UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

For some incoming freshmen, what a trip!

Photo of white water raftingGetting ready for your freshman year can be a trip. Especially if it involves going down rapids or over mountain passes.

The summer’s first six-day adventure, earlier this month, involved 12 incoming freshmen. One in late July is fully booked with 18 freshmen. One graduate assistant and two undergraduate leaders join Mike Ackerman on each Spartan Wilderness Orientation Program (SWOP) summer trip.

Mike Ackerman is assistant director of Outdoor Adventures in UNCG Campus Rec.

“The first day is pretty powerful,” Ackerman says. Before leaving Greensboro, they get to know one another and bond at the Team QUEST experiential education program at Piney Lake, where they camp for the evening. A ropes course is part of the activities.

Then they load the vans with gear and kayaks and head to the Nantahala National Forest, where they’ll camp for five days. They will kayak on Fontana Lake and hike part of the Appalachian Trail, with activities and bonding time in the evenings. One that’s popular involves talking about fears freshmen commonly have.

“We’re transitioning to college – in a fun way,” he explains. “We’re creating a sense of community before they come to UNCG. Now, on the first day, they’ll have people they’ve spent meaningful time with.”

Perhaps the most memorable day of the adventure is the final full day – whitewater rafting the Chattooga River. The rapids are class 3 and class 4. “A good capstone to the week,” Ackerman says.

Why do students take part in the summer outings? Some want to do something different and adventurous, he says. Some want to meet other students.

For Outdoor Adventures, the relatively new program (they offered one summer trip last year) is a continuation of what they do the rest of the year. They offer about 15 outings each semester – with nearly a 100 percent “sell-out” rate.

And it is one more way the university can help support retention rates, part of creating a supportive environment in which students can grow and learn and bond with classmates. Plus the student leaders are developing skills that will help them in their careers as well.

Details are at http://campusrec.uncg.edu/oa/spartan-wildernessorientation-program/

By Mike Harris

Photo of kayaking and photo of whitewater rafting from July 2013 trip by Kendra Lilley