In March, BRO launched its sixth annual Top Adventure College Contest presented by ENO, where 64 colleges from all over the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic battled it out in a bracket-style competition for the honor of being named the top outdoor adventure college in the region.

Over 150,000 votes poured in. Schools were divided into two categories: small schools (under 5,000 students) and large schools (more than 5,000 students). Sweet Briar College won the small schools bracket, and in the finals, went head-to-head with Western Carolina University, winner of the large schools’ bracket.

For the fourth year in a row, Western Carolina University won the overall Top Adventure College Contest. Located near world-class whitewater and iconic trails, Western Carolina University is a mecca for paddling, mountain biking, fishing, climbing, and hiking.

“Winning the top award for four straight years is confirmation that Western Carolina University’s location as the closest four year college to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway provide exceptional opportunities for living and learning in this beautiful area,” says Steve Morse, director of WCU’s Hospitality and Tourism Program.

“WCU’s academic programs have outdoor laboratories where professors and students can connect theory with real-world applications that are unmatched.”

Western Carolina University narrowly edged out this year’s runner-up, Sweet Briar College. A university that boasts a 3,250-acre campus in the foothills of the Virginia Blue Ridge, Sweet Briar swept through the small school portion of the bracket and made an impressive showing against WCU in the finals days of the contest.

“It means a lot to win the Top Adventure College Contest in our category because it is recognition of the quality programming that we’ve developed over the years,” says Director of Media Relations Jennifer McManamay.

“Even though we’re smaller than probably any other school in the competition, the Sweet Briar Outdoor Program offers students every kind of activity you could want, from hiking, backpacking, climbing, white water kayaking and canoeing to skiing, mountain biking, and caving. Outdoor programming is driven by student interest, and student instructors organize and lead most trips. “Getting out on the land is a critical part of the Sweet Briar experience, ” adds Kate Macklin, director of outdoor programs and 2013 alumna. “We pride ourselves on empowering all students to put themselves out there and try something new, regardless of how much prior experience they have.”