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Wilderness Opportunities at Western (WOW) is offering a Women’s Leadership Program from June 6-13, 2021. This course is for high school students interested in the outdoor field or in developing their leadership skills. Students will arrive in Gunnison on Sunday, June 6, and spend the first few days on Western Colorado University’s campus doing day trips in the Gunnison Valley, and attending morning leadership education sessions and evening programs with empowering leaders. The course then switches to backpacking in the West Elk Wilderness before returning to Gunnison for the final day, June 13.

WOW is committed to promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Outdoors. Future programs will be built around underrepresented populations such as LGBTQ+, racial minorities and economically disadvantaged young people.


Where outdoor adventure meets self-determination.

The mission of Wilderness Opportunities at Western is to empower youth through adventure-based programming. We use the resources of Western and the Gunnison Valley to develop positive leadership skills, improve self-esteem and promote self-discovery.


Discover your strength as a leader.

Utilize the Western Colorado University community to provide unique training for the next generation of leaders. Students will be recruited and selected based on the criteria of each course. Criteria may include, but not be limited to, gender, ethnicity, economic status and/or underrepresented groups in the outdoor leadership field. It is our vision that Western faculty and Outdoor Leadership students will lead programs designed to inspire and inform high school students to grow in their leadership skills and techniques. Through our target approach, we seek to increase the Outdoor Field’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

WOW is a 501 c 3 program funded through the Western Foundation, servicing in-need population and all programs are provided free of services.

Funding is provided through grants and individual donations.
If you would like to donate to WOW contact the Western Colorado University Foundation. All donations are tax deductible

Questions? Contact Matthew Ebbott at mebbott@western.edu

Click here to apply

2021 Instructors

Photo of Meg Yingling Meg Yingling graduated from Western in 2018 with a Bachelors in Recreation & Outdoor Education and Psychology. She was drawn to Western for its incredible rock climbing opportunities like the big walls of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the pristine granite boulders nestled below Mt. Crested Butte. Since graduating she has traveled to climbing destinations to work and play across the country. Meg has led outdoor leadership courses professionally since she finished her degree. She now lives in Estes Park, CO and works  as a certified Rock Guide for the Colorado Mountain School. Along with rock climbing Meg loves to practice yoga, trail run and feed ducks.

Amanda Ravensbergen Amanda Ravensbergen (she/her/hers) graduated from Western in 2018 with a Bachelors Degree in Outdoor Recreation & Education. Since graduating Amanda has worked as a Wilderness Therapy guide specializing in adolescent girls groups, and she instructs rock climbing courses for the University of Utah a few times each semester. Amanda found her love for wilderness and adventure while living abroad in high school and has continued to use rock climbing, backpacking, white water rafting, and photography as reasons to travel and explore and work in wild places. Amanda plans to continue working as a rock climbing instructor this summer in Estes Park, CO.

Photo of Audrey Erickson Audrey Erickson is a rising senior in the Recreation & Outdoor Education program, expecting to graduate in the spring of 2022. She was drawn to Western due to her love of the outdoors and passion for helping others become more involved in the outdoor industry. Audrey has worked on ropes teams, river crews, at summer camps and in snow sports. She is currently pursuing her emergency medical technician certification and finishing her degree. After graduation, Audrey will be working in emergency medicine and traveling to guide. You can usually spot Audrey around town with coffee in her hand, an emergency bagel in her bag and Chacos on her feet!


Frequently Asked Questions

This program is an outdoor leadership expedition trip offered through Western Colorado University. It is an eight-day program where the participants and three experienced instructors will be camping locally, rock climbing, stand up paddle boarding and then going on a four-day backpacking expedition. There will also be a focus on leadership development through discussion, group activities, and individual leadership opportunities and coaching throughout the week. The group will practice daily yoga, mediation and mindfulness, as well as learning new outdoor skills.

This program is for high-school aged students who identify as women and are between the ages of 16-18. This program is also for those who are interested in pursuing adventurous experiences in the outdoors, and learning more about leadership styles and development, mindfulness, and opportunities for women in the world of outdoor leadership.

This program is offered through Western Colorado University, located in Gunnison, Colorado. The first few days and nights will be spent camping and doing outdoor adventures around the Gunnison Valley. The group will then leave for a backpacking expedition mid-week where they will be camping and backpacking through the Fossil Ridge Wilderness (the trailhead is within an hour drive of the Gunnison Valley).

The program itself is FREE. Food, transportation during the week, and instruction are all included, free of charge. Our aim is to make this as accessible as possible to get folks from all communities, backgrounds and experience levels to participate. Participants will need to provide some of their own gear. To get that information read below.

June 6-13. Participants will need to arrive on campus by noon on Sunday, June 6. Participants will complete the derigging and cleaning process for all expedition equipment, have an opportunity to clean up, and be free to go/get picked up late afternoon on Sunday, June 13.

The instructors for this program are graduates of the Recreation & Outdoor Education program at Western and have experience guiding women’s specific groups in outdoor education and therapeutic programs. The program will also have a current student intern-instructor with experience instructing and working in the field with Western’s Recreation & Outdoor Education program. You can find more information about all three instructors in the 2021 Instructors section.

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