Lasting Impacts of Outdoor Orientation Programming: A Preliminary Study Using Longitudinal Data


  • S. Anthony Deringer Texas State University
  • Afi Y. Wiggins The University of Texas at Austin



outdoor orientation program, retention, existential development


The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to examine the lasting impacts of students who attended outdoor orientation programs. This research sought to explore a critical gap in outdoor recreation research: longitudinal research about lasting impacts of outdoor orientation programming. We asked the following research questions to guide the study: (a) Do students who attended New Student Wilderness Expedition (NSWE) at Texas State University have higher grade point averages and higher retention rates than students who attended traditional new student orientation (NSO) programs? (b) Do students who participated in NSWE programming perceive a lasting positive impact on social factors that contribute to college retention? (c) Do students who participated in NSWE programming perceive a lasting impact on their existential development? Findings indicate that students who participated in NSWE were significantly more likely to graduate than students who attended NSO and that students perceived lasting positive social impacts and a lasting impact on existential development.Subscribe to JOREL


Austin, M. L., Martin, B., Mittelstaedt, R., Schanning, K., & Ogle, D. (2009). Outdoor orientation program effects: Sense of place and social benefits. Journal of Experiential Education, 31, 435-439.

Barefoot, B. O. (2000). The first-year experience. About Campus, 4(6), 12.

Borchert, D. M. (Ed). (2006). Existentialism. In Encyclopedia of philosophy: 2nd edition. (Vol. 1, pp.501-510). Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale.

Bell, B. J. (2006). Wilderness orientation: Exploring the relationship between college preorientation programs and social support. Journal of Experiential Education, 29(2), 145-167. doi: 10.1177/105382590602900206

Bell, B. J., & Chang, H. (2017). Outdoor orientation programs: A critical review of program impacts on retention and graduation. Journal Of Outdoor Recreation, Education & Leadership, 9(1), 56-68.

Bell, B.J., Gass, M. A., Nafziger, C.S. & Starbuck, J.D. (2014). The state of knowledge of outdoor orientation programs: Current practices, research, and theory. Journal Of Experiential Education, 37(1), 31 – 45.

Bell, B. J., Holmes, M. R., & Williams, B. G. (2010). A census of outdoor orientation programs at four-year colleges in the United States. Journal of Experiential Education, 33, 1-18.

Charmaz, K. (2005). Grounded theory in the 21st century: Applications for advancing social justice studies. In N. K. Denzin & L. Y. S. (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed., pp. 507-535). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Charmaz, K. (2011). Grounded theory methods in social justice research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Chen, S. J. (2016). College costs, freshman enrollment, and student quality: Evidence from an urban state university. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 6(9), 664.

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE bulletin, 3, 7.

Coates, H. (2007). A model of online and general campus‐based student engagement. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 32(2), 121-141.

Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. New York, NY: Routledge Academic.

Cohen, S. (August 28, 2012). Oh, so that’s why college is so expensive. Forbes. Retrieved from:

Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Deringer, S. A. (2012). College life through an existential lens: A role for adventure. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 4(2), 95-99.

Existentialism (2010). Retrieved from

Frankl, V. E. (1967). Psychotherapy and existentialism. New York, NY: Washington Square Press Inc.

Gass, M. (1990). The longitudinal effects of adventure orientation program on the retention of students. Journal of College Student Development, 31(1), 33–38.

Gass, M. A., Garvey, D. E., & Sugerman, D. A. (2003). The long-term effects of a first-year student wilderness orientation program. Journal of Experiential Education, 26(1), 34-40.

Guignon, C., (Ed.). (2004). The existentialists. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Jaspers (2006). Karl Jaspers. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from

Kahu, E. R. (2013). Framing student engagement in higher education. Studies in higher education, 38(5), 758-773.

Kelly, E. (2004) . The basics of western philosophy. Westpoint, CN: Greenwood Press.

Kirshstein, R. J., & Kadamus, J. (2012, December). Climbing walls and climbing tuitions. Delta Cost Project. Retrieved from:

Lewin, T. (2013). Obama’s plan aims to lower cost of college. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.

Martin, A. (December 13, 2012). Building a showcase campus, using an I.O.U. The New York Times. Retrieved from:

Michael, J. M., Morris-Dueer, V., & Reichert, M. S. (2017). Differential effects of participation in an outdoor orientation program for incoming students. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education & Leadership, 9(1), 42-55.

Miles, M. B., Huberman A. M., & Saldaña J. (2014). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Mitchell, M., & Leachman, M. (2015). Years of Cuts Threaten to Put College out of Reach for More Students. Retrieved from: years-of-cuts-threaten-to-put-college-out-of-reach-for-more-students

Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (1980). Predicting freshman persistence and voluntary dropout decisions from a theoretical model. The Journal of Higher Education, 60-75.

Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sartre, J.P. (1966). Existentialism and humanism. London: Methuen.

Schneider, M., & Yin, L. (2011). The hidden costs of community colleges. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research.

Soria, K., Lingren - Clark, B., & Coffin Koch, L. (2013). Investigating the academic and social benefits of extended new student orientations for first-year students. The Journal of College Orientation and Transition, 20(2), 33-45.

Swail, W. S. (2004, June). The art of student retention: A handbook for practitioners and administrators. In Educational Policy Institute. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board 20th Annual Recruitment and Retention Conference Austin, TX June. 21, 2004

Thomas, L. (2002). Student retention in higher education: the role of institutional habitus. Journal of Education Policy, 17(4), 423-442.

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45(1), 89-125. doi: 10.2307/1170024

Tinto, V. (2006). Research and practice of student retention: what next?. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 8(1), 1-19. doi: 10.2190/4YNU-4TMB-22DJ-AN4W

Tinto, V., & Goodsell-Love, A. (1993). Building community. Liberal Education, 79(4), 16.

Wolfe, B. D., & Kay, G. (2011). Perceived impact of an outdoor orientation program for first-year university students. Journal of Experiential Education, 34, 19-34.





Regular Papers