Building an equitable future
Each trip has at least two student leaders who have been interviewed and selected by Norbert. Thus far, all student leaders—15 in total—have gone on to earn a Level II kayaking certification from the American Canoe Association.
Sophia McLaughlin ’20, a student leader who has been involved with the program since her first semester at Conn, said the trips have given her opportunities to expand her social group. She’s especially proud of the growth she’s seen among the students who have participated.
“I’ve always been a real nature enthusiast, and watching people fall in love with the outdoors during these trips has been incredibly gratifying,” McLaughlin said. “It’s exciting to be part of a program that has undergone such an impressive transition from a small club into a College program that is constantly expanding and offering more trips and a wider variety of activities.
“Conn is located near so many rich natural resources that the potential for outdoor education is limitless.”
Griffin Taylor ’20, who also serves as a student leader, said that one of the key philosophies driving Outdoor Adventures since its earliest days has been that a student’s personal finances shouldn’t limit participation.
“For students who feel like they can’t pay but who truly want to participate in one of our outdoor trips, the fees are waived,” Taylor said. “This is about giving students an opportunity to get outside of their comfort zones and push themselves. For me, getting outdoors and challenging myself physically and mentally has helped me develop a drive in other aspects of my life, including academics,” he added.
Taylor said he enjoys the freedom Norbert gives him and other student leaders to design particular trips and tailor them to their personal interests and skill sets. Student agency has resulted in a number of successful trips, from a snowshoeing expedition in the Adirondacks to backpacking along a section of the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut.
Norbert believes giving students that sense of ownership and responsibility over the trips is essential.
“Outdoor programming can have a huge impact on students by building self-confidence and teaching transferable leadership skills that our students will use on campus and once they graduate from Conn,” Norbert said. “What’s unique about these educational opportunities is that the classroom is the outdoors.”