May 5, 2006

Wilderness Program to Include Upperclassmen

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What are you doing this summer? Have you considered signing up for a backpacking trip in the Adirondacks? Cornell’s Wilderness Reflection (WR) program, which originally has led trips exclusively for incoming freshmen, is now branching out and offering trips for upperclassmen.

“The purpose of WR is just basically fun,” said Kimberly Myers ’07, one of the coordinators of the WR program. “Fun and a love of the outdoors, and sharing an experience.”

WR trips bring students to various locations in the Northeast, where they participate in backpacking, canoeing, rock climbing and mountain biking.

WR was conceived in 1972 by founding director of Cornell Outdoor Education, Dave Moriah, who, according to Myers, said, “‘I would found an oasis of madness in a pompous academic institution that takes itself far too seriously.'”

Since that time, the trips offered through the program have grown.

This year, WR is offering different programs, such as an all women’s trip, a base camping trip and upperclassmen trips, according to Amanda Magee ’08, the other WR coordinator.

“We’re hoping to serve a lot more people and also provide a lot more leadership roles,” she said. “[We want to] make a difference and grow from it, too. Because that’s what we’re about – personal growth.”

The WR program is constantly expanding and trying to appeal to new, diverse groups of people. That is one of the reasons for the new upperclassmen trips, according to Myers. “We got funding from SA, and they wanted us to find ways to reach out to the entire community,” Myers said.

“Upperclassmen trips are new. It’s kind of a test run. It’s a way [for WR to] connect with the campus at large,” Magee said. “[They’ll have] a different dynamic … It’s more about ‘let’s go outdoors and do fun things in cool places and bond as a group.'”

One of the purposes of the pre-orientation trips is to help freshmen meet others before they arrive on campus.

“We decided you don’t need to meet people just when you’re coming in [to Cornell as a freshman],” Myers said. “You rarely get the opportunity to just meet people and get to know them really well.”

Sara Abelson ’06, a former guide who still plays an active role in WR, said the trips “give [students] a chance to play outside before school starts.”

Many universities now have summer wilderness trips, but WR stands out, said Myers.

“The trips are completely student-led,” she said. “The tone of a WR trip has grown to be much different because we’ve grown to be ‘professional,’ but we’re also open and relaxed, and just crazy.”

The decisions on how to run WR are determined by the Wilderness Reflections Advisory Committee, a board made entirely of students.

“That we have the capacity that we can run trips for up to 230 people, and that we’re entirely student-run, is incredible,” Myers said.

“I think it’s the heart of what WR is,” Abelson said. “It’s a challenge, but I think it’s one of our strengths. It’s what makes it so much fun. It’s part of our identity. People think WR is on the brink of extinction, but it’s what we’ve been doing since 1972.”

“[WR is] just a community. It’s a really amazing community filled with wacky people from everywhere,” Myers continued. “It’s a way of life, it’s a home, it’s a connection, a community, and we want to share it with other people.”

Archived article by Sara Gorecki
Sun Staff Writer