MISSOULA – More than 100 University of Montana freshmen kicked off their undergraduate experience with a variety of wilderness adventures during the fifth annual Freshmen Wilderness Experience, sponsored by Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Program and the Wilderness Institute.
The incoming freshmen spent four days and three nights exploring various wilderness areas around the state in the days immediately before fall semester began. Groups of 10 freshmen, each led by two trained student leaders, backpacked through mountains and paddled down rivers while navigating the challenges inherent when traveling long distances over rugged terrain in unpredictable weather.
Upon completing the program, the freshmen – some who arrived on campus not knowing anyone – created deep bonds with their fellow participants. The FWE program supports the University’s continuing efforts to increase retention by fostering peer networks and establishing a sense of engagement with the UM campus, Missoula and the surrounding wilderness areas.
“The wilderness setting serves an amazing venue to integrate into the UM community,” said Elizabeth Fricke, senior assistant director of UM’s Campus Recreation Outdoor Program. “Students who complete the program report that the experience instills a sense of confidence that helps them feel more comfortable as they approach the unknown aspects of college life.”
Fricke said one of the highlights of the program is the growing involvement of student who are FWE alumni. Each year former FWE students return to work as organizing staff and guides for the trips. The goal of the Outdoor Program and the Wilderness Institute is to make FWE a program run by students, for students.
The FWE is open to all incoming freshmen at UM, regardless if they have been on a multiday wilderness trip or have camped before. Learn more at http://www.umt.edu/freshman-wilderness-experience/.