College signs MOU with Mountain Challenge

College signs MOU with Mountain Challenge

April 26, 2017

Maryville College recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Mountain Challenge, LLC, ensuring the operation of the outdoor adventure and team-building corporation on the Maryville College campus beyond 2024.

A March 30 signing ceremony coordinated by the College’s Strategic Partnerships Group was held on the grounds of Crawford House, which has housed Mountain Challenge since 1988.

“The purpose of the Strategic Partnership Group is to facilitate strategic partnerships that enhance Maryville College’s professional success, visibility and sustainability, and Mountain Challenge has personified this mission for 30 years of student engagement and academic programming, campus-community initiatives, national visibility and has inspired the entire college campus to rise to the challenge to be fit, green and happy,” said Dr. Ariane Schratter, associate professor of psychology and chair of the College’s Strategic Partnerships Group. “So Maryville College offers Mountain Challenge a memorandum of understanding for more than just public recognition. We offer this MOU to signify our commitment to promote Mountain Challenge as a signature program of the College and our commitment to work together for its long-term sustainability.”

Signing the memorandum were Dr. Tom Bogart, Maryville College president, Bruce Guillaume ’76, Mountain Challenge founder and director, and Jeff Ingle, the College’s vice president for finance and administration. (Emily Guillaume ’15, Mountain Challenge’s secretary and responsibility manager, signed it later.)

The Memorandum of Understanding outlines shared responsibilities that include promotion of Mountain Challenge as a signature academic program of the College, the continuation of a self-sustaining financial relationship that allows the Mountain Challenge program for students to operate without using tuition dollars, and an agreement that another similar long-term agreement, based on the current model, will be in place before June 1, 2024.

Regarding the memorandum, Bogart said such formalities were important because they outline expectations for all involved and are evidence that partnerships are being taken seriously.

“You can’t spell MC without MC,” Bogart joked, referencing the initials of both the College and the corporation. “So I am delighted on behalf of Maryville College to sign this agreement.”


Mountain Challenge celebrates 30 years

According to Guillaume, the timing of the memorandum is appropriate, as Mountain Challenge celebrates its 30-year anniversary in 2017.

It’s a year to look back and look forward, he said.

“In that first year, we served 60 people,” he said. “In this last year and for the past five or six years, we’ve served between 7,000 and 8,000. Growth has been really, really remarkable.”

Guillaume said the corporation has been successful because it strives to stay focused on the mission of Mountain Challenge (“to provide high quality, safe outdoor experiences designed to change the world for the better, one person at a time”) and the College’s mission to prepare students for lives of citizenship and leadership.

Guillaume shared that the College’s president has been encouraging him to think about the next 30 years.

“[Bogart] was crystal-clear that a huge part of my job should be thinking ahead for those next years and doing everything that I know to do to leave Mountain Challenge in good shape for the future,” he said. “And so the beauty of this memorandum of understanding is that this is a very tangible, concrete, important piece of that succession when I may not be here.

“For that, I’m very grateful,” he concluded.

Plans for the 30-year anniversary include a reunion of former Mountain Challenge staff members during the College’s 2017 Homecoming Weekend (Oct. 20-22) and celebrations with the Crawford Family.

A signature program

Partnering with Mountain Challenge 30 years ago, Maryville College was among the first colleges and universities in the United States to support a curriculum that takes all of its students outside.

“Mountain Challenge is one of the 20 oldest outdoor programs in the country, and possibly the oldest program in the South,” Guillaume explained.

Incorporated into the College’s Orientation course for nearly three decades, Mountain Challenge helps new students form friendships and support groups quickly while encouraging them to step outside their comfort zones and keep the “big picture” in perspective. Developing healthy habits for the college years is also stressed.

Largely due to Mountain Challenge’s programming, Maryville College is consistently named among the top adventure schools by Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine.

While the program continues to serve students on campus, Mountain Challenge, LLC, serves corporate clients. Customizing experiences based on the needs of individual businesses and corporations, Guillaume and his staff use a ropes course, a 55-foot Alpine Tower and other outdoor activities to teach employees best practices in teamwork, communication and problem-solving.

Leading corporate training experiences that are “180 degrees from the norm,” Mountain Challenge has taken home several awards, including the Tennessee Quality Award, which recognizes businesses and organizations for improved productivity and standards of excellence through quality management practices. In 2013, Mountain Challenge, LLC, was designated a “B Corp” by the nonprofit B Lab. B Corps firms are required to have an explicit social or environmental mission; a legally binding fiduciary responsibility to take into account the interests of workers, the community and the environment as well as its shareholders; and a commitment to sustainability and treating workers well.

Mountain Challenge’s four-year efforts to make Crawford House, a 19th century farmhouse located on the MC campus, more energy efficient and environmentally friendly led to the structure earning a LEED Gold rating by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2013. It is the oldest structure in Tennessee to earn LEED Gold.

Written by Karen Beaty Eldridge '94, Executive Director for Marketing & Communications

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,154.