One of the unique aspects of this program is that the students themselves lead the trips!
Wyoming Catholic College has a unique outdoor program unlike any other college or university. It is a nationally recognized, professional outdoor program and is the only Catholic program accredited by the AEE (Association of Experiential Education). Below is a brief overview of the outdoor program, its extracurricular and academic components, and our outreach program, COR Expeditions.
All extracurricular and academic outdoor components of the College’s curriculum fall under what is referred to as the OLP, or the Outdoor Leadership Program. Within the OLP, students have many opportunities to take advantage of trips and adventures in and around Lander during weekdays and weekends. The many activity options include hiking, mountain biking, fishing, rock climbing, rappelling, canoeing, backpacking, caving, cross-country skiing, resort skiing, etc. These are optional, open to all students, and consist of trips that range from just a few hours to multiple days over a weekend or break.
Within the OLP is the ELP, or the Experiential Leadership Program. The ELP is the academic component of the OLP, and successful completion is required by all students. Students have ten credits associated with the ELP; each credit includes some classroom sessions and a weeklong trip off campus.
The first ELP course (the freshmen’s first overall class) is the 3-credit 21-day backpacking expedition. The trip begins with a 3-day Wilderness First Aid course and two days of outdoor lessons and gear packing on campus, followed by 21 days of backpacking. Next, the freshmen return after Christmas break to complete a 1-credit weeklong winter backpacking ski trip where the students build and sleep in snow caves and celebrate Mass at carved-out snow altars. The additional six credits include a 1-credit ELP course each semester during the sophomore, junior and senior years. Each of these courses consists of a weeklong trip and a 1-day ELP seminar during the semester discussing outdoor education, leadership theories and models, and hands-on career development lessons.
The weeklong trips mostly take place during fall and spring break, but students have the option to complete these trips the week before the fall and spring semesters as well. Most trips are in outdoor settings, with a few exceptions, such as a play production we present each spring semester, a mission opportunity, or a retreat to a convent or seminary.
The activities that we offer during outdoor weeks include backpacking, rock climbing, canyoneering, mountaineering, rock climbing, caving, whitewater kayaking and rafting, canoeing, sea kayaking, winter backpacking, ice climbing, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting, and fishing.
One of the unique aspects of this program is that the students themselves lead the trips. The freshmen 21-day trip and winter trip are entirely led by seniors and alumni from Wyoming Catholic College. Students lead all the weekday and weekend trips and the weeklong ELP trips with mentorship from a technical instructor when further instruction is required (for specific trips such as rock climbing or kayaking). Students who want to lead the trips go through a number of weeklong training courses to become certified to lead trips. In addition, every student acts as an LOD, or Leader of the Day, each week of their 21-day and weeklong ELP trips.
Lastly, Catholic Outdoor Renewal (COR) Expeditions is the college’s outreach program. Its primary mission is to use wilderness experiences to help people of all ages reclaim the wealth of their purpose and identity in Christ. COR started seven years ago by providing three summer trips for a disabled veteran program, a seminary, and a Catholic youth group. In 2023, COR now has 18 year-round staff and will be providing over 110 trips for numerous Catholic seminaries, high schools, colleges, youth groups, young adult groups, and Catholic ministries that contract trips through COR such as FOCUS. In addition, this year COR will be providing over ten open enrollment trips, which are open to families, high schoolers, and young adults from around the country. COR and the Wyoming Catholic College Outdoor Program work together to make both programs thrive. The two programs share staff, vehicles, permits, gear, office space, infrastructure, fundraising, various properties, and more. By exercising its mission and interacting with Catholics from all over the country, COR also serves a vital role in publicity for the college by sharing Wyoming Catholic College and its mission with potential students, donors, and staff.