What exactly does the Outdoor Education office do?
We encompass a lot. First and foremost, we have the facilities so we have the gear house, and then, we have the Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym over in El Pomar, which is pretty new and just tripled in size. Then we have the leadership development and training opportunities, which we call the Ahlberg Leadership Institute, and this is for students, if they want to develop as a leader we have different tracks for them to get involved in, whether that’s a back country track, a service leader track, white water rafting track, etc. We don’t just want folks to take a training [class to] get a certification, but utilize that training through experiential education so then they’re actually leading trips. Then we have all of the other student run organizations: ORC is probably the most familiar for student run trips, we have breakout, which is all of our service trips, and then we have all these other student run organizations, like CC Farm, Mountain Bike Club, Kayak Club, FUCC, and some others that are starting up like a fly fishing club. We also oversee all the NSO and WSO trips. Quite a lot that we have going on. All said and done, we have about 200 trips a year.
What are some changes happening this year?
There is quite a bit happening this year. We’ve restricted the whole track system… [and] we also have a brand new software program that we’re calling Summit, and it’s an online registration program so everyone that signs up for any trips or trainings does it online. This has helped us create a way to track folks and have all of the risk and release forms signed, their medical information is all secure, the leaders can propose trips, and we have a great way of being able to keep track of everything. The student leaders can create portfolios so they have a clear spreadsheet of what they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished here. About 700 students have logged and are utilizing the program so it has been a huge success in the first two blocks.
How do you access Summit?
Go to the Outdoor Education page on the CC website and there’s a link on there that you can’t miss.
Is the Gear House getting any new stuff this year?
We did get a lot of replacement gear so we could make some of our gear stretch a little bit longer. We got little things like sleeping bag liners to make the sleeping bags a little warmer and also easier to wash so it’s a little more sustainable. We also did get some bouldering pads. It’s such a huge climbing community here we also have bouldering pads for rental. We also got a lot of new outdoor climbing gear because we’re really ramping up outdoor climbing.
Speaking of gear, how do you think students from lower income backgrounds can take advantage of these outdoor education opportunities? A lot of people associate these sports with high costs, do you think they school addresses the problem of not having enough money to participate?
All of our outdoor education trips are subsidized, so we’re using the student activities fee that all the students pay into to pay for half if not more of the cost of the trip. When someone signs up for a block break trip that costs $40, the cost of that trip is way more than just that, so we are already trying our best to make the trip its most affordable, and if students still can’t afford we do offer financial aid. We never want the price tag to be the reason why someone doesn’t think about doing an Outdoor Education Trek. As far as equipment goes, we do have some outdoor clothing that is available as part of the gear house. We have cross country and some back country skis available, and back country ski safety gear.
Do you ever get to go on trips with the students?
Yeah, sometimes I’ll go on some of the leader training trips and since we’re putting a lot of energy into the outdoor climbing aspect. I’ll be doing quite a bit of those trainings to get us started. For the most part, I think that’s what attracted me to here so much, the peer to peer education, how they are student run, not all outdoor programs are that way. Other schools have a full time staff that goes on every trip basically. I think that’s what sets us apart. We trust our students, so as much as I love to be out in the field, I love to give the education to the leaders so that they can lead the trips.
What is your favorite place in the world to be outdoors?
I would say the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado is probably the most beautiful place. That or Yosemite National Park, which is my favorite place to climb.
What about just around here? Do you have a favorite place to go in the springs?
My backyard is Red Rock Canyon Open Space, so I spend a lot of time on those trails or up in Section 16 just running my dog around or doing a little bit of rock climbing.
Do you think there is a stereotype of CC students being outdoorsy in a way that could affect people who are overweight or can’t really participate in a lot of the trips due to health reasons?
I don’t know if I’ve been around long enough to know if there’s a stereotype. I would say there are perceptions out there, but I would say I’m a big believer in making a trip inclusive and having all shapes and sizes and all ability levels feel comfortable. That means we are intentional about having introductory courses, and also meeting the needs of the advanced folks and everything in between. I think folks out there should really give it a chance, and I think they’d be surprised if they find the outdoor community intimidating in any way that really we’re down to earth folks that are excited about being outside with good people.
Do you think it’s possible to make foot trips available for everyone?
We just did a sophomore jump program that was kind of an NSO meets Foot, where it’s intentional and we have topics at night to talk about. We have thought about having other intentional trips where we’re doing it for different groups, and I would love to see something like NSO but for graduating seniors. Wouldn’t it be neat to have just to have a total end-cap like a bookend, where you come in and maybe it’s the same group of folks because we have such a high retention rate typically folks will graduate. That would be my dream.