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Take the expedition approach to higher education!

The Wilderness Education Minor is specialized preparation for motivated individuals to become tomorrow's leaders.

The Loading... has two tracks, Wilderness Leadership and Adventure Education.

The Wilderness Leadership Track involves extended four-season Expedition experience in a variety of ecosystems.

The field experiences in this track begin with a five-day backpacking trip followed by a sixteen-day August Adirondack Expedition, and culminates with a 20-day Capstone Expedition which students plan and execute.

Previous destinations have included the:

  • Grand Canyon in Arizona
  • Gila Wilderness in New Mexico
  • Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota
  • Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana
  • Pasaytan Wilderness in Washington State

Students in this track provide leadership for our Backpacking courses, campus programs, area schools and institutions.

For information about course sequence for the Wilderness Leadership Track, see Recommended Sequence of Courses (PDF).

Application Process

Due to the adversity of weather, terrain and the ecosystems that we lead trips and travel in, the application process in the Wilderness Leadership Track is selective. The weather on our introductory level Backpacking course often ranges from days ofrain mixed with snow and sleet.

During Leadership I, you will bushwhack through Adirondack terrain that is so thick that you will not be able to see the person in front of you through the brush. During Leadership II you will routinely hike 10+ miles a day with an elevation change of two thousand feet or more. Students who are committed to being immersed in the world of planning and executing Wilderness Expeditions are ideal candidates for this track. If your goals are to participate and lead more casual backcountry experiences, this track will not be a good match for you.

  • Leadership I Application Process
    Candidates for Leadership I (WILD 240) will be evaluated during the Backpacking course (WILD 240) on the five-day Backpacking trip via the skills check list. Students must also complete the Leadership I application within two-weeks of their backpacking trip.
  • Leadership II Application Process
    Candidates for Leadership II (WILD 345) need to have a recommendation of the Leadership I instructor and complete the leadership II application form.

The Adventure Education Track prepares climbing instructors, ropes course facilitators and adventure-based educators by providing them with experience in working with mainstream and special populations.

Experiences in this track include:

  • indoor climbing ropes course facilitation training
  • rock and ice climbing in the Adirondacks

Students in this track provide leadership for the Leadership and Challenge Center and climbing programs in the Adirondacks.

For information about course sequence for the Adventure Education Track, see Recommended Sequence of Courses (PDF).

Forging a Leadership Path

Riley Notarthomas ’23 has taken a range of skills from his time SUNY Potsdam to positively impact struggling youth in a wilderness therapy program in Vermont, while also being a leader back at SUNY Potsdam where he has returned to teach courses in the wilderness education program.

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Neishja Ransom ’17

After growing up in East Harlem, N.Y., Neishja Ransom ’17 never expected to be bushwhacking through the Adirondacks or dangling from rock climbing walls, but that all changed when she came to SUNY Potsdam. The wilderness education program provided her with skills ranging from wilderness first aid and rock climbing to leadership in the backcountry that she parlayed into a leadership position with the Girl Scouts of Greater New York.

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Twenty Years in the Wild

SUNY Potsdam’s wilderness education program has been cultivating student leaders for the past 20 years. Mark Simon started the program in 1996, taking what was then just a collection of physical education classes and turning it into an extensive wilderness leadership program.

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Rock Climbing Education

One of the more adventurous classes you can take at SUNY Potsdam is Mark Simon’s advanced rock climbing course (WILD 170).

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