February 25, 2022 | NEWS | By Sabrina Brewer | Photo Courtesy of Drew Cavin
Drew Cavin, CC’s Director of Field Study, discusses race and outdoor education, finding community in college, and serving as the COVID Response Coordinator. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
There were not a lot of jobs that asked for a PhD and Wilderness First Responder, so I have both of those things and that sort of landed me here at CC. The Director of Field Study job in a nutshell is basically looking after and managing all the field trips that leave campus for academic courses.
I’ve also taught a few classes. I’ve taught in the Bridge program, and I taught a CC100 class this year on race and outdoor recreation. That’s what I did my PhD research on and is the subject I’ve tracked over the last 15 years or so. Lots and lots of conversations and people influencing in that space. It’s been a cool topic to dive into with students and I think I’m a better field study director when I have the opportunity to be in the classroom and take students on my own field trips and just be in that space in addition to the Director of Field Study administrative work.
I love teaching. And I’ve really missed it being on the administrative side, so I was really keen to get back into the classroom. I love connecting with students in that way. I mean, that’s why we’re all here. I think when it all comes down to it, we’re here for students in the educational experience.
At a predominantly white institution like CC, I think having students sort of grapple together, talk about difficult issues together in a class, where people are from different backgrounds, different races, different genders. Talking about that in a productive way. I want them to see where they fit into that project, and what they can do, if they are passionate and care about an issue, whether it’s this issue or something else, that they discover how they can meaningfully engage with that topic.
I’m trying to impart some of that meaningfulness, that connection, that reflectiveness into every field trip that students go on with faculty. Many of them are doing that. But I think there is great greater potential for what happens on these field trips to deeply impact students and the communities that they involve themselves with on field trips.
This job has been a really interesting mix of the educational, pedagogical work with administrative stuff, with kind of negotiating the internal politics of higher ed, faculty, staff, institutional development stuff. Never have I worked at a place where so many different things have seemed and been possible. So I really, really appreciate that.
I love Colorado, I still don’t do as many of the various outdoor activities as I used to, but I’m a pretty avid mountain biker. My son is 15. And he’s sort of now surpassed me both in fitness and skill on the mountain bike. So more or less trying to keep up with him and take my daughters out and get them experiences in the outdoors. And other things, too. They’re not just into the outdoors, my middle child is really into theater and drama. So, just doing family life.
I don’t think I’m any more or less career minded than anybody else in my job, in where I am in my career. You know, with more chasing those career goals comes essentially more work and more responsibility and more stress. So I have to balance my career aspirations with where I am in family life and where I am in my personal life. I have been through enough career changes to not be so tied to ‘my personal identity is my job.’ Right? So, I like my job, I have to have value and meaning ascribed to my work. But at the end of the day, I’m exchanging labor for money, and I have to balance my mental health, my family, and work life balance. I feel like I’m in a pretty good spot with that.
I was a mechanical engineering student at Texas A&M. That’s where I went to undergrad. And I basically flunked out of Calc 2 and got a D in Physics my sophomore year. At the same time, the movie “Office Space” came out. And if you’ve seen that movie, it does not paint a pretty picture of office work. So that’s kind of what I envisioned was going to be my future. And I was like, screw this, I got to find something more fulfilling, more meaningful, more free. So I landed in the Recreation and Parks Department at Texas A&M, changed my major. I just sort of instantly felt at home.
Texas A&M is like the opposite of CC in terms of student culture, especially in the late 90s. But the Recreation and Parks Department was where I fit in a little bit better. There’s just more alternative culture, alternative ways of looking at the world. It wasn’t all focused on money and career success. I really resonated with that at the time.
I grew up outside of Dallas. People make jokes about people riding to school on horses and stuff in Texas. That wasn’t my experience; it was just like a regular suburban southern kind of experience. But people were not into the outdoors. Unless it was like hunting and fishing, which I was not into then. I’m a little bit more interested in that side of the outdoors at this stage in life.
I was a skateboarder in middle school and high school in the 90s. And that was a very alternative kind of space, which for whatever reason kind of resonated with who I am. I never wanted to conform. When I went to college, I quit skateboarding more or less, but then found this outdoor community, which was similarly situated culturally. And that was really like, oh, man, this is cool.
The last six weeks I have also been the COVID Response Coordinator. That’s been a little bit stressful. Nobody wants to come through this program, right. It’s the program that nobody really wants to be a part of. And it’s obviously super stressful for students who get COVID. But you know, people are really trying to support students. The last two years for faculty and staff at CC have been extremely difficult. So people are super burned out. Students, I think they understand this for the most part, but you know, people are working their butts off and have been for the last few years in extremely stressful conditions.