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Become a Leader with Student Outdoor Leadership Expeditions (SOLE)

Spring 2019 SOLE course application is CLOSED.



Imagine this, you’re camping during spring break on a beach island 3 miles from the mainland, on North Carolina’s remote coastal Bear island.

As the trip leader, you are responsible for 8 students and 2 other junior staff members. The weather during your trip has been perfect (bluebird skies, 70 degree days) but tomorrow morning an early spring storm with 25 mph winds and heavy lightning is forecasted.

And tomorrow is your last day; time to head home. What do you do?

Student Outdoor Leadership Expeditions is the most in-depth, long-term leadership development program on campus. And the most fun.

SOLE is unlike any other course or training program you ever had. You’ll learn how to handle real situations (like the above sea kayak trip), learn how to climb, kayak, bike, backpack, and be ready for life in college and after graduation.

SOLE – An 80+ hour technical and leadership training program.

Learn how to: rock climb, whitewater kayak, mountain bike, paddleboard, and then learn how to easily and comfortably take others outside with your leadership and teaching skills.

If you make it through the 80 hours (over 4 weekends in the spring), you’ll have the skills to join the staff, whether with us or for another outfitter.

As a staff, join the multiday-day-overnight staff training during Mini-term.

During mini-term spend 5 days camping to enhance your whitewater skills, or 5 days perfecting your rock climbing. Some of our best staff are chosen to attend the 4 training to run Ignite Outdoors summer orientation trips – also during mini-term.

To join the SOLE course, you should have some outdoor experience, like hiking or paddling with the family, climbing with a high school club team, or involved with scouts.

You don’t need a lot of experience but if you have never hiked, or paddled, or biked, then you should wait to take this course.

If you are a really good climber, boater, backpacker, biker but haven’t formally taught or lead groups, you can take parts of this course.

If you have guided before (at a summer camp or with a private outfitter) or have a strong technical background but lack experience teaching, talk with us about whether this course is needed, or if you can just apply to become RecSports Outdoor trip staff.

Questions? Email us at, call 865-974-8261, or drop us a line on Facebook

You must make all course dates. Each weekend session is an overnight trip camping trip.

For each weekend, you meet between 7 am & 8 am and get back on campus between 6 pm and 8 pm on Sunday.

  1. Sat, Jan 26 – Sun, Jan 27 – Backpacking
  2. Sat, Feb 23 – Sun, Feb 24 – Mountain Bike & Hiking
  3. Sat, Mar 30 – Sun, Mar 31 – Rock Climbing
  4. Fri, Apr 19 – Sat, Apr 20 – Flatwater Paddling (paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing) Note – this is spring recess


Wilderness Medical Training

Sat, Feb 16 – Sun, Feb 17 – Wilderness First Aid (8 hours each day, not overnight)

As a SOLE candiate, you receive a highly discounted rate to attend the Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course.

WFA is required to become a trip leader. Some SOLE candidates already have a WFA or WFR* and do not need to take this course.

*WFA/WFR must be from a nationally recognized provider.  

Mini-Term Training & Inservice

If you successfully gained the experiences and skills (through SOLE and on your own time), you may be eligible the staff mini-term training and in-service.

These sessions are in-depth 8-10 hours each day and build on skills and experiences staff already have.

Some staff attend all three, but most attend just one. If you wish to work Ignite Outdoor freshman orientation trips, you must attend the Ignite Outdoors training.

The following training are for those who are specialized in that particular activity.

  1. Whitewater Kayaking – Tues, May 13 – Fri, May 17
  2. Ignite Outdoors Backpacking – Fri, May 17 – Mon, May 20
  3. Rock Climbing – Mon, May 20 – Fri, May 24

Course Includes:

  • NOLS/WMI Wilderness First Aid (WFA) 16-hour certification course
    *Note:  Discounted registration for the class.* (additional fee required)
  • Training in standup paddleboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, backpacking, navigation, & leadership
  • All equipment
  • All food and camping
  • Transportation to/from training sites
  • Instruction from the professional staff with over 14+ years of experience each.

The cost for this 80+ hour training course.

  • Total Course Cost: $170

Where does SOLE take place?

SOLE happens a little bit on campus and but most of it is in the wilderness.

Weekend technical training trips are on the rivers, cliffs, and trails throughout Tennessee.

On one weekend learn to climb at the Foster Falls State Park; another weekend camp and paddleboard the mountain coves of Norris Lake, or kayak the class II rapids the Tuckasegee River. Backpack along towering sandstone cliffs of the Big South Fork.

As a SOLE student, you will work with the professional staff to plan 1 of the 4 weekend course logistics. This ranges from helping with the food buy, pulling group gear, reviewing maps, to communicating details with your fellow classmates.

SOLE Informational Meeting

  1. TBA for fall 2019

Location TRECS 228 classroom (located off the indoor track)

Meet current trip staff, learn more about how SOLE works, what you’ll learn and do, and meet other potential SOLE candidates.

Application Closed

What to Include 

The application requires your basic personal information and answers to the following questions in 300-500 words (except your resume):

  1. Resume
  2. Why do you want to learn how to teach and lead others?
  3. How does SOLE fit into your life and academic goals? How do you see SOLE helping you?
  4. Describe an experience that demonstrates you take feedback well.

Applications Due by 5 pm, Wednesday, October 31, 2018. Fall 2019 


We enroll 12-18 students in SOLE each year.

If you have guiding experience and a WFA or WFR, and you want to lead trips for us, you may not need to take this entire course.  Contact us at and let us know your experience and send your resume.

The course will start in spring 2019, meeting once a month for the entire weekend (early Saturday and returning to campus early/mid evening Sunday). The exact dates for field sessions are still being finalized but you can expect at least 1 full weekend.

Most likely not. There is no makeup session and we don’t have time to get you caught up. You are welcome to apply still and let us know what date you can’t make.

Zero. We heard most candidates would prefer to not take the course for credit. No credit is given for this course.

You need to be comfortable outside and regularly go for hikes on your own and willing to learn how to lead trips. We prefer candidates with some experience in one of these activities but if you are willing to do the work, then let’s chat. If you have little to no experience, go on trips for a semester or two and then apply!

Zero. Yup. Zero.  If you have some certs, cool! icing on the cake, but you don’t need any. Through SOLE, you’ll take a 16 hour national recognized WMI Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course so you’ll end up with at least one + rad first-hand knowledge and experience.