Utah State University is making an even greater push this month to cement itself as the top destination for students who love getting outdoors.
USU will be in competition against over 90 colleges across the U.S. in the annual Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge spanning from Sep. 18 to Oct. 15. All outdoor recreation programs in Cache County are either involved or can be otherwise made use of during the competition. The purpose of the challenge is a nationwide initiative to increase outdoor activity and recreation and, in turn, physical activity, particularly among college adolescents.
Chase Anderson, the director of development for the USU School of Applied Sciences, Technology and Development, submitted the application months ago on behalf of the university. He first heard about through an outdoor-related publication he subscribes to.
“We thought it would be a great way to rally the university behind something that our program believes in,” Anderson said.
The challenge is held through an app called Outdoor Nation, downloadable via the Apple App Store or Google Play. Through the app, students post their activities to earn points for their respective school. While points cannot be gained before Sep. 18, pre-registration is already open and continues until the beginning of the event. Earning points for the university is not limited to only students. Faculty, staff, and community members can also get involved.
At the end, various sponsors award several prizes. Of most significance, the university with the most cumulative points is named the National Outdoor Champion for 2017. Other things that get awarded are the most points in a certain activity, individual scores, and miscellaneous awards like creativity with the contestant’s photo.
Various departments at Utah State are joining in the initiative. The Campus Recreation Department’s Outdoor Programs provide an easy avenue for participation. “The mission of the [department] is to create opportunities for students to enhance the college experience through play, wellness and adventure,” Director Chase Ellis said. “Our Outdoor Program really brings that adventure to the table.”
Ellis sees USU as having the most opportunities to win. “There is no other university that is situated literally in between two wilderness areas” Ellis said, “as well as having access within one mile of campus to the canyons. Our [program], with the help of the student trip leaders, provides safe and exciting trips to get individuals from all walks of life outside.”
Different activities are worth different point amounts according to a scorecard that can be found at the event’s website, oncampuschallenge.org.
While USU is entering its first year in the competition, it is not the first university in Utah to enter. Southern Utah University, located in Cedar City, Utah, not only has been involved in the contest for a number of years, including this year, but also won the National Outdoor Championship in 2015.
What Utah State brings is their long-lived outdoor culture, coupled with a flourishing new major in Outdoor Product Design and Development (OPDD). The university began offering the major program in the fall of 2015 and has met with resounding success. “We definitely felt that OPDD championing the event made sense,” Anderson said. “We also saw that prospective students come to USU because of the outdoor lifestyle and activities.”