The Wright Collegiate Challenge is a hands-on, semester-long program for college students, designed to spark out-of-the-box ideas and entrepreneurial thinking in addressing current-day challenges within the outdoor recreation industry. Working in teams, students are paired with leading outdoor businesses and nonprofit organizations to tackle complex issues facing the outdoor recreation industry.
“The Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) is a proud partner in The Wright Collegiate Challenge,” said Nathan Fey, Director of OREC. “One of OREC’s main areas of focus is advancing education and workforce development opportunities, and this challenge highlights the real work our academic partners dedicate toward shaping the skill sets of those entering into the outdoor recreation workforce. Witnessing our student teams focus their energy on innovating real-world solutions for our brand and NGO partners to implement inspires new strategies for sustainable growth across our entire outdoor recreation industry.”
Each year, The Wright partners with a mix of business, nonprofit and civic groups to present a balanced and wide-ranging set of challenges reflecting real issues being addressed by the outdoor recreation industry sector. This year’s Challenge Partners included:
Eureka! McConnell Science Museum
The museum and Mesa County community partners have been working toward developing a permanent solution to address the lack of convenient and safe access from Clifton schools to the miles of trails in the Grand Junction/Clifton area. Eureka! partnered with students to gather data in the form of community input in support of their efforts to expand access to Mesa County’s public trail systems.
Fishpond challenged their student teams to help the company leverage their B-Corporation Certification status as a marketing and communications tool, to educate consumers about the value of a B-Corp Certification and to integrate it into the company’s brand identity. Effectively, this challenge was about creating value from “values.”
Dedicated to transforming lives and communities through adaptive climbing opportunities, Paradox Sports was in search of an innovative approach to increasing climbing gym participation in their adaptive climbing training program in order to increase access for individuals with physical disabilities.
San Luis Valley Great Outdoors! (SLV GO!)
While supporting the community’s strategy of building a strong outdoor recreation economy, SLV GO! presented students the opportunity to develop a strategy to educate, inform, and persuade key stakeholders about the importance of the region’s Dark Sky Initiative.
In looking to identify a new, more portable and sustainable solution for carrying endurance fuel, Tailwind Nutrition sought to gain a better understanding of the key drivers for market acceptance, with the ultimate goal of introducing a unique line of product packaging resulting in less waste and greater portability.
Topo Designs challenged students with helping to identify a standard for calculating the company’s carbon footprint, measuring that footprint, and then devising a plan to make subsequent reductions.
Ten student teams representing Colorado Mesa University’s Outdoor Industry Studies Program, Colorado Mountain College’s Outdoor Education Program (Leadville Campus) and Western Colorado University’s Outdoor Industry MBA Program competed for Best in Class, People’s Choice and Most Engaged Team Awards. Student teams were required to submit an academic paper, a video summary and a proposal. A panel of nine judges, each a leader in Colorado’s outdoor industry, evaluated projects based on criteria such as a clear understanding of the problem, actionable solutions, the potential for impact, innovative approach and challenge partner engagement. The final event featured video presentations from each team followed by live Q&A from the panel of judges. The final awards were presented to the following teams:
Best in Class was awarded to Team Astraios from Colorado Mountain College working with SLV GO!
Dani Gronhovd, Community Connections Coordinator with SLV GO! shared “We were so impressed by Team Astraios from Colorado Mountain College. Their innovative and creative "FOR STARS" framework for dark sky outreach and engagement won us over, and will surely win our community over as well! Team Astaios' ability to communicate environmental, health, and economic benefits while addressing community concerns presents a tangible outreach plan that SLV GO! can utilize to engage local communities and stakeholders in this dark sky initiative. We can't wait to implement some of their fun outreach ideas like ‘night rides!’”
Colorado Mountain College’s Faculty-Lead, Liz Walker, expressed, “What a surreal moment for us and for these students! They were smiling for HOURS. We had regular self- and peer-evaluations throughout the course, and I know with certainty that their gears were turning, and they learned, experienced, and practiced a heck of a lot more than “just” putting together this project proposal. This is exactly the workforce-prep, experiential learning we strive to provide; thanks for bringing us along!”
People’s Choice was voted on by members of the community during the live event and was awarded to Team Pathway to Dreams from Colorado Mesa University working with Eureka! McConnell Science Museum.
Most Engaged Team was awarded to Team Castaway from Western Colorado University working with Fishpond USA.
And a Special Recognition Award went to Colorado Mesa University’s Valeria Herrera for her leadership and community-focused approach in her work on Eureka! McConnell Science Museum’s challenge to improve access to the Riverfront Trail for Clifton-community kids.
Students and teams recognized for awards received prize packages from the participating challenge partners, and are also eligible for $1,000 scholarships to Western Colorado University’s Outdoor MBA program.
“Inspired would be an understatement,” said Chuck Sullivan, Executive Director of The Wright. “For these students, competing in The Wright Collegiate Challenge meant jumping into the deep-end and figuring it out. There was no road map. To see them bond with their teams and explore solutions to real-time, real-world issues with such intent and curiosity has been eye-opening. Over a period of just 12-weeks, these students got their hands dirty and innovated. They engaged with business and community leaders as peers and young professionals. In these students, we are seeing the potential in the outdoor recreation industry’s next-generation workforce. The future looks bright.”
“Having had such a profoundly positive experience participating in The Wright Collegiate Challenge as a first-year MBA student, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to help manage and grow this event in 2021,” said Lindsay Hastings, Western Colorado University Outdoor Industry MBA Candidate and Wright Challenge Fellow., “It has been an honor to work with our wonderful challenge partners and dedicated student teams taking part in this year’s Challenge. I was truly inspired watching the students’ projects come to life. Working with The Wright has truly been an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to watch the WCC continue to expand and inspire future innovators and creators for years to come.”
In previous years, students’ work inspired programming by the company with whom they were partnered. For example, the challenge brought forward in 2020 by Smartwool and tackled by students in Western Colorado University’s Outdoor MBA Program demonstrated Smartwool’s commitment to sustainability and played a role in the creation of Smartwool’s sock take-back program which recycles used socks into filling for dog beds.
The Collegiate Challenge was presented in a programmatic partnership with the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The OREC Office serves as the State’s central coordinator of outdoor recreation industry matters, which includes policy and resource development, industry promotion, and connection with the constituents, businesses, and communities that rely on the health of the State's outdoor recreation economy.
About The Wright
A Colorado-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, The Wright brings together place-makers and community-builders across the Mountain West in helping to shape the region’s evolving cultural and economic landscape and redefine the future of work. Core programs include The Wright Summit & Awards and The Wright Collegiate Challenge.