Western Carolina University has been voted the “Top Adventure College” in a Blue Ridge
Outdoors magazine online readers’ poll, reflecting the popularity of, and pride in,
local outdoor activities.
The contest began Feb. 25 and had regional colleges and universities meeting in head-to-head
matchups in a 32-school bracket, with WCU and Lees-McRae College, last year’s titleholder,
moving on to the championship final.
“Over a half-million votes poured in to Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine’s ‘Top Adventure’
contest — the most ever in its seven-year history,” said Will Harlan, BRO editor-in-chief.
“Once again, Western Carolina rallied its students, faculty, staff and alumni to a
decisive victory. WCU boasts a premier location for outdoor adventure — with world-class
whitewater, climbing crags and hundreds of miles of trails in national parks and national
forests surrounding campus. It also offers outstanding outdoor education and adventure
opportunities, such as the university’s outdoor program known as Base Camp Cullowhee.
“Most importantly, perhaps, Western has a dedicated, outdoor-minded campus community
that promotes and celebrates adventure,” Harlan said. “It’s not surprising that WCU
has captured its fifth ‘Top Adventure College’ title. They’ve definitely earned it.”
Blue Ridge Outdoors is a print and online publication about outdoor recreation in
the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, with offices in Asheville and Charlottesville,
Virginia. WCU had won the polling for four straight years then went into a “hall of
fame” category in 2018 before returning to competition this year.
On campus and off, numerous outdoor opportunities await WCU students, faculty and
staff, and the surrounding community. From a multiuse trail system behind the Health and Human Sciences Building on the university’s West Campus to the neighboring Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky
Mountains National Park and Pisgah and Nantahala national forests, as well as scenic
lakes and waterways such as the nearby Tuckaseigee River, there is quick and easy
access to some of the most adventure-friendly landscapes in the South.
“Receiving the designation of ‘Top Adventure College’ is truly a tribute to the array
of outdoor opportunities Western Carolina University has to offer,” said Shauna Sage,
director of WCU’s Department of Campus Recreation and Wellness. “Our students not only live in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, but have
opportunities to engage in outdoor activities in both the curricular and extracurricular
realms of their student experience.”
Campus Recreation and Wellness’s outdoor program, Base Camp Cullowhee, offers equipment rentals, events and programs, including recreational trips and
experiential education services.
Among the academic programs offered by WCU of interest to students pursuing careers
in the outdoors are environmental science, hospitality and tourism management, natural resource and conservation management, and parks and recreation management.
“This semester, I am piloting at new course entitled ‘Nature Rx,’” said Debby Singleton,
an instructor in the parks and recreation management program. “Currently, it is an elective open to any student at WCU. I created this course
because I saw a need to introduce, encourage and teach students how to enjoy the nature
we have around us. We witness why time in nature ― the outdoors ― is good for not
just our physical well-being, but also emotional, mental, intellectual and spiritual
“In a couple of weeks, we’re going to participate in a forest therapy session at Pinnacle
Park with a certified forest therapy guide, Mark Ellison,” she said. “During each
class period, we take one of the research studies mentioned in Florence Williams’
book, ‘The Nature Fix,’ and replicate it in class to see if we get the same results. The
majority of the time we do. I think the main take-away is that students are attracted
to WCU because of its location, but they still need assistance in learning how to
enjoy it fully.”