“I want students to get out and explore the local area. … I know that if you feel connected to the place, then you feel that you belong here. You begin to care about Chico.”

Chico State Named Fifth Most Outdoorsy School in the Nation

Nate Millard urges his students to get outside and explore their world—if for no other than the health benefits.

“I want students to be healthy, get outside, and share that with other students,” said Millard, mentor supervisor for First-Year Experience at Chico State. “A lot of students don’t have the healthiest ways for dealing with stress. So going outside, running, hiking, and paddling, among other things, are healthy ways to deal with it. I know it benefits students personally, and also our community.”

It’s no surprise, then, that Millard is an advocate for Outdoor Nation, a six-week challenge put on by the Outdoor Foundation encouraging college campuses nationwide and their students to get outside and get active. Chico State was one of 89 schools to participate this year and finished in fifth place, two spots better than last year.

Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and community members logged outdoor activities on behalf of Chico State. These activities could be as cardio-intensive as running, hiking, biking, kayaking or rock climbing, or as laid-back as hanging out in the creek or hammocking. Outside is outside, and any activity counted.

“I’m really happy to see how many members of the University and community joined together to show their pride in what this town has to offer,” said Kyle Gunther, Chico Gets Out program coordinator for the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD).

ISD was instrumental in promoting the challenge, Gunther said, and Fletcher Alexander, sustainability programs manager, helped oversee the entire competition on campus. One such effort included using the hashtag #ChicoGetsOut on social media to encourage the community to share their experiences along the way.

Even President Gayle E. Hutchinson participated, appearing in a fun, 97-second video where she climbed a ropes course alongside students.

Outdoor Nation is a natural fit for Chico State, as the North State is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Adventure Outings (AO) weekend trips typically fill around 500–600 spots throughout the school year. The trips are open to students, faculty, staff, and the community, and include camping, backpacking, kayaking, spelunking, rock climbing, surfing, and rafting—and they often sell out early in the semester. AO also rents outdoor gear at affordable prices to allow people to take their own adventures.

Millard recognizes the importance of establishing a sense of place for first-year students—especially if it’s outdoors. There are few ways better (if any) to get familiar than getting outside to see what the community and surrounding areas offer.

“I want first-year students to get out and explore,” said Millard. “More and more of our students come from outside the area, and I know that if you feel connected to the place, if you feel a sense of place, then you feel that you belong here. You begin to care about Chico.”