Explore the Desert Southwest

The SOAR (Sophomore Outdoor Adventure Reorientation) program is an experiential based 3-credit course designed for students who have just finished their freshman year of college. Leaving for Utah the day after finals, this course will allow students to de-stress and reflect on their freshman year. Course activities and discussions will help students learn about themselves (including personal strengths and values), increase optimism, and develop leadership and healthy living skills. Students will also learn how to anticipate and prepare for challenges specific to the sophomore year. Forming lasting friendships with other students and faculty is an important byproduct of the two-week adventure trip. 

This 14 day spring adventure involves camping and hiking in Utah's spectacular high desert plateau.  We will explore Islands in the Sky and the Needles Districts of Canyonlands National Park, visit the lovely town of Moab, Utah, and experience a wilderness canoe trip down the Stillwater Canyon of the Green River. Students will reunite in the fall semester for classroom meetings, focusing on trip reflections, strategies for making a successful adjustment to the sophomore year, exploring careers of interest, and making connections with WVU faculty and staff that will aid students throughout their remaining college years.

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The SOAR program was developed to ease the transition from freshman to sophomore years, teach leadership and healthy living skills, facilitate self-growth, stimulate environmental awareness, foster social connections, and promote holistic student wellness and success. 


  • Ease transition to the sophomore year 
  • Explore the beautiful desert Southwest
  • Provide opportunities for leadership and teamwork
  • Develop lasting community with other WVU rising sophomores  
  • Enhance interpersonal skills such as trust, communication, conflict resolution, and cooperation 
  • Facilitate increased self-awareness, confidence, optimism, happiness, resilience, goal-directedness, and congruence with personal values 
  • Learn and practice adventure skills like desert hiking and navigation, river canoeing and expedition camping and travel
  • Improve student retention