Scots in the Smokies 2024: What was the trip to Tremont?

Being outdoors is scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, but for college students, who might need that relief most, it can be hard to find the time. Fortunately, Maryville College and the Tremont Institute offer a school-sanctioned trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, providing students with an opportunity to prioritize their well-being despite their busy schedules.

The second annual trip, organized under the series “Scots in the Smokies”, is a joint effort between the Tremont Institute and Maryville College’s Mountain Challenge. Nestled at the end of Tremont Road, the Tremont Institute is a small campus of a few buildings surrounded by a plethora of hiking trails. Here, a dedicated team of staff members welcomes outside groups, offering a taste of mountain life to visitors.

In February, Mountain Challenge at Maryville College facilitated the exploration of the mountains by sponsoring an all-expenses-paid, two-night trip to the Tremont Institute in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for up to forty students.
Jay Clark, Director of Environmental and Sustainability Studies at Maryville College, played a pivotal role in bringing the Scots in the Smokies trip to fruition. Collaborating closely with the Mountain Challenge group, Clark spearheaded efforts to introduce students to the biodiversity and wonders of the Great Smoky Mountains.

An anonymous donor generously contributed funds to Maryville College toward last year’s inaugural trip and its subsequent iterations. Clark explained that last year’s excursion served as a pilot program, gauging student feedback through surveys to refine and enhance future experiences.

According to Clark, there was never a question as to whether the program would be returning. It was simply a matter of restructuring it and getting as many students to attend as possible. 

“We have made some changes to the original vision for Scots in the Smokies. For example, the program not only includes an annual trip to Tremont that is open to all MC students, but also additional trips to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other parts of Southern Appalachia, in the hopes of exposing our students to the natural beauty and challenges – environmental and otherwise – of the region,” Clark said.

An integral goal of the trip to the Tremont Institute is encouraging students to learn about the places around them and to be more introspective. The weekend itinerary featured educational sessions on the cultural significance of the mountains, tree identification workshops and opportunities for self-discovery. Students were encouraged to embrace moments of solitude, blocking out time for “secret spots” to immerse themselves in the natural landscape.

“We hope our students will gain a newfound appreciation and respect for the biodiversity and opportunities to experience nature in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and discover the importance of spending time away from all the hustle and bustle of college life and life in general. [It’s] an opportunity to realize the importance of ‘unplugging’ from time to time and experience the natural wonders around us,” Clark said.

Students can keep an eye out for more trips and activities related to Scots in the Smokies next fall. Academic credit will be available for participating in the program via Mountain Challenge. For more information, visit Mountain Challenge on campus, or contact Jay Clark at [email protected].

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