ERIC Number: EJ853350
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Mar
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
Outcomes of a Spiritually Focused Wilderness Orientation Program
Bobilya, Andrew J.; Akey, Lynn; Mitchell, Donald, Jr.
Journal of Experiential Education, v31 n3 p440-443 Mar 2009
Researchers have been studying the conditions that matter in supporting the successful transition and persistence of students to the collegiate environment for more than three decades (Astin, 1997; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, Whitt & Associates, 2005; Upcraft, Gardner & Associates, 1989). As first suggested by Sanford (1962, 1967), for students to be successful they must be both challenged with educational experiences that foster learning and personal development and supported by the college environment. Recently, a focus on students' spiritual formation as an important aspect of higher education has emerged. Chickering, Dalton, and Stamm (2006) share concern that higher education has for far too long encouraged the development of fragmented and inauthentic lives by ignoring the "inner" development of values and beliefs, emotional maturity, moral development, spirituality, and self-understanding among college students. For institutions to support students holistically, attention must be given to both the internal and external realm of the students' experiences. One common way institutions begin to support students in their transition to college life is through orientation programs and, more specifically, wilderness orientation programs offered at the beginning of the academic year. The wilderness orientation program studied is Montreat College's Wilderness Journey for First Year Students (WJFYS)--an Outward Bound-type wilderness experience program. The program includes the instruction of technical skills necessary for safe and efficient backcountry travel, as well as group and personal enjoyment. These skills are secondary to the goals of the program, which include Christian discipleship, stewardship, leadership, and service, all facilitated through a small-group expedition in the wilderness. WJFYS is unique in its design because of its length (12-14 days) and its overt focus on the use of the wilderness as a catalyst for spiritual development. Given the increase in campus initiatives aimed at assisting new students through wilderness orientation programs (Bell, 2008; Galloway, 2000) and the emphasis on examining students' spiritual formation, further research investigating the outcomes of such programs is warranted. Few wilderness orientation programs currently operate for 12-14 days (Bell, 2008) and even fewer utilize the wilderness expedition as a tool for spiritual growth. This study was intended to uncover the meaning of such experiences through the student's perspective. The research question guiding this exploratory study was to understand the students' perceptions of a spiritually focused wilderness orientation program and the influence of their participation in the program on their transition to college.
Descriptors: Student Attitudes, School Orientation, Moral Development, Outdoor Education, Spiritual Development, Student Development, Values Education, College Freshmen, Holistic Approach, Transitional Programs, Christianity, Leadership Training
Association for Experiential Education. 3775 Iris Avenue Suite 4, Boulder, CO 80301. Tel: 866-522-8337; Fax: 303-440-9581; e-mail: email@example.com; Web site: http://www.aee.org
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A