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 years. 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.  Areas visited will include Islands in the Sky and the Needles Districts of Canyonlands National Park & the Moab, Utah area.  The course culminates in a 6 day 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 
  • Create a safe and exciting environment that students find challenging and fun 
  • Provide opportunities for leadership and teamwork 
  • 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 
  • Develop wilderness skills 
  • Improve student retention