CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University is competing against 92 universities across the country to defend its 2015 title as the “Most Outdoorsy School” in the nation. The Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge is a Mother Nature meets March Madness-style competition lasting four weeks beginning Monday and continuing through Oct. 15.
The “University of the Parks,” a name that SUU recently trademarked for the university, is encouraging students, faculty, alumni, families and the community to demonstrate school pride and get as many individuals to participate as possible. Many departments are working together in a campuswide effort to offer ways for everyone to enter the challenge, get outside, share with their friends and earn points and prizes.
“SUU is the most outdoorsy school in the nation,” university President Scott L Wyatt said. “We have great outdoor programs and live in a prime location, surrounded within a 5-hour (drive) radius by 20 national parks and monuments.”
During the four-week competition, participants need to download the Outdoor Nation app and post photos of their outdoor activities. Activities include biking, camping, hiking, hunting, swimming, hammocking, rock climbing and stargazing, to name a few. Individuals may post up to five times a day receiving points for each entry. Outdoor Nation tracks entries and has a scoring system to determine winners.
“We should be taking advantage of SUU’s ideal location for the outdoors,” adjunct professor and SUU Outdoors staff member Kevin Koontz said. “We want to instill a love of the outdoors in each person and make them better outdoor stewards who take care of their surroundings.”
The university is giving away weekly prizes to participants from event sponsors REI, The North Face, Hydro Flask and ENO. In addition to the prizes there are more than 30 individual and regional awards up for grabs.
The kick-off event, organized by the First Year Experience office, is a giant party at the Lake on the Hill Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. There will be a DJ, food and games. SUU Outdoors will provide water gear including life jackets, paddleboards and inflatable kayaks.
Groups on campus have organized weekly events for the challenge period as well:
- Mondays: “Make a Difference” service project sponsored by the Community Engagement Center from 3-5 p.m.
- Mondays: Stargazing at the Ashcroft Observatory from 9-11 p.m.
- Tuesdays: Outdoor yoga sponsored by T-Fit in the Business Quad from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
- Wednesdays: “Walk with a Leader” sponsored by SUU Presidential Ambassadors at 2 p.m.
- Thursdays: “Campus Hammocks” sponsored by SUU Outdoors from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Fridays: Mountain biking sponsored by Cedar Sports, starting at its shop at 5:30 p.m.
The Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge is committed to reconnecting individuals with the outdoors. It is an initiative dedicated to inspiring and encouraging college students and the community to be outdoor enthusiasts. It also aims to combat the inactivity crisis prevalent among many youth and young adults in America. Being active and outside also reduces stress, increases one’s ability to concentrate and positively affects physical, mental and emotional health.
To register for the challenge, download the Outdoor Nation app.