USF Wins Title of AORE National Outdoor Champion

Joliet, Ill. – The Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE), a nonprofit committed to reconnecting individuals with the outdoors, annually hosts its AORE Campus Challenge to get students from more than 90 universities off the couch and into the outdoors. This year, the University of St. Francis (USF) assembled a team comprised of over 550 students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and community members who took on their peers from across the country. The result? USF finished as the #1 Most Outdoorsy School in the Nation in Division 2, the #1 Most Outdoorsy School in the Midwest, and USF student Caeley Grady was named the #1 Most Outdoorsy Individual Champion in the country.

During the four-week competition that ran from September 16 through October 13, the USF team logged 4,090 activities scoring over 73,000 points to win the Division 2 title. Jerome Gabriel, Ed.D., USF Assistant Professor in the Department of Recreation and Sport Management, led USF’s efforts in the competition and feels the win demonstrates the university’s love for the outdoors.

“By winning the 2019 AORE Campus Challenge, USF has shown that right here in the Midwest is a relatively urban university that has a deep passion for being active outdoors. It shows that an active, outdoorsy campus doesn’t necessarily need to have all of the fancy amenities that other schools have in order to encourage people to be outside. Instead, we learn to love the outdoor spaces we do have such as the Will County Forest Preserves, State Parks, and National Forests, all of which are located within a short drive of campus. Winning this year means that USF has established itself on a national stage as a passionate, outdoor culture interested in helping students not only learn about the outdoors, but to actually experience the outdoors, as well,” Gabriel said.

This year marks the second time USF has entered AORE’s annual competition. In 2017, USF finished second in the nation and first in the Midwest. Gabriel credits the increased level of success to a higher level of participation by people both on and off campus.

“This year we significantly grew out team size through strategic partnerships with multiple campus departments and outreach to local community partners.  This additional planning and organization ultimately led to a more successful run this year,” Gabriel said.

As more and more people nationally are shifting toward a sedentary lifestyle, Gabriel sees participating in a competition like the AORE Campus Challenge as a way to promote a healthy, active lifestyle.

“Unfortunately the trend in our nation has been to spend more and more time indoors instead of enjoying the outdoor spaces that surround us.  Whether that is looking at the statistics of a young adult averaging 8 hours a day in front of a screen or many people in our nation averaging 92% of their day indoors, the need to reconnect with outdoor spaces is greater now than ever before.  An opportunity like the AORE Campus Challenge allowed us to encourage our Campus and our community to get outside and be active not only to help the University in the competition, but to help themselves to a healthier more active lifestyle,” he said.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

# # #

USF Competing for Title of National Outdoor Champion

Joliet, Ill. – Hiking. Kayaking. Backpacking. Bicycling. Even bird-watching. These are just a few of the activities that the students and employees at the University of St. Francis (USF) have been participating in since September 16 as they compete to win the 5th annual AORE Campus Challenge.

Hosted by the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE), a nonprofit committed to reconnecting individuals with the outdoors, the annual AORE Campus Challenge aims to get students from more than 90 universities off the couch and into the outdoors. To participate, students simply download the Campus Challenge app, join their university’s team, and then log their outdoor activities during the Challenge to score points. Prizes for winners include national titles, free outdoor gear, and most importantly, bragging rights.

With a team led by USF Assistant Professor in the Department of Recreation and Sport Management, Jerome Gabriel, Ed.D., students have their eyes on the top prize: the title of National Outdoor Champion. In 2017 USF finished the competition as the #1 school in the Midwest and #2 in the Nation. This year’s AORE Campus Challenge, which is sponsored by nationally by Osprey, and locally by DNA Active Lifestyle Outfitters, Paint Pursuit Games, Expedition USA Outfitters, and IPRA, concludes on October 13.

“This challenge gives USF an opportunity to engage with the outdoors across the spectrum.  Students, faculty, staff, and administrators are all involved in the success that we are seeing.  It is not a coincidence that we are currently ranked first nationally.  We have an amazing campus that in excited about seeing how we can compete against the bigger school,” said Gabriel.

In addition to the National Outdoor Champion award, there are more than 30 other individual and regional awards up for grabs. The top winners will receive outdoor gear compliments of AORE and Osprey. Each sponsor will also host a weekly challenge, giving students even more opportunities to score free outdoor gear.

“I love the challenge because it encourages myself and others to become more active in the outdoors.  The challenge enriches life here at USF because it allows students to meet and interact with people they might have never met before,” said USF senior Caeley Grady.

About AORE

The Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE) is the premier organization dedicated to serving the needs of recreation and education professionals in non-profit settings. Through AORE, members have a mechanism to interact with and affect decisions made by public land managers and the human powered outdoor recreation industry. AORE is committed to promoting ecologically sound stewardship of the natural environment and serves as a collective voice for its members regarding topics of regional and national concern.

To learn more about the AORE Campus Challenge, visit aorecampuschallenge.org and AORE.org.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves over 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

# # #