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Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies Program Recognized in State Competition

Those who live in the Grand Valley — and many who have visited — know about the wonderful Riverfront Trail that follows the Colorado River from Robb State Park to Loma, Colorado. What some in the community might not be aware of, is that there is room for improvement when it comes to access in the nearby town of Clifton. Colorado Mesa University student Valeria Herrera, however, not only knew this, but brought attention to it on a regional stage.

Herrera, who is studying at CMU in the Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies Program, presented a project on this topic to compete in the Third Annual Wright Collegiate Challenge. The challenge is a semester-long process designed to inspire college students to dive into the needs of the outdoor recreation industry and figure out ways to make it better. It takes creative, innovative thinkers, like Herrera, and helps them hone their problem-solving skills.

Herrera’s project was a success. She won the Special Recognition Award for her community-centered work, and she wasn’t alone in her endeavors. Four student-teams from CMU competed in the competition that addressed challenges in today’s world within the outdoor recreation industry.

There were 10 teams from three colleges that participated. A group of CMU students that made up the Team Pathway to Dreams worked with Eureka! McConnell Science Museum, and ended up winning the People’s Choice award.

“Our students did an outstanding job partnering with Colorado businesses and organizations to develop real-life solutions to challenges in the industry,” said Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies Program Director Sarah Shrader. “This next generation of outdoor recreation industry professionals is bright, hard-working, innovative and mission-driven. During the Wright Collegiate Challenge, they were able to develop skills to lead this growing industry. I am so proud of these students and their persistence and passion.” 

Outdoor rec is one of the fastest growing economic drivers in the U.S., with $887B in consumer spending per year. With Shrader’s experience, she was a driving force in the creation of CMU’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies Program, which started in 2020. Students enrolled in the program learn through a combination of classroom and real-world experiences — ones just like the Wright Collegiate Challenge.


Written by Kelsey Coleman