Wilderness Skills is Vanderbilt University’s premier outdoor experience. The course is designed to integrate academic study with practical experience in the wilderness. It utilizes both the classroom and the environment, combining lectures, films, and discussions with trips to the surrounding areas. The trips are designed to teach students the basic techniques of backpacking, caving, rock climbing, and whitewater paddling. The course is offered each Fall and Spring semester and is open to all current Vanderbilt students, both undergraduate and graduate.
- Is there a schedule of the trips?
- What is the objective of the course?
- Is WilSkills a regular academic course, a sports club or part of the Vanderbilt Outdoor Recreation Program?
- Who is eligible to take the course?
- How is the course structured?
- What are the requirements to pass the course?
- What equipment do I need to take the course?
- What is the cost to take the course?
- Who are the instructors and how does one become one?
- Do trips get harder over time?
What is the objective of the course?
The course is designed to not only teach certain skills for outdoor activities, but to also respect and care for nature. We hope that every student leaves the course with a new attitude towards protecting the environment.
Is WilSkills a regular academic course, a sports club or part of the Vanderbilt Outdoor Recreation Program?
No to all of the above. WilSkills is an independent student organization which offers a course every fall and spring semester. WilSkills is short for the Wilderness Skills Course. WilSkills has also been known as the Vanderbilt Outdoor Education Program, but WilSkills is not affiliated with the Vanderbilt Outdoor Recreation Program. WilSkills differentiates itself from the Outdoor Rec in that it is semester long, comprehensive outdoor education program made up of a small and continuous group of students and instructors.
Who is eligible to take the course?
Any current Vanderbilt undergraduate or graduate student is eligible to enroll in the course. Prior experience in the outdoors is not necessary to take the course. All that is required is a desire to learn about the outdoors. The course is designed to teach people who have never had to rely on themselves in the outdoors or have any previous skills. However, if you already have one or more of the skills under your belt, we will help you excel in them. Many instructors are very dedicated to one or more of the skills we offer and can offer extensive knowledge and/or training.
How is the course structured?
The course consists of two components, a lecture once a week and weekend trips. Lectures occur each week throughout the semester on Wednesday evenings in Garland 101 at 7:00pm. Trips occur every weekend throughout the semester except during University breaks. Trips depart campus Friday afternoons and return Sunday evenings. There are 11 trips offered each Fall semester and 12 trips offered each Spring semester; both semesters consist of four paddling trips (three in the fall), four climbing trips, and four backpacking trips (three in the spring).
What are the requirements to pass the course?
Students must attend 75% of evening lectures over the course of the semester, go on any 4 of the weekend trips and pass the final written exam.
What equipment do I need to take the course?
Personal clothing and footwear appropriate for the outdoors is the only equipment students are required to have in order to take the course. Clothing made of wool, polypropylene, fleece or other synthetics work well to help you stay warm when it gets cold and wet. Most instructors have enough clothing to lend out if you’re short on money. Instructors can also tell you where to go and what to look for if you’d like to purchase any of the items that you will need. The course provides everything else you will need for the trips including paddling, climbing, caving, and backpacking items.
What is the cost to take the course?
The current cost for the course (3+ trips) is $325. This covers all lecture materials, along with food, equipment and transportation for as many trips as you wish to go on during the semester. Payment can be made by check, cash or can be conveniently debited from a student’s university account.
If a student goes on 1-2 trips, the cost of the course is $175.
Who are the instructors and how does one become one?
All instructors are previous WilSkills students. Students who have successfully passed the course may apply to be an instructor. New instructors are competitively chosen by veteran instructors through an application and interview process. Instructors are selected on the basis that they embody the course objectives, possess strong leadership skills, are compatible with the current instructors, have a love and respect for the outdoors, and are committed to safety.
Do trips get harder over time?
They do not! Every WilSkills trip, regardless of number presents a range of challenge and is accessible for students with any level of outdoor background. That is to say, Paddling I is the same level of difficulty as Paddling IV. The numerals are only to indicate the order in which they occur. We will teach you everything you need to know to have a great time, so not to worry!