Q: When you started your undergraduate studies at IU, what kind of job did you picture for yourself? Did you use IU Outdoor Adventures resources as a student?
A: What a great question! And the answer is no. Starting off my academic career at IU, I never considered combining my love of the outdoors with my career path. I jumped around to a few different programs looking for a study focus that I could really connect with but struggled to find it. One day, walking through the School of Public Health, I saw a poster for IU’s Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education program, which allowed me to spend an immersive semester focused on outdoor leadership pursuits. (CORE has since retired at IU.) Being accepted into the program ultimately led me to major in outdoor recreation, and the rest is history. Today, outdoor recreation in the Department of Health and Wellness Design is called the “Parks, Recreation, and the Outdoors” major. I always enjoy sharing my story with students who are interested in the prospect of studying within these categories.
While I wasn’t involved in IUOA as a student, I discovered a passion for working with people through the outfitting industry. Over several years, between undergrad and grad school, I worked seasonally in several states and performed a range of duties, from leading a whitewater stand up paddle boarding program for a kids’ camp in Colorado, to guiding sea kayaking tours in Alaska, to helping guests visiting the Boundary Waters have successful backcountry canoe trips. All of this experience taught me that I loved spending time outside, but also that I wanted to balance that with an administrative role. I’m thankful that today I landed back home in Bloomington and on IU’s campus.
Q: What do you want faculty and staff to know about what IU Outdoor Adventures offers (rentals, trips, other opportunities)? How can outdoorsy faculty and staff get involved with trips or as affiliates?
First and foremost, one of the best ways to stay in the know about what is happening at IUOA is to join our monthly newsletter, our iconic “Backcountry Bulletin.” While much of our regular programming is created for students and student leadership development, we intentionally open certain programs and events to the campus and Bloomington communities each semester to encourage all our constituents to get outside!
Faculty and staff receive a 10% discount on rentals in our Gear Shop, which is open year-round. Email our shop at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about ideas on where to go, how to prepare, and how our rentals can help outfit the trip.
This past summer, we created a new discounted rental packages series, which is a great option for those who want help with planning/preparation and those who are new to outdoor recreation, who may need to rent a large amount of equipment.
Consider an IU work group team bonding activity through our customizable Group Adventure Programs. We can work with you to select hourly, daylong, or overnight adventures based on your group’s unique interests, skill-levels, and desired outcomes.
Be sure to check out the IU Outdoor Adventures calendar for upcoming activities. We’re hosting a walking tour of campus Nov. 2 and an open climb in Dunn Meadow Nov. 16. An outdoor gear swap is scheduled for Dec. 10.
Q: What kinds of skills do you teach in the SPH-W 305 Intro to Outdoor Leadership course?
A: This is an incredibly valuable class that covers how to successfully travel with a group of people outdoors. This includes planning, executing, and debriefing a weekend-long trip, as well as the theories behind how we go about doing each of these. I like to summarize this course using a metaphor we introduce in the class called the “Leadership Stool,” composed of three legs: interpersonal skills, technical skills, and judgement skills. Together, these focus areas will help develop a well-rounded outdoor leader. Take one away, and the stool will topple.
We also spend time talking about justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion outdoors, as well as concepts related to conscious living—the intentionality behind our day-to-day actions and how that impacts the environment around us. After running one three-day field experience for students in the Hoosier National Forest, IUOA turns the trip planning over to the students for a second field experience to finalize the 8-week class. Successful completion of the course automatically qualifies students to interview to become IUOA Trip Leaders and is the primary means by which we recruit and begin to train our amazing staff.
Q: What do you wish you knew as an undergrad that you know now as a staff member?
A: Yikes! It’s like having a whole different brain! A couple of things pop up for me here.
First and foremost, I wish as a student I knew how many support resources existed on IU’s campus and that there were many professors and other IU affiliates I was surrounded by who didn’t just want me to get A’s, but wanted me to be a happy, healthy, and successful student. Looking back, I was so focused on the academia that I didn’t stop to consider everything else that IU could offer me. Now, being a part of the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, I see so many staff fully and wholeheartedly dedicated to students’ overall happiness. Now, I work to continue spreading that word so that today’s undergraduates can absorb and appreciate what I feel like I left behind.
Second, professional development and networking are two incredible opportunities to target while in school; as a graduate student, I ran full force with these, but as an undergrad, I was less focused on longevity and more on the individual assignment, project, or test at hand. I encourage my old self, and undergrad students today, to make space for the “why” behind the work and take time to connect the dots to what may come when the four years are over.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to connect with nature and the outdoors?
As IUOA celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot. What have we accomplished? Why is what we do important? How have we impacted students on IU’s campus though time? How are others in the community, such as our partners at City of Bloomington Parks & Recreation and Hoosier National Forest, also advocating for time spent outdoors? Is the approach we’re taking an equitable one?
Here’s where I’ve landed: spending time outside is what we make of it. It can be easy to go outdoors and feel vulnerable to the power of mother nature around us – so much is out of our control, when in our day-to-day we often live in a world with round-the-clock communication, a roof over our heads, and appliances to help cool/heat/clean things when needed. When we embrace the natural challenge of spending time outside and separating ourselves from the regularity of ease and comfort, it is my belief we tend to find a deeper ease within ourselves and find deeper connections with those around us. I’ve always said that the biggest two reasons to get outside are challenge and comradery; however, each of these looks a bit different to each person. Some may prefer to keep themselves company in the outdoors and seek the inherent challenge of solo travel. Others may find challenge in simply breaking the daily mold—walking or biking to class instead of driving—while still others may go one step further, enrolling in an outdoor course or workshop with IUOA to see where that journey takes them. We certainly hope they do.