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Student Outdoor Leadership Experience (S.O.L.E.)


Want to lead others? What to learn about outdoor adventure leadership? Want to have the best job on campus? You are in the right place.

Student Outdoor Leadership Experience 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, learn how to climb, kayak, bike, backpack, and be ready for life in college and after graduation.

SOLE – An 100+ 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 100 hours (over 5 weekends and 2 classroom sessions), you’ll have the skills to join the staff, whether with us or for another outfitter. SOLE is the main way people become adventure trip staff for UTOP.

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 being 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, or biker, but you 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 Outdoor Pursuits trip staff.

Questions? Email us at utop@utk.edu or call 865-974-8261.

You must make all course dates. Weekends are camping trips and weekday is 1.5-hour classroom session in TRECS.

  1. Fri, Nov 1 – Sun, Nov 3 – SOLE Training
    • Trip Planning, Menus, How to Teach, How to Facilitate, How to Prepare
  2. Tue, Jan 14 – Teaching & Facilitation
  3. Tue, Jan 28 – Planning & Preparing 
  4. Sat, Feb 8 – Sun, Feb 9 – Backpacking
  5. Sat, Feb 29 – Sun, Mar 1 – Mountain Biking
  6. Sat, Mar 28 – Sun, Mar 29 – Rock Climbing
  7. Fri, Apr 18 – Sat, Apr 19 – Paddling

Wilderness Medical Training

Feb 15-16 – Wilderness First Aid (8 hours each day, not overnight)

As a SOLE candidate, you receive a highly discounted rate ($75) 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 & In-service

If you successfully gained the necessary 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/day) and build on skills and experiences staff already have.

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

The following are for those who are specialize in each activity.

  1. Whitewater Kayaking – Tuesday, May 5 – Saturday, May 9
  2. Ignite Outdoors – Monday, May 11 – Wednesday, May 13
  3. Rock Climbing – Friday, May 15 – Monday, May 18

Course Includes:

  • NOLS Wilderness First Aid (WFA) 16-hour certification course
    *Note: Registration is discounted for the class, but not included in the SOLE course fee.
  • Training in stand-up 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 20+ years of experience.

Cost
The cost for this 100+ hour training course.

  • Total Course Cost: $170

Where does SOLE take place?

SOLE happens a little bit on campus, 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 of the Tuckasegee River. Backpack in the mountains of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

As a SOLE student, you will work with the professional staff and current student trip leaders to plan 1 of the 4 weekend courses.

Applications have closed for this year’s course. 



We enroll 10-12 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 utop@utk.edu to send us your resume and let us know your experience.


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(s) 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 be 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 NOLS Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course so you’ll end up with at least one + rad first-hand knowledge and experience.