Affectionately called the “Willy” major, Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education (W.L.E.E.) is the nation’s premiere college outdoor leadership program. Two Brevard College alumni took their experiences as Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education majors to their positions at the American Canoe Association (ACA). Based in Fredericksburg, Virginia the ACA is a national non-profit organization that provides education related to all aspects of paddling.
The W.L.E.E. program is the epitome of experiential education. The foundation of experiential education at Brevard College set the stage for Kelsey and Carrie in their careers.
“Regardless of your major at Brevard College,” said Kelsey “the professors, the community as a whole, all the way up to admissions and finance; the entire campus was an ideal balance between comforting and uplifting, but also realistic.”
Kelsey Bracewell and Carrie Schlemmer work together in the ACA’s Safety Education and Instruction department. Kelsey is the Director and Carrie is her “very, very, very vital right-hand person,” Kelsey said. They coordinate and execute some of the association’s federally funded grant projects and manage the instructor database of almost 8,400 paddling instructors across the nation.
“We are the national certifying body for people who teach canoeing, rafting, and kayaking. We coordinate the classes they teach, the new people that become certified, the curriculum and the policies that govern how they do what they do,” Kelsey explained.
Carrie double majored in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education and Business and Organizational Leadership. During her time as a student, she helped revamp and revitalize the Brevard College Paddling Club. She served on the student government association and worked as a teacher’s assistant. She transferred to Brevard College from the University of Alabama. She decided to transfer to a small school after her biology teacher failed to recognize her as one of his students. Brevard College previously offered her a scholarship and they honored the offer when she decided to transfer.
“I went from these huge, hundred-person classes to one on one. All of my teachers knew my name and probably had my cell phone number,” Carrie said.
Carrie credits Brevard College faculty for encouraging her growth while attending Brevard College. She participated in an immersion semester as her class paddled section nine of the French Broad River and then hiked the Appalachian Trail to Table Rock. Their plans to climb at Table Rock were foiled by inclement winter weather, so they continued along the Appalachian Trail to Mt. Mitchell.
“I learned a lot about time management and being able to manage the stress of having so much to do.” said Carrie.
Kelsey also majored in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education with a minor in psychology. She also earned a Masters in Recreation and Sports Science from Ohio University and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Mary Washington.
Kelsey and Carrie developed strong relationships with the Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education faculty. Kelsey explained how the faculty played a significant role in her life, and that she came out of her shell while she was at Brevard College.
“What I think I gained, was a better understanding of how to relate to people. When you go do an activity, like rock climbing or kayaking, you see someone who is struggling in some way. Being able to understand their situation and their emotions and then relate to them, you can then help them realize how to draw off their experience, how to make connections between life and experiences,” Kelsey said.
Both Kelsey and Carrie were drawn to Brevard College’s beautiful location, and they noted the small campus community factored into their decision to attend.
“I enjoyed the mountain culture, the scenery, and the resources there. Size factored in too. I went to a larger high school and I was not a popular kid. I felt just one of a giant blob of people, so the size of Brevard was appealing to me,” Kelsey said
Kelsey recommends that first-year college students get involved in a lot of things on campus.
“Get involved in a bunch of things,” said Kelsey. “Brevard College gives you every opportunity to explore and feel supported, comfortable, and safe throughout those experiences.”
For more information about the Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education program, faculty, students, and alumni, schedule your campus visit today!
Office of Public Information, One Brevard College Drive, Brevard, N.C., Christie.Cauble@brevard.edu