The University of Utah in the final round of Top Adventure University

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Famous for its access to vast amounts of nature and outdoor activities, the U is located within a mecca of adventure opportunities. The U, however, is not the only college in the Western United States reputed for access to nature. Elevation Outdoors, a well-known, American west-focused outdoor magazine, raises the question; which of these learning institutions is the top adventure college?

Currently in the final two for victory, the U finds itself facing off against Adams State University. The competition is fierce, but with all the attention placed on outdoor recreation by the U and integrating that into the institution as a whole, the U might just give the others a run for their money.

In addition to having access to world-class skiing, hiking, biking and much more only minutes from the university, the U offers many programs that emphasize experiential and outdoor-based education. Outdoor Adventures, located in the Student Life Center, rents out gear and organizes student trips like rafting, canyoneering, climbing and more. UExplore, a program within the PRT department, provides a wide array of classes for PRT experiential learning and outdoor recreation education for students, regardless of their major.student-life-center

“[Classes which take place in the outdoors] provide a different learning and teaching methodology,” said Nate Furman, PhD in Parks, Rec and Tourism and co-coordinator of UExplore, in regards to the importance of the outdoors in a university setting. “[UExplore] operates on the principles of experience-based education. We foster an environment where students are able to use all five senses, and discuss issues and ideas in a community-based way. Experiential education accesses parts of the brain that are missed out on by the traditional lecture and test-taking method of teaching.”

Logan Erickson, a U student and participant in a UExplore course, said, “Since I was a kid, I’ve told just about everyone I know that experience-based learning is the way to go. I don’t like lectures, I don’t like tests… I don’t think they’re that effective. Luckily, I feel like with all of the programs, classes and resources we have for outdoor adventures here, you can really see that the University of Utah values outdoor interaction and experiential learning.”

Another facet of Elevation Outdoors’ criteria for top adventure school is an emphasis on sustainability. The U is one of a few select colleges with a full sustainability program, and the institution continually working to become more environmentally conscious.

The U’s outdoor programs also help provide a focus on sustainability. “When we’re able to interact with an environment, we come to appreciate it more. It becomes more real to us, and so we care more about what happens to it. Experiencing the natural environment takes abstract ideas and gives them meaning and value more so than reading about it” Furman said.

More and more Utah students are getting involved with the outdoors each year, as demonstrated by the growing utilization of Outdoor Adventures, UExplore classes, and the growth of the Parks, Rec and Tourism major.

Fishing Hike

In regards to the growing emphasis on exploratory and experiential courses and resources, Sabrina Stein, a PRT major and Outdoor Adventures employee said, “The outdoors provides a place where humans can feel a connection to the world and to each other that is hard to find elsewhere. Adventures are the mechanism by which humans can band together in those wild places and learn about life, love and the pursuit of happiness.”

The U’s focus on experiences in the outdoors will likely continue to grow, but is the emphasis on outdoor activities and nature enough to get the U to the place of Top Adventure School?

To vote in Elevation Outdoors’ competition, follow this link: http://www.elevationoutdoors.com/top-adventure-school/

c.macdonald@dailyutahchronicle.com

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