Outdoor Studies Students at Colorado Colleges Gain Career Skills in Tackling Current-Day Challenges Facing Rural-Based Small Businesses and Non-Profit Organizations

Chuck Sullivan

1 year ago The Wright

In what’s becoming an annual rite of spring for many outdoor studies students at Colorado Mesa University, Colorado Mountain College Leadville, and Western Colorado University, The Wright Collegiate Challenge culminated on April 25, with a four-student team representing Western’s Outdoor Industry MBA program taking home Best in Class honors for their work with Carbondale-based, mountainFLOW eco-wax.

Now in its 4th year, The Wright Collegiate Challenge is a semester-long program presented in partnership with the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC), helping to prepare Colorado higher-education students to enter the workforce by providing first-hand experience working alongside small businesses and nonprofit organizations to develop actionable solutions to current-day challenges within the outdoor recreation industry sector. Ten student teams competed for Best in Class, Most Engaged and People’s Choice awards.

A program like The Wright Collegiate Challenge plays a crucial role in preparing the next generation of workforce for careers in the outdoor industry by providing the type of hands-on experience that students are asking for and employers are requiring

Samantha Albert

Deputy Director, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office

The Wright Challenge provided an incredible opportunity for our team to work outside of the classroom, directly with a business in the industry. It was exciting to work with mountainFLOW to address a real-time issue and to be able to make an impact in such a short time. In thinking about the professional capacity building and networking opportunities this challenge afforded us, and what we were able to accomplish, it’s hard to believe it was all one semester.

Leyla Ericson

Western Outdoor MBA Student, on her experience in working on the mountainFLOW challenge

 In being recognized as Best in Class, the Western OIMBA team, in collaboration with a two-person team of undergraduate students from Colorado Mesa University’s Outdoor Industry Studies Program, developed a takeback program for fluorinated ski wax. Fluorinated wax contains polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS) and are known as “forever chemicals” in that they do not biodegrade.

Fluorinated ski wax has been a known environmental concern for years and this takeback program will ensure that this carcinogenic chemical will not be exposed to people or the environment. The issue of removing harmful fluorocarbons is one of the catalysts that led to the creation of mountainFLOW.

Peter Arlein

Founder and CEO, mountainFLOW eco-wax

Running through the month of May, the mountainFLOW eco-wax takeback program provides the opportunity for people to get rid of their toxic waxes by visiting one of three retail partners across Colorado, or by utilizing the mail-in option for those outside of the state. For information on participating partners and collection site locations, visit the Fluoro Wax Take-Back Program page. 

It is an honor to compete in this challenge. Working on issues of inclusion, protecting public lands, health and wellness, economic development, and sustainability are core to our values as a program. Every year the challenge partners, The Wright team, and students elevate their game. The takeback program is evidence of this.

Dr. Scott Borden

Director, Western Outdoor Industry MBA Program

 In other award categories, a student team from Colorado Mountain College Leadville was recognized as Most Engaged Team for their work on a marketing initiative with Steamboat Springs-based Town Hall Outdoor Co. A second team of students from Western received this year’s People Choice Award working with San Luis Valley Great Outdoors to develop a plan for a valley-wide Rails with Trails project. Rounding out the Challenge Partners was Grand Junction’s Mountain Racing Products who brought a sustainable packaging challenge to the student teams.

Students diving in and getting their hands dirty working directly with innovative Colorado businesses and nonprofit organizations within the outdoor sector, this is what The Wright Collegiate Challenge is all about. In addition to the developing career-readiness skillsets, important networks are established linking students, employers, educators, and community partners, all of which take on a particular significance when talking about rural Colorado communities like the ones represented here.

Chuck Sullivan

Executive Director, The Wright

Students participating in The Wright Collegiate Challenge receive a Certificate of Completion issued jointly by Colorado-based nonprofit, The Wright, and the Colorado OREC Office, a division within the greater Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Certificate recipients will have demonstrated growth and understanding in eight core competency areas identified by the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE). They include, Career & Self Development, Communication, Critical Thinking, Equity & Inclusion, Leadership, Professionalism, Teamwork, Technology. 

The Wright Collegiate Challenge is presented in a programmatic partnership with the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, a division of the 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.


The Wright is a Colorado-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to the economic and cultural vitality of communities across Colorado. The Wright brings together innovators, place-makers and forward-thinking organizations to awaken ideas, nurture connections and spark new levels of understanding in our efforts to effect cultural change and reshape the future of work for Coloradoans of all walks of life.