Resident Undergraduate Orientation

Building Community and Connection

Each fall and spring, all new resident undergraduate Prescott College students enroll in our unique Orientation program to beginning the distinctive journey of developing relationships with their new home, community and academic career.  For over 50 years, new students at Prescott College have built transformative connections to the college, their environment, and each other while on Orientation. Orientation, the first class resident undergraduate students take, gives students the opportunity to build foundational communities that help to sustain them throughout their academic journey at Prescott College.
Orientation is a 4 credit block course aimed to orient you to the unique culture and education offered at Prescott College. Regardless of area of study or credits completed, all incoming Prescott College students are introduced to the natural and cultural environments of the Southwest, learn about themselves and the greater community, and experience the educational philosophies of Prescott College during Orientation. The first few days of Orientation are spent on campus registering for classes, meeting staff, students and faculty, and preparing for the course. Students then split into small groups for their individual Orientation courses.

Orientation Course Choices

New students to Prescott College choose to participate in Wilderness or Community-Based Orientation. 

Wilderness Orientation is at its heart a three-week backpacking expedition in the remote desert mountains and canyons of Arizona. 
You don’t need to be an experienced backpacker or extrovert to have a successful Orientation experience; you just need a sense of adventure and a readiness to build an inclusive learning community.

Students on Wilderness Orientation develop a sense of place and make connections to the Southwest through backcountry travel, map and wilderness navigation, and by studying the natural and cultural history of their route.  Much of the course is focused on building a foundational community by honing interpersonal communication skills and practicing compassion and respect for eachother and the landscapes we travel through. Students will also engage in individual research projects, a solo experience, leadership training, and service projects as part of this truly interdisciplinary Liberal Arts course.  Additionally, Wilderness Orientation satisfies the foundational field prerequisite that students will need for field-based courses.  Enrollment is dependent on Orientation Director approval. 

Community-Based Orientation

Students can also choose to enroll in Community-Based Orientation in a non-expeditionary in-town format.  
On Community-Based Orientation, students will explore the concept of Community via interdisciplinary lenses.  Through connecting with the greater Prescott Community, students will develop cultural awareness and critical thinking tools to decolonize their education.  Students will complete individual research projects, service learning opportunities, day hikes, field trips, and a possible solo experience, to develop a sense of place and explore the ecological, political, and cultural histories of their new home.  

This course is based in Prescott with frequent field trips and possible extended field-based overnights. Please note however, that this course does not satisfy the requirements for a field prerequisite required for many field courses at Prescott College. Enrollment is dependent on Orientation Director approval. 

Wilderness Orientation is a 3-week backpacking expedition that is also your first college class.  Orientation is required at Prescott College.  On Wilderness Orientation you put into practice leadership and backcountry skills, implement community-building skills, and gain an introduction to Prescott College philosophies and practices.  Assignments include: Building an academic portfolio in the field, keeping a natural history and cultural history log, group discussions, delivering research-based presentations to your peers, filling group leadership and expedition roles, and a solo experience.

All incoming resident undergraduate students are required to successfully complete Orientation - this includes transfer students and first year college students.  Students may choose to complete Wilderness Orientation or Community-Based Orientation.   Additionally, Wilderness Orientation is a prerequisite for all field-based courses. This means that your Orientation course will be made up of a diverse group of students - first year students,  transfer students, students with different academic and extracurricular interests.  This is the point!  We want to build community across the college and we start with Orientation. 

Most Wilderness Orientation instructors are alumni of Prescott College who come back to work as Wilderness Orientation instructors and introduce a new generation to the college community.  Instructors of Wilderness Orientation must be Wilderness First Responder certified and have professional experience in outdoor education and/or outdoor guiding.  Most groups will also have a student instructor.  This is a current student, usually a senior or junior Adventure Education competence, who is taking an upper division practicum course as part of their academic work.  These students must go through an application process and meet the upper division course prerequisites.  All staff, unless otherwise exempt, attend staff training which includes an in-field portion in the fall.