Wyoming Catholic College’s first freshman class has spent its first year on a deliberately low-tech campus where outdoorsmanship is taught alongside a classical “great books” program to provide a wholistic education.
The students, who finished their final exams on Thursday, have taken Latin immersion classes and read some of the masterpieces of Western literature. They have also learned leadership and survival skills and horsemanship on wilderness trips made to observe nature, which college officials call “God’s first book,” according to the Casper Star Tribune.
All incoming students participated in a National Outdoor Leadership School program before the start of the academic year. The students were broken into small groups to spend three weeks in the wilderness with a NOLS instructor and a priest from the college. Amid the hiking, camping, fishing, and rock climbing, they laid a foundation for a close community.
"It was hard, it was challenging, and it was survival," said Kate Harrison, a student from Kansas City. "I think the NOLS experience bonded everybody."
The school has a strict policy banning televisions and cell phones. It allows limited internet access only in an on-campus computer lab. Mario Coccia, the college's director of admissions, told the Star Tribune that school administrators find the gadgetry distracting, intrusive, and addictive. He said after a few weeks under the policy, the students tend to feel freed, rather than restricted by it.
Hannah Gaddis, a student from Casper, Wyoming, said the school’s studies kept her too busy to think about technology.
"You kind of realize how much you don't need these things," she said.
The college, whose motto is "Wisdom in God's Country," is located in the small town of Lander, close to the eastern slope of the Wind River Mountains.
Several students agreed that their common Catholic faith and their shared desires to be challenged physically, spiritually, and intellectually, have helped them become close friends. They have also built commonalities upon the school’s fundamental academic philosophy, which holds that there is such a thing as truth and that one can learn to identify and internalize the truth.