Outdoor program creates lasting community for first-year students

Tucker Addison floats on his raft in The Winds of Wyoming during the first-year orientation Outdoor Program trip. Photo by Edgar Auchincloss

Tucker Addison floats on his raft in The Winds of Wyoming during the first-year orientation Outdoor Program trip. Photo by Edgar Auchincloss

Following annual tradition, the Westminster Outdoor Recreation Orientation took 37 new students on various outdoor trips with student trip leaders for a week before the first-year orientation.

Westminster’s Outdoor Recreation Program is eight years old, giving an outdoor community to students since 2007.

Tiana White is the Outdoor Program director and serves as a mentor to the first-time participants and to the outdoor trip leaders.

“More students are interested and willing to pay to go on trips or put the effort in to design and develop their own trip,” White said. “It helps to take some of the load off of us. We couldn’t run without the student leaders.”

Registration for this year’s first-year orientation was full in May. In previous years, White and the Outdoor Program have been registering participants up until the week of the trip.

Hannah Abbott, sophomore biology major from Idaho Falls, spent the 2014 outdoor orientation as a new student at Westminster. A year later, Abbott was one of the leaders for the packrafting trip.

“It was really cool to be on the flip side,” Abbott said. “Last year, I came in scared and not knowing anyone, going on this trip with people I didn’t know to a place I didn’t know.”

This year, Abbott is excited to be in the position of the “older kid” that others go running to.

Students from in- and out-of-state come together for their pick of three trips: a multi-sport trip, a Uintas backpacking trip and the packrafting trip to the Wind Rivers in Wyoming, co-led by Abbott.

The outdoor program group leaders gather in the Uintas in early August. For a week, the student leaders spent time training and preparing for the first-year orientation trip. Photos by Tiana White

The outdoor program group leaders gather in the Uintas in early August. For a week, the student leaders spent time training and preparing for the first-year orientation trip. Photos by Tiana White

“The kids that you work with and you’re involved with become your really good friends at the school,” Abbott said. “Everyone says we don’t work for the Outdoor Program, or do this because we’re friends. We’re friends because we all work at this program and we’re all involved in this program”

Edgar Auchincloss, first-year undeclared major from Litchfield, Connecticut, spent the orientation on the packrafting trip with eight other new students.

“When you’re out with these people that you’ve never met before, you kind of see that inner person and really get to know them,” Auchincloss said. “You don’t have your phones as a distraction or anything. You’re in nature. All you have for entertainment is the people around you.”

Abbott, one of the trip leaders, said that it’s so important having that small comfort with someone right before school starts when you’re a new student.
“I feel like you’re that much more likely to succeed in classes and just be comfortable doing your own thing and getting involved in the school in other ways,” Abbott said.