What Is It?

Outdoor Leadership is the first of four summer opportunities offered as part of the Morehead-Cain Scholarship and an experience available to all scholars, regardless of athletic experience level, or access or functional needs.  The custom Outdoor Leadership courses are provided by partners Outward Bound and National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

Why Outdoor Leadership?

A three- to four-week Outdoor Leadership course can be challenging but is, more importantly, designed to help scholars work together as a group, develop their leadership skills, foster self-possession through self-reliance and reflection, and ease their transition to college life.

What have scholars done?

The Outdoor Leadership course locations vary from year to year, but each course takes a group of 10-15 scholars on a full backcountry expedition. Through the challenges of climbing peaks and navigating currents, scholars learn skills essential to their trajectory as young leaders. Examples of previous Outdoor Leadership courses include:

  • Backpacking in the Talkeetna mountain range of Alaska
  • Kayaking on Lake Superior in Minnesota
  • Rafting on the Deschutes River and mountaineering in the Central Cascade Range of Oregon
  • Sailing a 30-foot open sailboat and rock climbing the granite cliffs along the Maine coast


Note: We are committed to providing accessible outdoor leadership courses for all scholars. Accessibility and/or course accommodations are available and coordinated by the Morehead-Cain Scholar Advising team.

“As someone who never camped or slept in a tent prior to my Carolina experience,

going on a 28-day expedition through Wyoming’s Wind River range drastically leveled up my readiness for college and beyond. While I am certainly grateful for the ability to change my clothes and shower today (unlike my time on the range), I needed the challenge of Outdoor Leadership to discover a new level of personal growth.”

Channing Mitzell ’16

A group of six women wearing matching Centennial t-shirts smile for the camera underneath a tent outside on a summer day. They are standing behind a table with pens and notepads, a “Centennial Water Outreach” sign, an iPad, and branded collateral.

The Second Summer: Civic Collaboration

After a summer spent learning about their personal limits, scholars in their second summer turn their focus to outward impact. Civic Collaboration gathers teams of scholars and embeds them in cities across North America to investigate community challenges and propose real solutions.