Mountain Challenge Fellowship geared toward student interests in outdoors, leadership

Mountain Challenge Fellowship geared toward student interests in outdoors, leadership 

Dec. 19, 2017

Love the outdoors? Interested in leadership opportunities?

The Mountain Challenge Fellowship is a four-year scholarship for Maryville College students with an interest in outdoor adventure and principled leadership.

Through the fellowship, Mountain Challenge fellows have an opportunity to work with the more than 7,500 clients of Mountain Challenge, LLC, an award-winning fitness and outdoor company (located on the Maryville College campus since 1987) focused providing high-quality, safe outdoor experiences that are “designed to change the world for the better, one person at a time.”

“Over a four-year period, the Mountain Challenge Fellowship seeks to improve and create competencies in the fellow across all aspects of the Mountain Challenge program,” said Bruce Guillaume, director of Mountain Challenge. “In addition, the fellows also provide experiences for Maryville College students as part of the College’s curriculum.”

Such competencies would include managing the logistics system, providing technical field services, working appropriately with groups, training and mentoring new staff, as well as creating and implementing principled leadership strategies aimed at the long-term health of Mountain Challenge, he said. While students need not be experts in any adventure area to qualify for the $24,000 per-year fellowship, they should have a sincere interest in outdoor adventure, leadership and experiential education. Qualified students need to have a minimum combined 24+ ACT or 1160+ SAT score and minimum 3.0 grade point average.

Maryville College also gives transfer students an opportunity to earn a $5,000-per-year award as a committed Mountain Challenge staff member.

Meet Maryville College’s four Mountain Challenge Fellows for 2017-18:

First-Year Fellow: Lea Mulligan

When researching colleges, freshman Lea Mulligan ’21 knew she wanted to attend a school in Tennessee that had a strong outdoor program.

“I have always had a passion for doing things outside, and I really wanted to find a school where I could find a community of people who were also passionate about the environment and adventuring in nature,” said Mulligan, who is from Chattanooga, Tenn.

During her interview with Mountain Challenge, she said she was struck by staff members’ answers to her question “What is everyone’s favorite part of Mountain Challenge?”

“Each member responded that they really enjoyed the people,” Mulligan recalled. “A supportive environment of enthusiastic outdoor individuals and the opportunity to learn more about conservation and leadership really drew me to Mountain Challenge.”

The experience for a first-year fellow includes: learning the broad view of Mountain Challenge and its logistics system; shadowing staff in the field; completing CPR/first aid training; participating in staff trainings; and fully participating in the mentoring program as an apprentice.

“As the freshman fellow, I am mainly in charge of keeping track of all the gear our staff uses for different events,” Mulligan said. “My job is to organize the ‘coop,’ which is our gear center, and make sure everything is prepared before each trip. I have also been shadowing different trips throughout the semester so that I can be prepared to lead them in the future. During this semester, I have had the opportunity to help with groups on the [Mountain Challenge 60-foot-tall] Alpine Tower, and I am hoping to have the chance to go on more hikes and caving trips next semester.”

As a biology major, she is also involved in the Tri-Beta Biology Honors Society and the Kinesis club. She is a member of the College’s cross country team, and she hopes to start a climbing club at MC in the next year.

Through her experience as a first-year Mountain Challenge Fellow, Mulligan said she has learned a lot about time management.

“There are not a lot of strict time schedules with organizing gear, and I have had to learn how to balance my Mountain Challenge responsibilities with cross country and studying,” she said. “I have also learned a lot about how to speak in front of groups, and I am looking forward to improving that skill during my time at Mountain Challenge.”

While Mulligan is considering several different career paths, she is sure of one thing: she wants a career outside, where she is “not stuck behind a desk all day.”

“My main career goal is to become a wildlife rehabilitator and educator,” Mulligan said. “Mountain Challenge ties to this career plan because I am gaining valuable life skills on group facilitation and leadership.”

Second-Year Fellow: Amy Turpin

When sophomore Amy Turpin ’20 learned about Maryville College at a college fair, she was initially attracted to the College’s close student-professor relationships and the fact that she could take American Sign Language (ASL) as a foreign language requirement (she took ASL in high school and wanted to be able to continue it in college). When she visited and toured MC, she liked the tight-knit community and genuine students and staff she met.

“They seemed to go the extra mile compared to any other school,” said Turpin, who is from Charlotte, N.C. “One of the ambassadors at the time, Alyssa, was a biology major, and she offered to eat lunch with me and my family and answer any and all of my questions. I fell in love with the Smokies and Eastern Tennessee and was excited about all of the opportunities for researching animals in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

Turpin, who was a scout through American Heritage Girls, wanted to pursue her interests in outdoor recreation beyond scouts, so an outdoor program was appealing to her.

“I looked at the website and really liked the culture and values of Mountain Challenge,” she said. “After my Mountain Challenge Fellowship interview, I knew I had found my people. I wanted to be friends with students like the ones who interviewed me. When Bruce told me I could do work-study with Mountain Challenge, no matter what happened with the scholarship, I was very excited to work alongside and get to know the staff. I was very enthusiastic about MC and I knew from then on out that was where I needed to be.”

The experience for a second-year fellow includes: accurately communicating the Mountain Challenge mission, vision and principles to others; having full responsibility for the logistics system; demonstrating competencies in at least three program areas; shadowing senior staff to improve competencies in other areas; and participating in three staff trainings; participating fully in the mentoring program.

“As a freshman, I worked mainly with getting gear together and keeping the gear organized and properly stored,” Turpin said. “As a sophomore, I mentor (freshman fellow) Lea and teach her the logistics system. I work as a belayer on the Alpine Tower and group facilitator for the Alpine Tower, ropes course and open trips for MC and some corporate groups. I am currently working on attaining junior staff standing and am beginning to take on more of a mentoring role as I train Lea and the shadowers.”

Turpin said she has learned a lot of skills through her experience as a Mountain Challenge Fellow, including how to balance school and work.

“I also developed a greater work ethic and learned how to always give 100 percent,” she said. “In addition, I learned how to work diligently and efficiently to complete my tasks. My biggest takeaway so far would be learning how to work with the staff and other fellows by recognizing our differences and honoring our individual strengths. We are all very different, but we work together to create a great experience for our participants.”

Turpin, who is majoring in biology with minors in environmental science and statistics, is a member of the Tri-Beta Biology Honor Society, and she is the new student outreach coordinator for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. She is also on the staff of Mountain Challenge Girls, an organization created by female Mountain Challenge staff that provides an outlet for young women from the Maryville College community to get outside and explore the Smoky Mountains.

She hopes to be a field biologist/analyst, and she said Mountain Challenge has increased her knowledge about invasive species and sustainability, as those are important components of Mountain Challenge’s “Walk in the Woods” activity and campus sustainability tours.

“The culture of Mountain Challenge is geared towards reducing environmental impact,” she added. “Mountain Challenge has also allowed me to practice public speaking and group facilitation skills. It has taught me how to work with a diverse staff and manage people. Leading courses has taught me how to ensure safety, access unexpected situations and adapt programming. Mountain Challenge has also taught me to how to be professional yet also have fun with my work and build community with the other staff. All of these things will be helpful in my future career.” 

Third-Year Fellow: Roland Parker

Maryville College’s outdoor recreation major – as well as the College’s proximity to the Smoky Mountains and the summer camp he attended while growing up – drew MC junior Roland Parker ’19 to the liberal arts college.

Parker, who is from Birmingham, Ala., heard about Mountain Challenge while attending Maryville College’s Great Smokies Experience summer program as a junior in high school. The Great Smokies Experience is a one-of-a-kind, credit-bearing, introductory college experience for high school students entering their junior and senior years, and recent high school grads. Created and administered by professional educators from Maryville College, The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, and the Mountain Challenge Program, the Great Smokies Experience is an eleven-day, hands-on environmental program that takes place mostly in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The experience for a third-year fellow includes: creating ways to communicate and enhance the Mountain Challenge vision, mission and principles for all staff; providing training for new apprentices in the logistics program; demonstrating competencies in at least five program areas; demonstrating beginning rescue competencies for appropriate field activities; obtaining certification as a Wilderness First Responder; participating and/or being a trainer in three staff trainings; and beginning as a mentor for new staff.

As a third-year fellow, Parker facilitates and manages Camp 4, a weekly outdoor fitness initiative for members of the community, as well as Maryville College faculty, staff and students. On Wednesday afternoons, the backyard of Mountain Challenge’s Crawford House is open for fitness activities, including climbing the Alpine Tower, bouldering in the climbing cave, participating in a group fitness or yoga class or completing an individualized workout.

Parker, who is now majoring in outdoor studies and tourism at MC, also participates in intramural sports at Maryville College. He said his experience as a Mountain Challenge Fellow has helped him develop a variety of skills.

“Working at Mountain Challenge has helped me develop my group facilitation and leadership skills, and it has helped me with time management,” Parker said. “I plan to implement these skills in a summer camp type setting.” 

Fourth-Year Fellow: Hunter Moore

Fourth-year fellow Hunter Moore ’18 heard about Maryville College and Mountain Challenge from Maryville College alumnus Kyle Finnell ’12, who worked at the boarding school he attended in New Hampshire.

Mountain Challenge was “the defining factor” in his decision to attend Maryville College, Moore said.

“I read about Mountain Challenge and saw how involved it was in promoting local health, as well as the economy,” said Moore, who is from Newtown, Conn. “We live by those ‘Eat Local, Buy Local’ stickers and promote healthy living in East Tennessee. From my perspective, Mountain Challenge was doing exactly what a company should: advocate for the wellbeing of its clients. I really just wanted to be a part of that.”

Moore, who is a biology major, is a member of Maryville College’s American Chemical Society and the Tri-Beta Biology Honor Society.

The experience for a fourth-year fellow includes: being a Mountain Challenge ambassador; supervising the logistics program; demonstrating competencies in all program areas; demonstrating rescue skills in all appropriate program areas; providing direction for staff trainings; completing a personal expedition; and training beginning mentors.

“As the senior fellow, my primary duties are making sure all our actions are in keeping with our business philosophy and mission statement,” Moore said. “I also play a role in staff training and serve as lead staff on trips.”

While Moore is still exploring his career options, he has “no doubt that both the technical and soft skills I’ve learned at Mountain Challenge will serve me well in whatever field I end up in.”

“I  have learned a lot about myself in these four years – that I’d like to continue to promote developing a relationship with the natural environment to others who have not yet had that opportunity,” Moore said. “I have learned that many people benefit greatly when given a chance to engage in nature, yet so few feel as if they have the time or resources.

“One of the philosophies we debate at Mountain Challenge is the ‘form-function relationship,’ which is basically asking how both your innate and developed skillsets inform you of your purpose or role in society,” he continued. “I have learned to observe myself closely, and those observations have informed my life decisions.”  

For more information about Mountain Challenge, please call 865.981.8125. For information about scholarships, please call the Maryville College Admissions Office at 865.981.8092.


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.