Our Philosophy

The Wilderness Project was founded on the philosophy that the natural environment provides a neutral space for facilitating life's transitions, for promoting personal growth, and for discussing pressing social issues. Outside the context of everyday routines, students gain a powerful perspective on their lives, their communities, and how they fit into a global perspective. The project is designed to challenge the participants to be effective socially and environmentally conscious leaders.

What is the Wilderness Project?

The Wilderness Project (WP) is a Pre-Orientation program at Washington University in St. Louis that offers new students experiences that will last a lifetime! This program was founded in 2003 by a group of like-minded students in the pursuit of providing an outlet through which incoming students could engage in the outdoors prior to entering the academic and social climate of collegiate life. Annually, the program culminates in a weeklong trip outside for incoming freshmen, with student leaders facilitating both hiking and rock-climbing. The Wilderness Project continues to be the only student-run Pre-Orientation program at Wash. U. and the only student-run outdoor Pre-Orientation program in the country. After many intensive skill training sessions with medical professionals, students are more than prepared to completely explore the great outdoors!

In addition to being crazy-fun outdoors, WP has an emphasis on social and environmental justice. We find the backcountry to be a socially neutral space to discuss issues which inform our experiences and identities in school and throughout our lives. In the wilderness we may openly discuss issues such as class, gender, race, religion, and sexuality. As one former WP leader commented, "the trees don't judge you." WP challenges incoming students to become responsible and ethical leaders through all their endeavors. Through these dialogues, the trail groups develop strong connections, learning and growing with each other. As believers in environmental sustainability, WP adheres to internationally established Leave No Trace (tm) principles to protect the wilderness for future generations.

What we promote...

A smooth transition to college by forming an open community.

Responsible leadership skills.

Commitment to environmental ethics.

Awareness and discussion of social and environmental justice issues.

So come kick it with us in the woods! Explore the outdoors while making new friends and gaining leadership skills as you begin your life at Washington University in St. Louis.