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Campus Resources

History of Venture Outdoor Leadership


Summer 1970

A steering committee appointed by the Chancellor sent a pilot group from UNC Charlotte through the North Carolina Outward Bound School.

  • 15 UNC Charlotte students, faculty, and staff participated
  • 2-week wilderness experience in Linville Gorge and the Great Smokies. 
  • Course included: Leadership opportunities while backpacking, rock climbing, and navigating the difficult terrain.

Spring 1971

University adopts Venture Outdoor Leadership, an Outward Bound-type program, as a part of the institution’s academic curriculum.

  • Developed a mission that honored the Outward Bound model. 
  • Supported through the Division of Student Affairs. 
  • To support the new program, the University purchased a 27-acre wilderness tract on the Rocky River in Stanly County (this would later be donated back to the county). 

Other Events

  • Summer 1971 - First academic course offered, Wilderness Experience. 
  • Aug. 1978 - Group Initiatives Courses built on campus (now known as the Team Challenge Course).
  • Began offering backpacking and rock climbing trips to any student (non-academic related).
  • Added canoeing, whitewater kayaking, and biking to our offering of adventure trips.
  • New full-time position added (now a total of 2 professional staff).


  • 2 new positions added - Assistant Director and Graduate Assistant
  • Added caving and sea kayaking to the adventure trip offerings.
  • New academic courses offered: Kayaking and Orienteering.


May 1995

Accreditation - We become the 5th program in the nation and the 2nd college/ university to be accredited by the Association of Experiential Education. The 1st college to be accredited was Cornell University.

Other Events

  • Fall 1990 - A High Ropes Course was built on campus (now called the High Team Challenge Course). New full-time position added (now up to 4 full-time staff). 
  • February 1998 - Climbing wall built in the Student Activity Center.
  • New academic courses offered: Rock Climbing, Challenge Course Activities, Canoeing, Intro to Outdoor Adventures, Wilderness Trip Leading.
  • Expanded our team building program to offer more "mobile" programs across campus.
  • Began the student leader training program, VOLTAGE.


  • Sept. 2002 - New Team Challenge Courses are built on campus to replace the 2 older courses deconstructed to make room for new campus buildings. 
  • New academic course offered: Challenge Course Facilitation.
  • Hosted the Southeast Regional Conference of the Association of Experiential Education at the newly constructed US National Whitewater Center (now known simply as "Whitewater Center"). 


  • Celebrated our 40th anniversary!
  • Venture Bound - Added a college transition program to our adventure trip offerings called SOAR Outdoor (now Venture Bound), providing a week-long backpacking trip to help students build community and ease the transition to college.
  • Updated our High Team Challenge Course to add new elements: Power Pole and Giant Ladder. 


  • Celebrated our 50th anniversary!
  • Virtual / remote team building program created to adapt to a worldwide pandemic (COVID-19). 
  • Adventure Trips begin including campus-based experiences to accommodate a restriction on transportation due to the pandemic. 

Our Future

  • Plans are moving forward to build a new indoor climbing wall. 
  • There is budding interest from academic departments to convert the Outdoor Adventure Leadership minor into a cross-department major, involving academic departments such as Applied Physiology, Heath and Clinical Sciences; Communications; Psychology; and Environmental Sciences.