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University’s outdoor center trips program creates campus community

The program offers a range of trips from climbing to camping.
Image by Vera Swanson (courtesy)
Graduate student Vera Swanson traveled to Paria Canyon over spring break with the trips program. The program offers a range of trips from climbing to camping.

While scoping out trips offered through the University of Minnesota’s Recreation and Wellness Center’s (RecWell) Center for Outdoor Adventure earlier this year, graduate student Vera Swanson said she hoped to find something to clear her mind from the stress of schoolwork.

Swanson participated in a trip with the Center for Outdoor Adventure the previous year, so she said deciding to take part in the backpacking trip to Paria Canyon, spanning from Utah to Arizona, over spring break was not a difficult decision.

In addition to offering backpacking trips, the Center for Outdoor Adventure has climbing, canoe, camp and cabin events as well as day clinics for climbing. These trips range from just a day to a weekend or even a week, and any University student can pay and register for a trip with friends or individually, according to the RecWell’s website.

As a graduate student, Swanson said she wishes she took advantage of opportunities to participate in a trip when she was an undergraduate.

“For people who even want something to do on a weekend or a day trip, definitely check them out,” Swanson said. “This is an amazing resource that the University has that is largely untapped.”

In preparing for the trip, Swanson said trip leaders Tate Schloesser and Lucy Lipscomb held a pre-trip meeting, which helped her feel equipped for it.

Lipscomb, a fourth-year University student, said that as a trip leader, she is responsible for preparing participants for the trip, but besides that, her job does not feel like one at all. This month, she is preparing to lead a canoeing trip in Buffalo River, Arkansas.

“Once you are able to kind of create the expectations for people, it just feels like you’re part of this group,” Lipscomb said. “You have more responsibility and maybe you’re keeping more logistical things in mind, but also what’s special is when the division between leader and like participant really isn’t anything at all.”

As a leader, Lipscomb said one of the most empowering experiences is helping people challenge themselves and learn from each other.

Lipscomb added that since becoming a part of the program, she has met people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

“On any given trip you can have people from all over the world, graduate students, or freshmen or a faculty member,” Lipscomb said. “Everyone brings this wide swath of experiences, and I’ve learned so much just from sitting around a fire and talking to these people who have lived such different lives than I have.”

Since his first year, Schloesser, a fourth-year University student, said he has been involved with the Center for Outdoor Adventure. Schloesser initially worked at the climbing wall, and in his second year, he started guiding climbing trips and eventually was enlisted as a full-time guide.

Schloesser said his desire to work outdoors started in high school, after a Boy Scout trip to New Mexico. Now, as a guide at the University, he is also a program assistant.

“I have to do a lot of behind-the-scenes work, so that’s a lot of participant communication, helping the program manager run the program,” Schloesser said. “Not only do we just accompany the participants on this experience, but we’re kind of the default folks when it comes to risk management for assessing the risks in the canyon.”

Finding the balance between enjoying the trip and leading can be tricky, but Schloesser said he would still be a trip leader even if it was not something he was getting paid for.

“At the end of the day, I find a lot of satisfaction in building community and bringing people together, whether or not I’m getting paid to do it,” Schloesser said. “Being paid and having it as a job is a unique benefit of my position.”

Bryan Karban, the program’s manager, said many participants gain a sense of community while on a trip. Being outside and going on adventures with people can quickly build a sense of community, Karban added.

“Sometimes that just lasts the duration of the trip, and I think that’s valuable, and sometimes people make lifelong friends with people on our trips,” Karban said. “It’s a valuable social environment on the trip itself, but it’s also a place where people are meeting new friends.”

Along with a sense of community, Karban said the trips allow for a break from the stressors of everyday life.

“It can be kind of a good break or departure from the stressors of everyday life to go and spend time in these beautiful natural environments,” Karban said.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the name of the organization. It is called the Center for Outdoor Adventure.

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  • Zamora Contreras
    Apr 5, 2024 at 12:51 pm

    How do you go about signing up for the university out door center trips program ? I am a staff in medical records department at Boynton Health Service ,