The Wilderness Skills Certificate program began about 10 years ago, which was around two years after the Wellness Center first opened. The Wellness Center focuses on outdoor recreation for students, staff and faculty, offering opportunities for exploration of and education about the Pacific Northwest and the variety of physical activities it inspires.
The Wellness Center had been offering the eight courses that now make up the Wilderness Skills Certificate program since its founding. Peter Prescott, program manager of the Wellness Center explained, “It made perfect sense to have a further progression from just the wilderness skills activities.” He described the Wilderness Skills Certificate program as more of a “complete education, […] preparing students to make an honest appraisal of what their outdoor abilities and skills are, and to choose a specialty area, […] one they excel in or have the most interest in.”
As students complete the courses within the certificate program, they experience many of the various outdoor activities esteemed in the Pacific Northwest, which include sea kayaking, rock climbing, mountaineering and hiking. From their well-rounded introduction to these activities, they can determine whether they’d like to continue their education in a more specialized field, and have a foundation and community to take off from. Those students who opt not to continue on into a specialized field of outdoor recreation are still left with experiences and lessons-learned that can be applied to other areas of their lives.
The eight required classes can be completed in any order, and students do not have to sign up for the Wilderness Skills Certificate program. The certificate, an addition to any transfer application, is available to those who complete the eight required classes. Though the classes can be completed in any order, Prescott explained that the Wellness Center suggests students take them in a particular sequence. “Fall quarter is [a] great [time] to take health, which looks at mind-body wellness as a complete package.” He described winter quarter as “when we focus on wilderness remote first-aid, [which includes] emergency response in the backcountry.” Students are encouraged to take the other introductory outdoor recreation classes throughout their time at BC.
“The capstone class for the certificate is the outdoor leadership class,” a course that focuses on “communication skills [and] group development,” which is the theme of the challenge course the students participate in. Students also do internships that put “them in charge of their own wellness activities” as a 1-credit part of the 4-credit course. “They develop a Wellness Center activity and they become the guides.”
Students who have shown themselves to be exemplary participants in certain Wilderness Skills Certificate courses can be invited to help lead future Wellness Center activities, as well as be offered opportunities to get connected with potential future employers. Prescott said that some passionate graduates have gotten jobs at the locations they had their courses at.
For those who aren’t inclined to take on the task of completing the 19-credit Wilderness Skills Certificate program, the Wellness Center is available to all BC members. It allows them to participate in the activities focused on in the program in the form of 2-hour introduction courses. “Get your feet wet,” Prescott said, “and figure out whether you’d like to take a complete quarter-long course in something like rock climbing or hiking and orienteering.”