2012
Major: Art, minor in Art History
Occupation: Outdoor Adventure Center Coordinator, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Car camping

When Hailey Doss signed up for Roanoke’s Outdoor Adventure spring break trip during her freshman year, she never envisioned the path that solitary experience would take her. Although Doss finished her undergraduate years as an art major, she found her true passion out on the water and would later move on elsewhere to get her master’s in Leisure Studies.

“As I came up through the Outdoor Adventure program I started taking on more responsibility,” Doss says. “I was the student director of OA which is where I organized all of the trips and programs and facilitated staff training and did the marketing.”

Now, Doss’ current position mirrors practically every facet of the time she worked as OA’s student director. She credits the “phenomenal teachers and experience” she had at Roanoke for helping build such a strong and thorough foundation.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Location: Blacksburg, Va.
Size: 31,205
Degree: None currently offered

Virginia Tech is another example of a school that, although lacking a legitimate outdoor recreation degree, offers students a platform for gaining backcountry skills and experiences through Venture Out. The extracurricular program is designed for participants of any skill level to partake in any number of outings, from beginner caving to climbing at the nearby cliffs of Bozoo. For those looking to gain more than just a cool experience, the Trip Leaders program gives students the opportunity to take the reins and execute peer-led trips. Virginia Tech does offer an academic degree in Natural Resource Conservation with a concentration in Conservation and Recreation Management, and students involved with Venture Out are often enrolled in this major. The coursework for this degree, however, focuses more on how to manage and protect natural areas specifically for recreation and conservation purposes.

Darr Soli
Hometown: Bridgewater, Va.
Class of: 2011
Major: Interdisciplinary Studies, minors in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Recreation
Occupation: Raft Guide, River Expeditions, Fayetteville, W.Va.
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Backpacking

For Darr Soli, the idea of going to college and sitting behind a desk for four years had little appeal. A restless spirit, Soli decided to take off on a NOLS semester in the Rockies in 2009, a trip that ultimately changed his life and helped him make the most out of college. From working as a commercial raft guide on the nearby New River Gorge and Gauley Rivers to big wall sport climbing in Hildago, Mexico, Soli began utilizing the recreational resources in and around campus to help him prepare for even bigger adventures.

“Through being outside, I’ve learned what’s really important to me,” Soli says. “I’ve learned to appreciate the benefits of having a strong connection to nature and what that does for the human brain. People have a pretty substantial disconnection with nature and having them out there on the river for four to five hours is a pretty awesome way to educate them on how Earth’s systems work.”

Colleen O’Connell
Hometown: Poolesville, Md.
Class of: 2012
Major: Natural Resource Conservation and Recreation Management, minor in Forestry
Occupation: Naturalist, Allen Marine Tours, Juneau, Ala.
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Summer camp

Growing up, Colleen O’Connell always envisioned she would become a veterinarian. She loved the outdoors, loved animals, loved nature in every sense of the word. But when she found herself reviewing the courses required for the Natural Resource Conservation and Recreation Management degree, she realized that she would rather incorporate her interest in science with the world of outdoor adventure.
“Our labs were always taking us outside,” O’Connell says. “When we could find time in between classes, we’d be out on the water.”

Through Venture Out and the community of outdoorsman at Tech, O’Connell learned to whitewater kayak. In addition to her outdoor adventure résumé, O’Connell’s studies in conservation helped her land a job as a naturalist in Alaska where she regularly guides tourists on the water and educates them on the area’s natural surroundings.

Brevard College
Location: Brevard, N.C.
Size: 700
Degree: Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education (WLEE)

At Brevard College, everyone recreates outside. Whether it’s the college president David Joyce out with his wife for an evening bike ride or the admissions staff taking a backpacking trip on the weekend, it’s not just the professors and students of the Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education (WLEE) program who like to go outside and play. Of the roughly 700 students at Brevard, about 10% of those are WLEE majors which explains why the college is considered such an adventure hot spot. Nestled at the base of Pisgah National Forest and a quick 15-minute drive from Gorges State Park, DuPont State Park, and a host of other natural attractions, the college campus and surrounding town of Brevard serves as a convenient hub for elite mountain bikers, paddlers, and even climbers.

Corey Meyer
Hometown: Little Falls, Minn.
Class of: 2011
Major: Integrated Studies, emphasis on WLEE and Environmental Design-Based Architecture
Occupation: Trip guide, Austin Adventures, Billings, Mont.
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Skiing

Corey Meyer is a man of the mountains. Having grown up on a 300-acre farm with the Mississippi River flowing through his backyard, Meyer found it impossible not to develop a fondness for the outdoors. After studying in Bozeman at Montana State University for two years, Meyer found himself craving a change of pace and, more importantly, a legitimate collegiate biking team. Enter Brevard College.

“I came from a small town so I was really excited about going to Brevard,” Meyer says. “I don’t know if I would have finished college if it wasn’t for the home-y vibe there.”

Although Meyer came in with a strong skill set, he says the WLEE program helped him dive headfirst into logistical matters like trail routes, food planning, risk management, and establishing group expectations. “The foundation that Brevard set up for handling tough situations in the backcountry is probably one of the most powerful things I took away,” he says in reference to his current line of work leading backcountry trips around the world.

Kelsey Bracewell
Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.
Class of: 2009
Major: WLEE, minor in Psychology
Occupation: Safety Education & Instruction Coordinator, American Canoe Association, Fredericksburg, Va.
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Family camping

When Kelsey Bracewell first started her WLEE studies, she had never so much as sat in a kayak. What’s more, she was absolutely terrified of it. That, however, changed during her first year at Brevard. Under the guidance of the WLEE staff and student leaders, Bracewell quickly transformed into a competent and confident kayaker and now works for American Canoe Association (ACA), the national certifying body for training paddlesports instructors.

“I really appreciated the concentrated approach that Brevard College’s WLEE program gave me,” she says. “There’s more to outdoor adventure than being a good climber or paddler or biker. If I can’t figure out how to share that passion in a constructive way with people, then it doesn’t mean anything to anyone but me.”

University of North Carolina – Asheville
Location: Asheville, N.C.
Size: 3,595
Degree: None currently offered

“Built on human-powered adventure since the 1980s,” UNC-Asheville’s Outdoor Programs is one of the more popular extracurricular activities on campus. From a team building challenge course to a rental shop that helps gear students for their own adventures, Outdoor Programs is all about helping students facilitate and engage in outdoor adventure on every level. The program offers students a number of opportunities to get hands-on, skill-building experience like training to become a bike mechanic, leading roll sessions for beginner kayakers, and managing trips and trip leaders. With the French Broad river in the backyard and iconic destinations like Mt. Mitchell and the Blue Ridge Parkway just a short drive away, UNC’s Asheville campus is a mecca for outdoor adventure.

Leah McDowell
Hometown: Glennside, Penn.
Class of: 2006
Major: Environmental Studies, concentration in Ecology and Environmental Biology
Occupation: Campus Recreation Outdoor Programs Coordinator, UNC Asheville
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Car camping

“Before college, I couldn’t teach anyone how to set up a tent or start a fire or do anything like that,” McDowell remembers. “The outdoor program [at UNC-Asheville] gave me the community and support to believe in myself and challenge myself.”

McDowell now runs the same program that opened her eyes to the world of outdoor adventure. Although her experiences with Outdoor Programs ultimately prepared her for her current occupation, she says her degree in environmental studies helps her offer a well-rounded adventure for students. “My job isn’t exactly science-based, but I still enjoy being able to educate folks on what they’re seeing. It builds a sense of place and a sense of respect for strong outdoor ethics so that they feel a sense of stewardship.”

Sarah Pelala
Hometown: Greenville, N.C.
Class of: 2005
Major: Environmental Studies
Occupation: Director of Day Camps and School Programs, Avid4 Adventure, Boulder, CO
Outdoor Experience Prior to College: Skiing, National Outdoor Leadership School course

For UNC-A graduate Sarah Pekala, adventure was as important to her college experience as academics.
“My time in college culminated during my senior year when I trained other trip leaders and put them through a semester-long training process,” Pekala says.“ Being 20 and managing your peers, that was incredibly valuable.”
Since her time with Outdoor Programs, Pekala has morphed from a shy, introverted high school graduate to a confident young woman who now works as a camp director planning multiday backcountry trips and managing large groups of people. “My mentors in college definitely pressed on me that I needed to have a job that didn’t feel like work and that I was excited to go to every day,” Pekala says. “I love being outdoors and passing that passion along to others.”

 

Adventure 101
The low-down on the other colleges and universities highlighted in our Best Outdoor School bracket.

Warren Wilson College
Whether you’ve signed up for one of the outdoor program’s trips or you’re renting gear to help facilitate your own adventure, the crew at Warren Wilson is more than happy to get you outside and educate you on how to be safe.

Furman University
From the highlands to the islands, Furman’s Paladin Outdoor Program offers students a chance to take a break from the books and have some fun in the natural wonders of South Carolina.

Liberty University
Do you ski or ride? Do you wish you could hit the slopes and train year-round? At Liberty Mountain’s Snowflex Centre, you can shred while you study.

Georgia College
If you’re considering a career as an outdoor educator, check out Georgia College’s Outdoor Education program, one of only five programs in the country recognized by the Association for Experiential Education.

Lees-McRae College
Serious about climbing? So is LMC. Check out their competitive rock climbing team and the annual Reel Rock Film Tour that Outdoor Programs hosts.

Sewanee – The University of the South
Most universities have on-campus trails, but Sewanee’s campus knocks them all out of the water, boasting over 50 miles of trails that are open to students for hiking, biking, horseback riding and even overnight camping.

Emory & Henry College
Have you ever wanted to get school credit for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail? Through Emory & Henry’s Semester-a-Trail program, you can do just that and more.

Davidson College
Canoeing in the Everglades and on the Rio Grande, sailing off the Gulf Coast of Florida, hang gliding at the Outer Banks, sea kayaking off the Georgia coast…sound too good to be true? At Davidson, it’s not.

Maryville College
Learn to teach and guide through Maryville’s outdoor recreation degree or get involved with the college’s Mountain Challenge program, which introduces students to activities such as navigation, outdoor service projects, rope courses, and caving.

Lenoir-Rhyne University
Join Lenoir-Rhyne’s Outdoor Adventure Club and get ready for lots of s’mores, stories around the campfire, and adventures galore in the mountains of North Carolina.

Wake Forest University
When you’re not in class, enroll in a different type of school – kayaking school. Learn to be a class III kayaker in weeks or, if the water thing is not for you, hit up the CRUX climbing gym and send some routes.

Washington and Lee University
The W&L campus location is prime for outdoor adventures. Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, the Outing Club can help guide everything from fly-fishing on the Maury River to caving in one of Virginia’s 3,650 known caves.

West Virginia University
Meet new people, explore new places, gain skills and have fun. Whether it’s climbing at Seneca or cross-country skiing in Canaan Valley, the Outdoor Rec Center is always down to play outside.

University of Georgia
If you thought you couldn’t kayak for school credit, think again. UGA offers PE credit for its fall and spring semester courses as well as its two-week adventure trip to Costa Rica.

University of Pittsburgh
Despite its urban location, the University of Pittsburgh is within close proximity to a host of city greenways, national parks, and mountaintop ski resorts. The ‘burg is your oyster – make the best of it by joining the Department of Intramurals and Recreation.

James Madison University
JMU is situated in the mountains surrounding Harrisonburg, Va., so it’s only natural that outdoor adventure should rank high among the students’ list of priorities. The biking community is very active here, as the nearby George Washington and Jefferson National Forests offer some of the best singletrack in the region.

Pennsylvania State University
Study by day, dive by night. Yes, it is possible to learn to SCUBA dive at school. Just ask PSU’s Paul Rentschler, SCUBA Diving Supervisor and underwater guru.

University of Virginia
Whether you’re an amateur or an experienced skier or snowboarder, the Virginia Alpine Ski and Snowboard Team offers powder lovers a chance to get the adrenaline pumping and the competitive edge on at least twice a week at the nearby Wintergreen Ski Resort.

University of Kentucky
Rafting on the Chattanooga, climbing in the Red River Gorge, dog sledding in Michigan? You name it, UKY’s Outdoor Pursuit team can make it happen.

University of Tennessee – Chattanooga
UTC Outdoors offers incoming students the chance to be a part of WILD, the Wilderness Institute for Leadership Development, which takes its members into the wilderness once a month to recreate in a variety of settings and learn how to be an effective leader.

Virginia Commonwealth University
With such a diverse array of adventure destinations close to VCU’s location in Richmond, Va., students can join the campus Outdoor Adventure Program and learn to do everything from whitewater paddling to stand up paddleboarding and mountain biking.

Emory University
Outdoor Emory is the university’s largest student organization on campus and is entirely student-run. The club provides students a wide range of outdoor opportunities like skydiving and skiing and offers the Student Outdoor Adventure Retreat (SOAR) to incoming freshman.

University of Tennessee – Knoxville
Get studious about adventure and enroll in UTK’s Recreation and Leisure Studies major or ditch the textbooks for the afternoon and hit the trails with the UT Outdoor Program (UTOP). Paddling the Pigeon and hiking in the Smoky Mountains are a couple of the go-to trips near campus.

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
The Carolina Outdoor Education Center (COEC) on campus houses two programs, a challenge course and an expedition program, both of which “promote greater understanding and appreciation of self, others & the natural world.”