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Presentation

Abstract

Understanding the Freshman Wilderness Experience (FWE) at the University of Montana provides insight into the resilience of first-year college students. Prior research on the effects of outdoor orientation programs in student retention suggests positive outcomes from these experiences. The extant literature concerning orientation programs suggests that the successful adaptation of students, a sense of belonging, social adjustment, self-efficacy, goal orientation, and positively responding to rapidly changing circumstances are all key mediators of understanding student resilience. The present study looked specifically at resilience and self-efficacy. Students were asked to participate in a survey before and after FWE and again at the end of their first semester. A comparison group of students who only attended the standard fall orientation was also sampled at the beginning and end of the semester. Two main constructs were used in the survey; the CD-RISC Resilience Measure and a college self-efficacy measure (Gore et. al, 2005). No significant differences in resilience or self-efficacy were found over time or between the two orientation groups. This is not, however, insignificant data. Prior research demonstrates the beneficial effects of outdoor orientation programs on students, and the FWE program has high regards from many of its students. The program also boasts higher retention rates than the average at UM. The question then remains, if not resilience and self-efficacy, what mediators are at work in this program? A second wave of data collection through semi-structured interviews with students who participated in FWE three years prior provides some insight. These data suggest that a sense of place and strong connections to social groups are two crucial parts of the program that could be leading to a stronger ability to navigate stressors. These findings are important in continuing to understand how to promote successful adaptation and navigation of the first semester of freshman year.

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Apr 28th, 4:20 PM Apr 28th, 4:40 PM

The Role of Wilderness Orientation Programs: What purpose do they serve?

UC 326

Understanding the Freshman Wilderness Experience (FWE) at the University of Montana provides insight into the resilience of first-year college students. Prior research on the effects of outdoor orientation programs in student retention suggests positive outcomes from these experiences. The extant literature concerning orientation programs suggests that the successful adaptation of students, a sense of belonging, social adjustment, self-efficacy, goal orientation, and positively responding to rapidly changing circumstances are all key mediators of understanding student resilience. The present study looked specifically at resilience and self-efficacy. Students were asked to participate in a survey before and after FWE and again at the end of their first semester. A comparison group of students who only attended the standard fall orientation was also sampled at the beginning and end of the semester. Two main constructs were used in the survey; the CD-RISC Resilience Measure and a college self-efficacy measure (Gore et. al, 2005). No significant differences in resilience or self-efficacy were found over time or between the two orientation groups. This is not, however, insignificant data. Prior research demonstrates the beneficial effects of outdoor orientation programs on students, and the FWE program has high regards from many of its students. The program also boasts higher retention rates than the average at UM. The question then remains, if not resilience and self-efficacy, what mediators are at work in this program? A second wave of data collection through semi-structured interviews with students who participated in FWE three years prior provides some insight. These data suggest that a sense of place and strong connections to social groups are two crucial parts of the program that could be leading to a stronger ability to navigate stressors. These findings are important in continuing to understand how to promote successful adaptation and navigation of the first semester of freshman year.