Differential Effects of Participation in an Outdoor Orientation Program for Incoming Students


  • Jessica M. Michael West Virginia University
  • Vicky Morris-Dueer West Virginia State University
  • M. Shawn Reichert West Virginia University




outdoor orientation, wilderness education, first-year experience, first-year seminar


In this research, we examine the first-year student participants in a first-year seminar outdoor orientation program (OOP) compared to first-year students who participate in the traditional first-year seminar at a large research institution. The effect of residency status, gender, and ethnicity on the students’ success suggests that OOP participants are 5% more likely to return in their following fall and are over 6% more likely to graduate within 6 years, regardless of residency status or gender. Further results suggest a larger effect on first-year experiences for low Expected Family Contribution (EFC) students, allowing them to achieve student success similar to more financially advantaged peers. As EFC increases, the effect of OOP participation decreases for retention and graduation outcomes. Additionally, retaining an OOP student provides a financial gain in total estimated additional revenue for AY 2004–2013 of $3,902,680. This is associated with a 1-year increase in retention as a result of OOP participation.

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