The Wright Collegiate Challenge

The Wright Collegiate Challenge

A student innovation competition designed to spark out-of-the-box ideas and entrepreneurial thinking in addressing current-day challenges with the Outdoor Recreation industry

Watch the Kickoff Event

The 2022 Wright Collegiate Challenge is a hands-on, spring semester challenge for select students enrolled full-time in the following programs:

Colorado Mesa University’s Outdoor Industry Studies Program
Colorado Mountain College – Leadville Campus – Outdoor Education Program
Western Colorado University’s Outdoor Industry MBA Program.

Over the course of the 12-week challenge, student teams are paired with businesses, nonprofits, and partner organizations, including the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, and introduced to a range of pivotal issues facing the outdoor industry. Over the course of the competition, students are tasked with developing actionable solutions to challenges facing businesses and communities at the forefront of today’s rapidly-evolving outdoor recreation economy.

Meet the 2022 Challenge Partners

mountainFLOW eco-wax – Carbondale, CO

mountainFLOW makes the world’s best eco-friendly, biodegradable ski and snowboard wax and bicycle products, entirely made from plants.

Our challenge is to create a Buyback Program for Fluorinated Ski Wax. Fluorocarbons (aka -PFAS, PTFE, Teflon) have been a staple ingredient in ski wax for decades. However, recent studies have shown that this “forever chemical” (the opposite of biodegradable, it lasts forever in the environment) is carcinogenic and has bioaccumulated in environments near ski areas. Fortunately, the use of fluorocarbons has been prohibited in most major race circuits. However, thousands of pounds of this toxic ski wax are still available for sale and legal for recreational (non-race) use. We would like to develop a program to buy back wax from ski shops and dispose of it properly so it doesn’t end up in our Colorado watershed.

Mountain Racing Products (MRP) – Grand Junction, CO

Makers of high-end mountain bike suspension, drivetrain products, and components – designed, tested, and built in Colorado.

Our challenge is to develop a cost-effective environmental sustainability plan that covers our product packaging. Specifically, we are looking to reduce the amount of plastic in our packaging and increase the percentage of sustainable packaging materials across all of our products.

San Luis Valley Great Outdoors (SLV GO!) – Alamosa, CO

SLV GO! helps organize, support, and guide community efforts to implement outdoor recreation resources and break down barriers between communities and the outdoors.

SLV GO! is embarking on a community process to explore and promote a “rails with trails” program that will extend across 5 counties and 154 miles of rail line. We need to build broad community support from adjacent property owners, county commissioners, and state agencies. We are estimating an economic impact of $10 million a year to the region once the trail is complete.

Town Hall Outdoor Co. – Steamboat Springs, CO

Town Hall Outdoor Co was started in Steamboat Springs, Colorado by parents who wanted better, more sustainable choices in kids’ clothing. We wanted to use our years of experience in the outdoor apparel industry to create apparel specifically made for kids. Kids aren’t miniature adults. They are full-size versions of themselves, who need clothes built around their unique needs.

How do you best spread the word about a new, rural Colorado brand? Town Hall is a sustainable kids outdoor apparel brand out of Steamboat Springs, selling direct-to-consumer via their website with a few additional wholesale door partners around the state. Their values are deep, their passion for the planet is immense and their desire to give back to Northwest Colorado is their guiding principle. The challenge is for the students to develop a premier brand awareness strategy that converts brand love to revenue, builds community, and fosters a lifelong passion for the brand and its values. Town Hall has $2k to spend on marketing in the next 10 months. Please tell us how to spend it. And then, tell us what our marketing strategy should be for the next 18 months to drive awareness and, ultimately, conversion and revenue.

Check out the 2021 WCC Recap

Via the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade

The Program Framework

Each year, The Wright partners with organizations representing a mix of business and nonprofit organizations to present a set of challenges reflecting real issues being addressed in real time by selected Challenge Partner organizations. Interested businesses and nonprofits are asked to submit a proposed challenge-statement, summarizing a specific project for students to address.

A wide range of outdoor-focused challenges are evaluated each year and final selections are determined by an array of considerations, including:

  • Challenges are identified in one of three tracks – People, Product or Place
  • Regional Relevance: Challenges which present students the opportunity to meet in person, tour business facilities and/or participate in field visits, provide valuable hands-on learning opportunities for students.
  • Participation Commitment: Ability to commit to required meetings, virtual or in-person, and overall time required in order to support assigned student teams over the course of the project.
  • Highly engaged Challenge Partner & Student Team relationship. A primary factor in providing a win-win experience for students and Challenge Partners alike is active engagement on behalf of both groups.

Student teams will be expected to address their respective challenge assignments through five central impact areas impacting the outdoor recreation industry sector. These include:


How It Works

In partnership with the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, Colorado Mesa University’s Outdoor Industry Studies Program, Colorado Mountain College’s Leadville Campus Outdoor Education Program and Western Colorado University’s Outdoor Industry MBA Program, The Wright Collegiate Challenge offer students the experience of working on real-time issues facing the outdoor sector in collaboration with select businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Challenges submitted for consideration are reviewed and selected in with our Academic Partners. Once selected, Challenge Partners and their respective problem statements are introduced to participating students. Students in turn will identify the challenges that reflect their personal interests and academic needs, allowing The Wright to form teams accordingly.

The Wright works closely with participating higher education partners to attract committed, eager-to-learn students who may be seeking a long-term career in the outdoor industry. Throughout the program, Academic Partners are expected to advise their students, and teams are expected to commit to conducting research, and developing viable and forward-looking solutions to the problem outlined by their Challenge Partner. Students are welcomed to expand on projects for their academic work or capstone projects as the basis of their entry.

Key Dates
  • February 7:  Join the official kick-off of the 2022 Wright Collegiate Challenge, a live online event introducing students to this year’s slate of challenges and Challenge Partners.
  • February – March: Student Teams meet with Challenge Partners three times (at minimum). These 90-minute meetings/workshops are generally student-led, allowing students the opportunity to provide updates, ask questions, and further brainstorm around their respective challenges.
  • Early April: Student projects are due.
  • April 25: Culminating event of The Wright Collegiate Challenge. Expect an exciting program of presentations and the selection of Best-in-Class Awards by a panel of industry professionals. This is a rewarding opportunity to see student teams at their best, and a chance to see the work of the other student teams and Challenge Partners.
Competition Details

The 2022 Wright Collegiate Challenge kicks off on Monday, February 7, with a virtual event featuring the introduction of Challenge Partners and the presentation of problem statements. Following the kick-off event, students will be grouped into teams and paired with a Challenge Partner. Over the ensuing 10 weeks, student teams will participate in a series of three online work sessions with their Challenge Partner and set to work on addressing the specific problem at hand. Participating Challenge Partners are expected to commit 15-20 hours in support of student teams and their respective projects, including but not limited to email communications, virtual meetings, and workshops.

Final team projects consisting of a 4-6 page white paper, a one-slide summary, and a brief video summarizing a recommended solution to the problem presented will be submitted in early April. The 2022 Wright Collegiate Challenge culminates on April 25 with a virtual pitch event featuring live presentations by student teams to an audience of faculty, fellow students, initiative partners, and a panel of judges.

Following review and presentation of final projects, judges will recognize outstanding teams and projects with Best-in-Class Awards.

All participating students will be eligible to earn a Certificate of Completion from The Wright and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. Details below.

Program Highlights
  • Student-led 3-part workshop series with Colorado-based, Outdoor Industry Challenge Partners.
  • Final event with live presentations & real-time review from an experienced panel of judges.
  • Award ceremony including Best-in-Class awards and to the winning team.
  • Opportunity for a $1000 scholarship to the Western Outdoor Industry MBA Program.
  • NEW FOR 2022: Certificate of Completion issued by The Wright & Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office.

Students can apply the professional experience and skills gained in the program immediately in the workforce. Participation in the program offers: 

  • Applied knowledge to help students stay current
  • Information to help students be effective leaders
  • Preparation for a new field or career
  • Skills that position students for advancement
Student Deliverables

The Wright Collegiate Challenge is a learning experience for students and Challenge Partners alike. With the aim of providing innovative and actionable solutions to the problems set forth by Challenge Partners, participating students are required to provide three primary deliverables at the end of the Challenge:

  • Written proposal response to the Challenge Partner: Teams are required to develop a four-to-six-page paper outlining the challenge, and the team’s proposed solution(s).
  • A one-slide summary: The slide presents a high-level overview of the written response.
  • Video summary of response: Teams must record a three-minute video outlining their project, summarizing major outcomes, and highlighting any other notable aspects of their journey through the challenge.

Final projects will be judged by a panel of industry professionals and assessed based on a wide array of criteria, including:

  • Attention to central impact areas affecting the Outdoor Recreation Industry:
    • Did the team include thoughtful analysis regarding the challenge and its relationship to the five impact areas set forth at the outset of the program — Conservation & Stewardship; Education & Workforce Training; Economic Development & Opportunity; Public Health & Wellness; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion?
  • Innovative thinking and problem solving
    • Did the team demonstrate a clear understanding of the challenge and present an innovative solution?
    • Is the team’s problem-solving approach well-reasoned and thorough?
  • Project viability
    • Is there tangible evidence the solution is on track (even initially) to solve the challenge problem?
    • Is the team’s solution economically viable and sustainable?
    • How well did the team vet the concept with potential partners, users, and/or customers?
For Challenge Partners

Over the course of 12-weeks, participating Challenge Partners are expected to commit a total of (10-15) hours in support of student teams and their respective projects, including but not limited to email communications, virtual meetings, and workshops.

In addition to working alongside their respective student teams, Challenge Partners will present their problem statement in January at a virtual kick-off event. Then, on a to-be-determined date in April 2022, Challenge Partners are asked to support their student teams by attending a hybrid live-online event featuring project presentations and an awards ceremony.


  • Apply to be a Challenge Partner. Deadline for applications is December 1, 2022
  • Selected Challenge Partners will be notified by December 15, 2022
  • Present official challenge at the hybrid kick-off event in January 2022 (dates TBD)
  • Commit 10-15 hours in support of student teams; including but not limited to email communications, virtual meetings, and workshops
  • Attend 3-90 minute student led workshop and engage thoughtfully
  • Attend your students final project presentation in person or online and provide feedback in April 2022 (dates TBD)
Certificate of Completion

The Wright and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (CO OREC) provide a unique opportunity for Colorado students to develop career readiness, preparing young adults for success in the workplace and lifelong career management. Upon completion of The Wright Collegiate Challenge, all students who demonstrate a strong understanding of the career readiness competencies will receive an endorsed certificate from The Wright and CO OREC. Utilizing the National Association of Colleges & Employers’s (NACE) eight career readiness competencies as a framework, The Wright Collegiate Challenge is designed to support students in developing and elevating their knowledge and application of these competencies through Challenge participation and supplemental activities.

The eight NACE competencies are:

  • Career & Self Development
  • Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Equity & Inclusion
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Teamwork
  • Technology 


The Collegiate Challenge is hosted by The Wright, a Colorado-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is presented in a programmatic partnership with the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, a division within the greater Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The CO OREC Office serves as the State’s central coordinator of outdoor recreation industry matters, which includes policy and resource development, industry promotion, and connection with the constituents,  businesses, and communities that rely on the health of the State’s outdoor recreation economy.  


The professional experience and skills gained through participation can be applied immediately in the workforce and offer: 

  • Real-world understanding of the challenges that businesses face and the skills needed to be market-ready graduates
  • Tools and knowledge to help students develop an effective leadership style
  • Preparation for success in the Colorado workforce by developing skills that will position students for career advancement  


Successful completion is determined by the students’ comprehensive collaboration and well-rounded engagement. The degree of attention, curiosity, interest, and passion that is demonstrated during the Challenge will influence candidacy. Our hope is that each requirement will help students develop competencies in all 8 of these areas:


  • Become aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses by engaging in the peer-peer feedback survey.
  • Actively engage in student teams; display curiosity; seek out opportunities to learn.
  • Network to build relationships with students selected Challenge Partner.


  • Clearly and effectively exchange information, ideas, facts, and perspectives.
  • Inform relevant others when needing guidance with project deliverables.
  • Complete post-event feedback survey.


  • Gather and analyze information from a diverse set of sources to fully understand their assigned problem.
  • Proactively anticipate needs and prioritize action steps.
  • Effectively showcase project findings, actions plans, and rationale at the final event and in project deliverables.


  • Keep an open mind to diverse ideas and new ways of thinking.
  • Advocate for inclusive and equitable practices within student teams. 


  • Recognize and maximize personal and team strengths to achieve project goals.
  • Use innovative thinking to go beyond traditional methods.
  • Serve as a role model to team members by approaching tasks with a positive attitude.
  • Motivate and inspire your team members through encouragement and building mutual trust.


  • Actively engage in 3x 90-minute meetings/workshops with selected Challenge Partner.
  • Act equitably with integrity and accountability to self, others, and the organization.
  • Be present and prepared; demonstrate dependability (e.g., report consistently for meetings).
  • Show a high level of dedication toward doing a good job.


  • Build and maintain collaborative relationships to work effectively toward common goals.
  • Be accountable for individual and team responsibilities and deliverables.
  • Collaborate with others to achieve common goals.
  • Build strong, positive working relationships with their team and Challenge Partners.


  • Identify appropriate technology for completing specific tasks.
  • Use technology to improve efficiency and productivity of work.
Meet the Team


Chuck Sullivan – Executive Director, The Wright

Lorin De Spirito – 2022 Wright Collegiate Challenge Fellow, Western Colorado University Outdoor Industry MBA Program (2022 Cohort)


Samantha Albert – Deputy Director, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office

Sarah Engel –Associate Director Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Colorado Denver Business School

Kristen Freaney – Founder, Path to Peak Education + Consulting

Rebecca Gillis – State & Local Government Affairs Manager, Outdoor Industry Association

Jay Zeschin – Adviser, The Wright

Lindsay Hastings – Wright Collegiate Challenge Consultant


Dr. Scott Borden – Director of Outdoor Industry MBA and Assistant Professor, Western Colorado University School of Business

April Gentile-Miserandino – Business Professor, Colorado Mountain College – Leadville

Kathleen Law – Assistant Dean of Instruction, Colorado Mountain College – Leadville

Sarah Shrader – Program Director, Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies, Colorado Mesa University

2021 Challenge Partners


Eureka! McConnell Science Museum strives bring to hands-on math and science curriculum to the community of Mesa County. Eureka recently started outdoor adventure programming and has struggled to provide equitable outdoor programming to the Clifton community. The students’ challenge is to develop a permanent solution to address the lack of convenient and safe access from Clifton schools to the miles of trails in the Grand Junction/Clifton area.


Participants are tasked with developing a strategy to educate, inform, and persuade key stakeholders about the importance of the Dark Sky Initiative. The ideal goal is driving the community’s strategy of building a strong outdoor recreation economy to support economic development. Target audiences for buy-in include regional county commissioners and public land agencies.


Fishpond’s commitment to the health of habitats and species around the globe is foundational to our identity. One way we show our commitment to the future of the environment is through our B-Corporation Certification. With the countless hours of work that go into that certification, we are looking to leverage our B-Corp status as a marketing and communications tool. How can Fishpond educate consumers about the value of a B-Corp Certification and integrate it into the company’s brand identity?


There are over 500 climbing gyms in the U.S. However, many gyms are not trained in adaptive climbing best practices for individuals with physical disabilities. Via their Adaptive climbing Initiative, how can Paradox Sports increase climbing gym participation in the adaptive climbing training program in order to increase access for individuals with physical disabilities?


In looking to identify a new, more portable and sustainable solution for carrying Tailwind Nutrition endurance fuel, the company is out to gain a better understanding of the key drivers for market acceptance. And, ultimately introduce a unique line of packaging which results in less waste and greater portability.


Our challenge is to establish a set of Product Impact Standards around our company’s sustainability efforts. Specifically, we are looking to establish a standard for calculating our company’s carbon footprint, measuring that footprint, and then devising a plan to make subsequent reductions.


Chuck Sullivan, Executive Director, The Wright: 

Lorin De Spirito, Community Manager:

The Collegiate Challenge is a project of The Wright, a Colorado-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and is presented in a  programmatic partnership with the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, a division within the greater Colorado Office of  Economic Development and International Trade. The OREC Office serves as the State’s central coordinator of outdoor recreation industry matters, which includes policy and resource development, industry promotion, and connection with the constituents,  businesses, and communities that rely on the health of the State’s outdoor recreation economy.