This year's incoming freshmen at University of the Ozarks will soon have an exciting opportunity to get out of the house and into the woods - and learn some valuable skills at the same time. From July 15-21, Ozarks Outdoors will offer an intensive pre-orientation wilderness trip which will include rock climbing, canoeing, camping, hiking, and skills training in wilderness survival.
The Ozarks Outdoors program, entering its second year, is the University’s outdoor recreation and education program. It combines the outdoor and environmental experiences offered across academics, student life, and administration.
"This trip is for new students only," said Director of Outdoor and Environmental Experiences Jamie Lewis Hedges. "Any incoming freshman can sign up for it. The cost of $150 covers all the gear, the programming, food, everything. All they have to do is bring appropriate clothing. We’re going up to Shores Lake, which is northeast of Fort Smith, up by the Mulberry River in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. There are places to camp there near the lake, so we’ll have dependable water for canoeing. It’s also close to the Mulberry River. The water is pretty low now, but if it does rain beforehand, we can canoe there as well. And we’re close there to the Fern Gully climbing area."
Hedges said the entire reason and focus of the week-long trip is to teach skills that students need making the transition from high school to college; specifically, organization skills, planning skills, and goal-setting skills.
One of the activities planned for the pre-orientation wilderness trip is canoeing at Shores Lake.
"The week will start off that Sunday when parents drop the students off at Base Camp, our headquarters," said Hedges. "We’ll do some staging there, then leave early Monday and drive out to our destination. Our main goal that day will involve team-building. On Tuesday we’ll be canoeing, and the rock climbing at Fern Gully will take place on Wednesday. During all that time we’ll be working on some basic outdoor skills, like how to start a fire, how to use a compass, how to read a map, that sort of thing."
The pinnacle of the trip will take place on Thursday and Friday. "We will have boxes with us that contain disorganized food, gear, a compass, a map, and whatever else the students will need to make some kind of backpacking trip between where we are and White Rock Mountain, which is to the north," Hedges said. "So on those two days we’ll bring out those boxes, give them the map, give them the gear, give them the compass, and turn them loose. Where they go and how far they go is totally up to them. We will just be there for safety purposes. This will give them the chance to work through what they’ve been learning, and afterward give us a chance to debrief them on their planning, goal setting, and organizing, the three focus points of the trip."
Hedges said his program staff has been personally calling all pre-registered freshmen since January to let them know about the program and the upcoming trip.
"That project has really proven worthwhile, so we’re planning to continue to do that," Hedges said. "We had quite a few pre-admits express enthusiasm for the event, so it’ll be terrific to see how many sign up. There is really a double focus in trips like this, both recruiting students to the university and program, and retaining those students once they get here. The skills we’ll teach on the trip will help them abundantly once school starts in the fall. Plus it’s an entry way into the Ozarks Outdoor program."
For more information on the Pre-Orientation wilderness trip and Ozarks Outdoors, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (479) 979-1386.